"The struggle is your worship."
I heard God speak these words to me very clearly during the forth worship service one Sunday evening. It is obvious, but we have all been wondering when "normal" worship will resume and the effects of COVID disappear. There's a weariness that many feel stuck at home, looking at a screen, or silently sitting by themself. Or maybe there's a weariness of jumping through a million ethical questions before you are able to meet with someone else in person. Or maybe for those who work for a church, there is a weariness of staring at a lifeless camera lenses and empty seats for over nine months. Or maybe your nose just hurts because you wear a mask all the time.
There is a deeper weariness though. It is a weariness that comes from one-direction digital conversations, from having to 'fill in the gaps" of changed relationships, of wondering if you've communicated successfully with someone over a text message, or from constantly evaluating your community from a distance. More than ever, it is easy to fall into judgementalism or fear of man. Without embodied communication, we are weary of maintaining connection with others, and worse, weary of maintaining a connection with God.
"Christians sing, it’s just what we do.”
Many Christians would agree with this statement, but most cannot explain why, and in a culture where singing is only one of many artistic expressions, it becomes harder and harder to make sense of historic Christian rituals and how they fit into worship. As we invite students and congregations into the Gospel within the context of local churches, helping them engage in worship is key to healthy discipleship.
“Worship" is a word Christians use a lot, but if asked what precisely it is, one gets different kinds of answers. In most cases, people usually just mean the “singing” portion of gatherings. As we seek to fulfill the Great Commission and bring people from all corners of the earth into the Church, there is a growing need to create an apologetic for the role corporate worship plays in the spiritual vitality of believers. Singing has traditionally taken up a significant portion of time in corporate worship, so without a robust understanding of why Christians engage in this public ritual and what actually happens when they do, there is little compulsion for people to unite themselves to local churches.
I do not aim to cover every aspect of Christian worship in this essay; that is much too large of a topic for just a few pages. However, there are a few areas of confusion specifically around singing that will greatly aid our ministry if we understand them better. We need to: 1) clarify what worship is at its very core, outside of singing, 2) describe how singing, specifically, is an act of worship, 3) define what singing is and how we engage with it, and 4) look at the effect singing has on us while we worship and what to expect when we do it.
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It was so loud! You could hear it before you could see it. The combination of voices and the sound of loud instruments could be heard far away. It was a revival! Both young and old had come together for the first time, in a long time, to renew their dedication to the worship of God. But if you had been walking by, you would not be able to tell if they were happy or sad. Old patriarchs were weeping over forgotten memories of the way things used to be, and the 20-somethings were vibrant with excitement for the future. Regardless of the past, the future, or how they felt about it, they all sang responsibly with one voice,
“For he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever towards Israel.” (Ezra 3:11)
This scene comes from the time of Cyrus, king of Persia, and the return of the covenant people of Israel to rebuild the temple. While we live in light of the fulfilled promise of a savior, I cannot help but think this scene accurately describes our worship today as well. We may not be celebrating the stacking of stones or the re-melding of gold, but as the Apostle Paul talks about in Ephesians 2, we are being built together into a holy temple for the Spirit of God to dwell with. This “building together” binds generations, connects our weeping to our shouting, and is so "loud" that all the earth hears and knows that the Lord is good, and his steadfast loves endures forever towards his people. Jesus proclaimed this gospel in Matthew 9:38, and this year the CCO has asked us to pray every day at 9:38, that the harvest would be full and the workers would be many. As we enter Advent and Christmas, I am reminded of the great Gospel song, "God Tell It On The Mountain" and pray that the Lord would inhabit the praises of his people in all corners of the earth. Will you pray with us?
More about Daniel Snoke HERE.