I’m running behind with my blog posts, but I thought this week I’d post daily from a sermon I gave on 8 July. You can read my general summary of the sermon here. In my sermon I proposed that much more of our public worship services are subjective than we often want to admit. We worship each week with several facets of our worship in tension between us. The humility to not insist upon “our way” demonstrates an admirable spiritual trait. Nonetheless, it’s healthy to discuss these tensions. So here’s #1.
HEAD vs HEART
Worship must be thoughtful and intentional. There’s no such thing as “accidental” worship. Singing without noticing the words. Participating in the Lord’s Supper as a snack. Sleeping through a prayer. None of these things are worship, even if the correct actions have been taken.
Corporate worship must also make sense to those around us, as well as to God, if it’s to be beneficial. 1 Corinthians 14 describes how including tongue speaking in public worship is counter productive because worship must be intelligible to be meaningful. “Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? you will just be speaking into the air.” v9 (tNIV)
The final verse in chapter 14 (v40) reads “But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.” This is a banner verse for all those oriented toward structure and organisation. Everything should be planned, efficient, meaningful and logical. These people seek to eliminate distractions in order to focus their thoughts on their relationship with God.
On the other hand worship without emotional content is equally lacking. Does it make sense to sing about the Joy of the Lord without feeling joyful? Can we offer prayers of thanksgiving without feeling thankful? Can we bring our hurts to God without feeling hurt? Is the entire book of Psalms unemotional? The fundamental nature of worship is that it arises from the overflow of our hearts toward God.
Paul seems to describe his expectation of a worship service (or regular gathering of the church, since they may not have invented “worship services” yet) in 1 Cor 14:26 “When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation.” If everyone brought something to the service, it seems that they had considerably less planning than we do and a lot more spontaneity. They were also considerably smaller churches!
I definitely read this verse as describing a heart lead worship experience. Have you written a hymn this week? Have you received a revelation as you went about your life? Has God spoken to you through his word? Then come to church, share your experience, and encourage the body.
People who express emotions in church will sometimes cause distraction while raising hands or saying “Amen”, so you can see how this can create conflict with those seeking to eliminate distractions. In my experience, the church quickly becomes accustomed to some people raising hands and it no longer distracts.
I’m calling this series of posts “Enlarging Worship” as I don’t really intend to set these contrasts against each other. Rather, I hope that by highlighting the tension we can make space in our worship to include both and understand the people around us. For instance, isn’t it possible to schedule spontaneity by allowing 10 minutes for people to share a Scripture or request a song? After all, we’ve done this for years when we offer the invitation not knowing if anyone or 5 people will respond and ignorant of what their request will involve.
I understand that for some this approach unacceptably dilutes both the Head and the Heart aspects of worship. Compromise by its nature dilutes the extremes. However, since God seems to engage both our heads and hearts it only seems appropriate to worship Him with both.
- Most churches seem to sit considerably closer to one end of the spectrum. How have you seen churches stretch to engage both Head & Heart of worshipers?
- Are you more of a Head or a Heart person? How do different worship environments affect you?