Worship Arts: Are we having fun yet?8.21.2016
So, true confession, ever since Nathan stopped rehearsal on Thursday to ask me if I was having fun at that particular moment I’ve been thinking about what the worship leadership experience is like for the leader. We talk often about considering the “people in the pews,” and “engaging the congregation,” and rightly so—this is the task of the worship leader, but it would do us well to also examine what our own worship experience ought to be like as we lead.
Nathan asked the question “are you having fun?”
Having thought back on it, I want to ask the further question “should I have been having fun?” “Should we enjoy worshiping? “Is that what worship is about?” Put another way, “is our experience of worship an appropriate metric by which to gauge whether we’re doing it right?”
Well, yes and no. I would argue that generally speaking worship absolutely should be an enjoyable experience! Why? because we were created for it! The first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism states that the chief end of man is to enjoy God and glorify him forever! So, if we are truly experiencing God in his glory, and in doing so are made aware of our own unworthiness, but then are reminded of God’s lavish grace and mercy toward us, of course are hearts will swell with gratitude and the act of saying “thank you!” will be one that we enjoy. Much in the same way we “enjoy” spending intentional quality time with someone we love dearly.
However, what happens when we don’t experience joy, or when we just “aren’t feeling it” when it comes to worship?
Three things: first, we make the choice to worship anyway. Worship often times is an amazing experience, yes, but before it is an experience, it is obedience. God deserves it, and frankly, he demands it. So if you find yourself in a situation or season of life during which worship is hard or “not fun,” keep doing it. Job, David, Jesus, Paul—all these authors speak to us about the importance of choosing to worship when we don’t feel like it.
Second, we examine ourselves to see if unconfessed sin is creating a barrier for intimacy between our souls and the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. The reality is that even though as believers we have been justified through faith and declared righteous, sin in our lives will prevent us from experiencing the joy of the Lord. In this scenario, there’s no such thing as simply moving forward with worship. To move forward means to go back to where we chose our own path and disregarded and Spirit’s voice in our lives, and to confess it and repent. As C.S. Lewis famously said in The Great Divorce, “Evil can be undone, but it cannot ‘develop’ into good. Time does not heal it. The spell must be unwound, bit by bit, ‘with backward mutters of dissevering power’ – or else not.” If we are consistently “not feeling it” when we worship, perhaps this is why.
Third, we mustn’t confuse our experience of worship with whether the worship was appropriate or not. John 4:24 says that “God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.” At the end of the day, what matters isn’t if we felt it or not, but did we worship God in accordance with what we know to be true about Him and His character (did our worship conform to Biblical descriptors), and were we faithfully responding to what His Spirit was asking of us in a given situation? These are the more important criteria by which to judge our worship experiences.
Now I say all this not to throw Woody under the bus for asking me if I was having fun on Thursday night—I think that was a totally appropriate question, and I’m glad he asked me, because apparently I was scowling at that exact moment, and ultimately it spurred me to give thought to these things—no, I say all this because I need to be reminded (just like we all do) about why we do what we do each and every week!
I appreciate and am so grateful for each one of you! Thanks for giving me the privilege of doing this with you.