On Worship

Do you cringe when you hear someone talk about “worship”? Does it make you picture awkward praise hands, swaying, or bouncing?  Do you ever wonder why praise and worship songs repeat the same words or phrases over and over? Don’t let “those” people on your church row make you nervous! Here’s some food for thought.

Why is there so much repetition? I don’t know about you, but often when I enter the gathering, my mind takes a few minutes to engage. My mind is thinking: Where am I sitting? Do I need to save a seat for someone? Is my phone silenced? Why didn’t I go ahead and grab a cup of coffee? In year’s past I would have wondered if my kids where still crying in the nursery, would they take a nap, did I remember the pacifier, etc. 
I need time to transition. Time to remind myself where I am and what I’m doing. Sometimes we are several choruses in before my attention is focused and I start paying attention to the words we’re singing. So many lyrics come straight from scripture. Beneficial worship songs maintain the principles of scripture, even if it isn’t a direct quote. I find at times, the repetition is saying to me “hey – pay attention – tune in”! Sometimes it challenges me to evaluate if I am just repeating words or are my spirit and mind engaged to truly offer edification to the King of Kings. I know I am not alone in these thoughts and feelings.
Many of these lyrics give words to things we’re thinking and feeling. More often for me, the lyrics reflect what I should be thinking and feeling. When all I remember are times I have made mistakes, lyrics speak truth to me:  “I don’t have time to maintain these regrets when I think about the way He loves me”.
When I feel unloved or unlovable: “There at the cross, you paid the debt I owed. Broke my chains, freed my soul, for the first time I had hope.” Such powerful lyrics that are invitations--invitations that say, “let that lie go and agree with my truth. Come into agreement with the truth of my Word.” There is power in agreement. That’s often when hands go up - to agree with or receive the truth of the lyrics. If you aren’t a Christ follower, the lyrics may not make sense. But, for those who are seeking their Heavenly Father, Jesus or His Spirit, the worship lyrics often pave a path for us to get there. This can certainly happen individually, but on a Sunday morning, when we are all pursuing this together, the corporate worship pleases our Heavenly Father in a unique and supernatural way!
Sometimes it helps to watch someone else when we’re learning about something new or something we’re unsure of. One of my favorite quotes comes from Donald Miller. In the forward to his book “Blue Like Jazz,” he describes how he never really liked jazz music until he watched a man playing the saxophone on a street for 15 minutes. The man never opened his eyes. After that, Don Miller liked jazz music. He said, “sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself. It is as if they are showing you the way.” 
Sometimes we aren’t comfortable with or don’t like God, worship and things that are not of this world until we watch someone else love it and love Him first. For me, one of those people to watch is Jason Bennet, who plays in our band. If you don’t know Jason’s story, he doesn’t see well. His eyesight is waning. He uses a walking stick to enter and exit the stage. He has faced some battles and will have more to face. But often as he plays in the band, you will find Jason with hands off his guitar and lifted high to the one Jason loves and the one who holds Jason’s affection and attention. It blesses me to watch Jason worship and invites me to enter in and say “me too”! Watching someone else love worship, helps us all feel more comfortable to worship in the way we feel led, even when it’s new or awkward. 
God welcomes our worship no matter what it looks like. Psalm 22:3 tells us that He inhabits the praise of His people, meaning He shows up with pleasure when we set our affection and attention on Him. This doesn’t suggest He only shows up only when He’s praised. It’s more like an enjoyment He gets from hearing His children sing of their love of Him. I want to encourage us all to ask God what kind of praise or worship pleases Him, listen, and have the courage to be obedient. I won’t judge you. I’ll be busy worshiping my way with no time to assess your way! Let’s be bold together!  
Julie Bagwell