The Trap of Authentic Worship

What would it look like if your preferred form of worship was taken away? 

I’m a musician, a singer, and a worship leader. It’s easy for me to pigeon-hole “worship” into how I express my worship rather than actually worshipping. I have some friends who are musicians. God has clearly given them their talent and has worked in them and has directed their hearts to share their talents with the Body. I know some of them struggle the way I do. We love to worship. And for us, music is one of the most natural expressions. 

I can tell, however, when we’ve gotten trapped into one form of worship. Whether it’s a musician on a worship team or a member of the congregation, we start saying things like, “I feel closest to God when I’m singing that song.” I’m not denying that something transcendent happens when we abandon ourselves in song to God, both privately or corporately. But what if you lost your voice or your ability to sing? Would you be exempt for worshipping? If singing or playing an instrument is the only way I know how to express worship, then what about those without the ability? Are they not able to worship?

As a worship leader, it’s tough to look out into a sea of faces and see such vast expressions. “How can two people in the same room, sharing the same experience have such distinctly different responses,” I think to myself? I see some sitting. And a few seats over, some are standing. Some quiet. Some singing so loudly I can hear them over the music coming from the stage. Some clapping. Some with their hands in their pockets. Unless you’re a worship leader at a Hillsong, Jesus Culture, or Chris Tomlin event, you know what I’m talking about. We seem to have some form of dissociative disorder. I get that we respond differently at different times of our lives. My fear is that we tend to get comfortable with one form and resist the opportunities to respond with other forms and expressions. 

We were all created for the express purpose of worshipping God. No one is exempt. But we often justify our resistance by saying things like, “I don’t worship that way,” or “I’m a quiet person. For me to shout or jump around would be inauthentic.” But I would argue that for you to resist anything but an unfiltered response to the very one who created you is what’s inauthentic. For you not to shout or jump or sing (or whatever form it takes) isn’t really about authenticity, is it? It’s about pride. 

I’ve come from a very wide circle of Evangelical Christian traditions. Some of these traditions champion lifting the hands, dancing and other physical acts as the outside indicator that a person is fully involved with worshipping God. But what if you don’t have hands or your legs don’t function the way most others do? Are you exempt? What about singing loudly? How does the mute person fit into that mold? How does God expect them to worship without a voice? I could detail other physical restrictions, but I think you get it. 

The point is this… our God is diverse. And in our creation he established a variety of ways to respond to him in worship. Ways that allow everything that has breath to express worship. But when we get locked into one form or another and resist expressions that vary from “our way” we’re actually squelching a response to God that says, “I am Yours. I have no other response but total abandonment.”

Are you open to responding to God in ways that aren’t comfortable to you?


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