Let me begin by making a confession as not to cast any stones with my thoughts. I have, and at times continue to worship Worship. What? Worshiping Worship? Right now you are thinking to yourself, “What is he talking about?” Simply put, I have cast self made idols of songs themselves, the artists that sing them, the melodies that have taken me to deeply emotional places, lyrics that stirred my soul, and even the “worship production” experience itself.
God has taken me on a journey over the past three to four months that He knew my soul deeply needed. With the blessing of my new job starting this past January, I have a lot more time in the car and at my home office; which equals ALONE TIME. With that, I have spent a tremendous amount of time listening to “Worship Music” as I work. To say that in this time that God has leveled and wrecked my heart is an understatement. God has used this to take me to His throne and in His presence, to drown out the noise of life, and to heal deeply seeded wounds as I placed my eyes on Him. “Seek first the kingdom of God and His Righteousness, and then these things you have need of and desire of will be added to you.” Matt. 6:33
Worship is essential as Children of God. It is written into the fibers of who we are created to be. We are ALL created to worship! Worship absolutely does involve singing songs of praise, honor, and thanks to our Father for the things He has, does, and continues to do. The bible is full of His people Shouting songs of praise unto our God. So what is the problem?
I first noticed a tingle of conviction several months ago while listening to one of my new favorite worship songs “Sinking Deep” by Hillsong United. Man I love this song! As I said, God has taken me on a journey this past five months and has used worship music, just as He has throughout all time to take people to His heart; He took me to His heart. “Sinking Deep” is one of those songs for me. I’ve listened to it at least 100 times as it speaks to my soul and allows me to transcend this world and its troubles and its lyrics literally speak to that very point. One day, I hit play and within the first four measures of the beautiful piano led progression of the live recording, I heard a multitude of shouts and screams of excitement from the congregation; and this was before the first word of the song was sung. God led me to a question immediately in those shouts and screams; God asked me “were those for Him, or were they for the song that was about to be performed that they recognized just by the first few notes of it being played. The brick struck my head and I realized that was what I has made of that song. The song at first had led me to a place of being in His presence and the beautiful wreckage my heart needed for Him to rebuild. As I thought through it, I realized I had become hooked on that feeling, that emotionalism, that sensationalism that the song helped to produce at first. It was beyond Worship at that point. I was “Hooked on a Feeling.” My worship had transferred from that purity and thankfulness to an Idol being made of that song.
There is so much good in the Worship Culture of today. The Songs themselves, the lyrics, the melodies, and the production itself all are at its highest levels and Honor God as they are done as unto Him. We are so blessed to live in the day and age that Worship Music has elevated to. The danger lies herein. Is our focus on the melody or the Maker, the song or the Savior, the lyric or the Lord, is it on the feeling or the Father? For me, I have found myself worshiping the melodies, the songs, the lyrics, and yes the feelings they produce themselves.
I have recently read several articles that speaks to this specifically. “The true worshipper learns to sing through the storm—cry out through the confusion of life.The true worshipper knows how to scour the Scriptures for daily bread. The true worshipper knows how to pray. The true worshipper isn't just moved by powerful music. He or she is moved by the weight of God's glory and is hushed by the magnitude of His presence.” “Moved by the weight of God’s Glory.” WOW, What an incredibly profound statement. David, If you haven’t used that as a song lyric, I’m plagiarizing it! David Sanisteven / Charisma Magazine / Are we in Danger of Worshiping Worship
In the mid 90’s I fell in love with the genius of a teenage blues guitarist named Jonny Lang who in his teens toured and performed with the likes of B.B. King and the Rolling Stones. What he is able to with a guitar is beyond prodigy, it is a true gift from God. In Paul Herman’s article about Jonny Lang’s conversion to Christianity he placed the youtube clip below for listeners to hear of a live recording of one of Jonny’s best known songs. At about 1 min and 18 seconds in you can hear several girls Scream out “We Love You Jonny!” Then Jonny does something unexpected. He starts playing the melody line of “I Love You Lord” right before going into “Breakin’Me.” The first time I heard this I broke into tears. Jonny could have easily heard the adoration, as he had for years and kept it to himself and went straight into the song. Not this time. Jonny had changed. Jonny recognized where true worship is deserved and he redirected it to the maker of melodies. That is worship. I would dare say very few in the audience knew what Jonny was playing at the time, but God did. It truly was “A Sweet Sweet Song.”
“I love You Lord
And I lift my voice
To worship You, o my soul rejoice
Take joy my King in what You hear
Let it be a sweet sweet sound in Your ear”
Jonny Lang / Paul Herman WorshipFuel / Idol Worship
For the past two years I have been humbled to have been invited to be a part of Kingdom Songs Worship Writing Retreat in Nashville which is a collective of 40-50 worship writers from around the country who gather, worship, learn, and write Worship Songs. This is truly one of the greatest honors of my life to be a part of this collective. Last year, several of us had rented a cabin for the retreat and after the retreat was over about 15 of us had a cookout and bonfire the last night. Knowing we were having this, I invited a true mentor and friend Malcolm Duplesis to come. Malcolm has been in the Worship industry for over two decades and has been instrumental in laying the foundation for many of the most well known Worship artists in Worship Music today.
On the heels of such a great experience of writing for the past three days, we shared what we had learned and talked about songs, the Worship Music industry, and how the Church is responding to it today. Malcolm began to talk about his experience over the past several decades and what he is seeing in today’s worship culture. When Malcolm began to speak every eye was locked on this man of great experience, wisdom, and knowledge. He held the rooms attention. At one point about ten minutes into the discussion Malcolm said something that left the room completely silent. He said “The best thing that could happen to the church today would be for Churches to stop playing music during its services for three years.” “Furthermore, the greatest Idol in the world is Worship because we are supposed to be about loving Jesus not the activity of worship itself. A Love for worship fills the void that is meant to be filled by Jesus.” This was said to a room full of worship leaders and writers coming off a three day song writing retreat. You can imagine the shock. He then went on to reference some of the above mentioned reasons and how he has seen the church as a whole over the past decade shift its focus more on the production, sound, and the experience than on Jesus Himself as it relates to Worship. Without stating it, that statement was a challenge to our group to change the culture. Malcolm writes a blog www.commonexchange.com where his thoughts on this and other worship related topics are expounded on.
In closing and to that point, many of us have heard Matt Redman’s thought provoking song “The Heart of Worship.” Many of us have not heard the story behind it however.
“There was a dynamic missing, so the pastor did a pretty brave thing,” he recalls. “He decided to get rid of the sound system and band for a season, and we gathered together with just our voices. His point was that we’d lost our way in worship, and the way to get back to the heart would be to strip everything away.” Reminding his church family to be producers in worship, not just consumers, the pastor, Mike Pilavachi, asked, “When you come through the doors on a Sunday, what are you bringing as your offering to God?”
Matt says the question initially led to some embarrassing silence, but eventually people broke into a cappella songs and heartfelt prayers, encountering God in a fresh way. “Before long, we reintroduced themusicians and sound system, as we’d gained a new perspective that worship is all about Jesus, and He commands a response in the depths of our souls no matter what the circumstance and setting. ‘The Heart of Worship’ simply describes what occurred.”
To be clear, again, we are created to worship. There is nothing wrong with loving a song and its lyrics and melodies, going to a Christian Concert, following an artist, or even having a fondness of a particular church's Worship Ministry. God works in all of these things. We must be careful however not to Worship Worship itself.
God Moves in the midst of the melodies, He lives in the lines of the Lyrics, He stirs our Heart with His in the songs we sing to Him. Lord, may of Minds be set on you our Maker, not the melodies. May our Sight be forever fixed on our Savior, not the song. May of Love be more for you our Lord, not the lyric. And may our Focus not be on feelings, but on you Our Father.