I am feeling somewhat frustrated at the moment. I am not sure that much of what I experience on a Sunday qualifies as worship. At the end of a meeting where I was leading worship, I was left thinking – did we just song songs or did we worship? Just becuase one or two people lift up their hands - does that mean anything? Are they just going into "worship mode" or are they genuinely in the presence of God?
On Thursday night I went to a meeting at a local church. The new Culloden Visitor’s Centre is due to be opened some time and the church felt the need to meet together to celebrate that today Culloden isn’t the battlefield it was some two or three hundred years ago. There were men in kilts!
We began the meeting with a time of worship. Worship has got to be more than singing songs, no matter how modern. There was a string of songs – some old and some new, with all the words projected on to the white bit of the wall. Some of the songs had nice lyrics, perhaps even adapted from scripture.
In amongst them all was “Shine Jesus Shine” which, if you did not know, was voted number ten in the top one hundred hymns and songs in a “Songs of Praise” survey. That brought back a few memories!
There was no pause between songs. There wasn’t even a smooth chord sequence to get from one tune to the next.
A few people in front of me, and perhaps a few behind, lifted up one hand or two – but I am thoroughly convinced that we just sang songs. “We” might have worshipped, or “they” might have worshipped, but “I” sang songs – not for the want of trying to do something more than that.
My lips moved. My vocal chords moved. My hands moved as I clapped to one song, or tapped the side of my leg. My feet moved as I shuffled from one leg to the next in a very muted form of the Charismatic two step. I even stretched out a hand to heaven at one point. Anyone looking at me would have thought – “There’s a woman who is worshipping!”
Many things may have moved – but my spirit didn’t! I didn’t go anywhere. I don’t know, but if the person leading worship isn’t really going anywhere, does that mean that the people he or she is leading are not going anywhere either? Can I blame it on the worship team? Or does that not matter at all? Some people make the distiction between a worship leader and a lead worshipper - is that just semantics? If the lead worshipper isn't leading you then are you actually going anywhere?
I really don’t want to just sing songs! I want to connect. Worship isn’t worship at all if there is no encounter with God. i know what it feels like to connect and I know what it feels like when the connection is absent.
I read this Hebrews 4:14-16 this morning about worship. This is how the Message puts it:-
“Now that we know what we have—Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God—let's not let it slip through our fingers. We don't have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He's been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let's walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help. (Hebrews 4:14-16)”
On Thursday, I didn’t “walk right up to him” and get what He was so ready to give.
As I think about leading worship in our fellowship, I am challenged about whether I give people the opportunity, through my choice of songs and the way in which they are sung and played, or indeed anything else that I might say or do that creates the right atmosphere, to walk right up to Jesus and to get from Him what He is so ready to give.