Friday, April 18, 2008

Worshipping out in the wild

Bino recently posted a blog on worship questioning whether it's a personal experience or a corporate experience. I think that's a good question and in this blog post I will try to share from my perspective.

I believe worship is a personal thing between Father and his child. I don't relate to all of my children or my grandchildren in the same way because they're all unique individuals. I have a relationship with each one that is unique. In the same way, worship will also be unique for each person. Everyone comes to God with their differing personalities and will relate to him in a way that is unique to their personalities and experiences.

For example, I'm really not into music very much although, at times, I do enjoy the singing part of the meeting. However, as a normal rule, that's not how I worship. Even at home, I don't tend to listen to music. The funny thing is most people think I'm free in the spirit because I dance. The group I spend time with on Sunday mornings call themselves Presbyterians so they’re a quiet group. I'm the ONLY one who dances and I mostly do it because it keeps me focused since I can easily get distracted. For me, it’s not necessarily a form of worship.

When I was in the group that I shared about in my previous post, the pastor was big on singing and dancing as a form of worship. We were made to sing and dance to exhaustion and we were reprimanded if we didn't "worship" to his expectations. As a result, I was programmed to believe that worship was extravagant singing and dancing. Since Father has released me out into the wild, I'm learning how to worship in a way that's natural for me.

For some people, group singing is worship but for others, it's not. I believe we express the life of Christ through the uniqueness of who we are and it will be in a way that is natural for each individual. Also, it will vary at different times. For example, today, I may worship with a particular song. Tomorrow, it may be as I experience the beauty of nature. The next day, it may be as I experience Father’s love flowing to me through my husband.

Corporate worship will also be different for each person. I experience corporate worship when I get together with others and we talk about Jesus. After a conversation like that, I leave lifted up because I've experienced Father's life through interacting with other believers. Sitting in a room with a bunch of people and singing may at times be an enjoyable experience but, in my opinion, it's not necessarily worship.

I believe the institution has done the church a disservice by making worship a one size fits all experience. Each day brings opportunities to worship that are fresh and new. I believe Father is wanting us to learn how to worship in the reality of who we are rather than in the staleness of religious obligation.


Joel Brueseke said...

There's much freedom in this post! :) "Worship is a personal thing between Father and his child."

I remember the days when the "praise and worship" service was my favorite part of church. The reason for this, as I look back, was because it gave me an emotional "high" that I wasn't getting throughout the rest of the week. Now that I think about it, I guess you could say that the sermons did the same thing for me. I would get all pumped up about how my life was gonna change this week for Jesus!

The music probably played a larger part in that, just because it was more emotional.

But anyway, once I came to understand grace and who I am in Christ, apart from what I do, but because of who He is, I found myself not needing that weekly emotional high anymore, because my life as a whole, from Sunday morning all the way through Saturday evening, was a lot more "even keeled." Not that I've no longer had emotions! Not that at all. But I'm no longer looking for that right song or that right message that will pump me up. Sure, some songs still do that for me, and some messages too, but overall it's not about that for me anymore.

All that to say... We're free to not go along with what other people are doing, especially when they're doing it just because it's the programmed way of 'doing church' or because they get something out of it. I've felt the pressure from others to dance and move around and sing loudly and close my eyes and raise my hands and... you name it.

On too many occasions I've witnessed the legalism in the messages that say that if we're not doing those things, it's because our attitude is wrong. It's because we don't have an "attitude of worship."

Sometimes, some of those things come very naturally to me! But other times, it's just not there. And it's not because I have a bad attitude! :) Sometimes I can be standing there with my eyes wide open and my hands in my pockets, and I'm enjoying the moment, and the deep sense of closeness with my Father, just as much as anyone else.

Didn't mean to go so long, but as usual your post resonates with me and I just wanted to share some thoughts.

Aida said...

Joel, I'm glad you thought there was freedom in this post since in my "Getting hammered because of grace" post I shared that apparently not everyone was excited about what I wrote.

I can really relate to everything you said. At one time, the music part was my favorite too. What I've learned since then is how easily a "good" praise leader can manipulate our emotions. There are so many tricks of the trade that they employ to give us an emotional high.

When I posted in the other grace blog, the other person was offended because I said that, as a normal rule, music is not worship for me. She said that I was saying that music is not what usually causes me to respond to the presence of God. Her response was that she had never heard such.

I remember several months ago, during the music part, thinking, "Now's a good time for them to increase the volume." Well, what do you think they did? They increased the volume at just the right moment to get the right effect. At one time I would have mistakened that for a movement of the Holy Spirit.

What I've come to realize is that just because we feel goose bumps or get weepy doesn't indicate the presence of the Holy Spirit. What indicates his presence is that he said he would never leave us nor forsake us. He's with us no matter the volume of the music. Dancing, clapping, raisng hands, etc. have zero effect on the Holy Spirit's presence.

You said, On too many occasions I've witnessed the legalism in the messages that say that if we're not doing those things, it's because our attitude is wrong. It's because we don't have an "attitude of worship."

I was hit with that comment too but I realize it's not up to us to judge anyone else's praise. As with everything, Father looks at our hearts and gladly receives what we give him out of our pure hearts.

I'm glad you shared what you did. Don't worry about it being long. Your comments have been helpful to me as I process worshipping God in spirit and in truth. I'm thinking about writing another blog soon and sharing additional thoughts about worship.

Bino Manjasseril said...

Aida and Joel,

I can so very well relate to what you both are saying. Coming from a Charismatic background, where 'worship' plays an important role in the service, I found myself getting pressured to perform during the worship. I have seen some extreme emotional experiences people exhibit during that time such as screaming and laughing uncontrollably. I too have experienced some emotional hypes to some extends, but I always knew that wasn't all about living the Christian life. One of the key thing which stuck out to me in Darrin's post was this:

I am not suggesting that getting emotional during worship is bad, however I am suggesting that when getting emotional BECOMES worship, it is very very bad!

The sad part of this kind of worship is, once they are out of that environment, they not as excited and in fact most them are miserable. Emotion is part of any relationship and certainly it is a part of our relationship with Father. I do not see being emotional is as a problem in itself, but when we start looking/seeking for it it becomes an obsession.

Again, it all goes back to the fundamental question: What is worship. Based on my understanding and conviction so far, my definition of worship (under New Covenant) is nothing but 'living by faith'. When we put our dependency totally on Jesus who lives in us and walk in Him by faith, we are indeed worshiping Him.

Joel Brueseke said...

I love what you guys are saying here. At my wife's church (I guess it's time to stop calling it 'my' church since it's been about a year since I've been there, not to mention that "we" are the church, but you know what I'm talking about), the members of the P&W bands are very good musicians and singers, and they have also, in my opinion, become very good at saying just the right words or playing just the right way to provoke emotional responses from the congregation at just the right times. Like with the experience you talked about with the volume, Aida, so many of these things have become predictable. Since I've perceived that these are man-made attempts at provoking emotions, I've learned that it's usually not the Holy Spirit, but it's emotions.

As has already been said, it's not that emotions are bad in and of themselves in these settings. I don't want to stifle good emotions! But if emotions becomes the reason people like this whole "atmosphere of worship," then they can very easily miss the true Spirit, who, as has also been said, is with us and in us, apart from any given emotional response.

I like your definition of worship, Bino. "Living by faith." I was thinking about this yesterday and I was really trying to remember if there is any such thing as any type of "praise and worship" service mentioned in the New Testament. I don't think there is! I really think it's much more about our daily lives of faith. Yes, there's talk of "speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord," but the Old Testament 'worship services' just don't seem to play a part in the lives of New Covenant believers.

All of that said, again, it's not that it's wrong in and of itself. But it's bad if we make "worship" about all of that. There's also nothing in the Bible about forming a band, going to a record label and making a music album. That doesn't mean it's wrong, and I know that the Lord has used a lot of great prefabricated music to minister to my soul. I think it becomes 'bad' when we mistake the enjoyment and emotion for the Holy Spirit, or perhaps better said, when we think the Holy Spirit isn't 'there' when we don't feel the enjoyment or emotion, because He is always 'there' and His work in us isn't dependent upon what so many people tend to focus on.

Bino Manjasseril said...


I too, like you said, have tried to find scriptures supporting today's style of worship. But, I haven't found anything so far. I love good music and I enjoy them and also feel emotional when I listen. The lines "I will never know how much it cost to see my sin upon that cross" always filled my eyes with tears. But when we make it part of a 'service' or program, it loses its meaning. It becomes a learned behavior. People have made the 'worship' their God. What ever we talk more about is our 'god', right?.

The way I was convinced the "walking by faith" as the act of worship is based on Romans 12:1:

1Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.

If we are offering (surrendering) our body as a living sacrifice totally unto God to be used by Him, in reality what are we doing?

We are walking by faith! Totally trusting that Jesus who dwells in us will live His life in and through us and accomplish His purposes in us. And Paul says, that is the spiritual act of worship.

Aida said...

Joel and Bino, I like what you both have shared.

That type of "worship" can become an addiction with its emotional highs and then, when it's taken away, the deepening lows. Because some have been taught that worship has to be emotional, they believe they haven't worshipped if they don't scream or cry or have some other emotional experience.

As Joel said, people can easily miss what is really of the spirit when they're in that type of environment and all of that other stuff can easily become a distraction. Because pressure is exerted to get everyone to do the same thing, they become little clones acting to please man rather than true worshippers.

OT believers had to work with the outside man so they couldn't worship in spirit and in tuth. Today, we have the Spirit living in us so now our worship is from the heart. We've complicated it but, as Bino said, worship is simply a life lived out of our union with Christ.

Great comments, guys.