What do we do about praise and worship?!
Many of you probably know I've been a "worship leader" for about 25 years. I've played with some big names, done the rounds, taught in colleges, done workshops, studied, the whole kit and caboodle (whatever that is!).
Most of this time I have longed to understand the nature of worship, especially in regard to music. There are so many questions and so many factors that come into play:
Music is only a tiny part of worship
Our whole lives should be an act of worship
Is worship an act of obedience or an act of natural love and adoration
What is the psychology of community singing - every culture has it
How does our emotional state relate to worship
Should singing songs in church be considered worship
Should we even think in terms of singing a few songs in a structured meeting being an act of worship and praise
...and the list goes on!
I could give a list of all the correct responses to those points, but they would be responses based on current traditional thought and biblical interpretation.
I want to know the heart of the matter! Yes, I know, I'm probably analysing the whole thing too much and destroying the simplicity of it in the process. So if you just love signing along on Sundays and all that entails, you'd better stop here and go back to whatever you were doing.
Here's something from a worship leaders perspective. When you first start leading worship you are panic stricken that God won't show up, you'll get all the words and chords muddled, and that you'll "quench" the flow of the Spirit. After a while you start to get comfortable with the whole thing and can feel where its going and how people respond to various cues. You settle into the routine. Its just what we do in meetings.
So what do we do at home with God? Are our hearts as open to Him in a meeting/worship context, or are they more open? Can we worship Him in any context, with or without songs and music, especially in our intimate times on our own. Perhaps this is far more important than singing worshipful songs together (not saying we shouldn't).
What if there was no music at our meetings? Would we deem it any less spiritual?
What if we abandoned the whole meeting structure paradigm and just got together once a week to hang out and be friends? Perhaps we could get our teaching on-line, or print something out and hand it around. Or ask someone if they had something neat to share. Or if anyone would like to sing something, or lead us all in singing? Or whatever. Would the church fall apart? Would we all become indifferent to God?
So what am I saying in all this? I think we have formulated "praise and worship" into a particular style of corporate singing that is conducted at meetings and is a prerequisite for God to successfully move in our hearts and prime us before we hear the preacher. We then like to make sure we are in a good space before we go, so sing another one or two before we leave.
This may sound cynical, but I'm not trying to be. For me these are genuine questions and part of my journey into true freedom and allowing Father to break down the walls that divide the spiritual from the natural, to make us fully "integrated" beings, where our intimacy with God is a totally natural part of our lives.