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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Disobedient to the Songs (Worship, Part 1)

'THE SIMON SAYS TRAFFIC COP' photo (c) 2012, KarmaCat_SF - license:
The Worship Police
I have been disobedient lately. And maybe a bit of a liar.

These are things I have said that I was doing, but I actually didn't do them at all:
  • Fall on my knees
  • Lift my hands and spin around
  • Stand with arms wide open
  • Running to your arms
  • Bow down before you now
  • Shout out, sing loud
  • Find myself here on my knees again
But it gets worse. Much worse. You see, I didn't lie about doing these things while sitting on my couch with my wife, or at Starbuck's with a friend, or even on Facebook with who-knows-who. I said these things... in church.

And it gets EVEN WORSE.

I wasn't just in the vestibule of the church talking about doing these things. I wasn't at Men's Breakfast on a Saturday morning, or chaperoning some Youth Group event, or even confessing to the pastor.

I was right in the sanctuary. During worship. Singing those phrases.


Yes. I lied, directly in God's face, during a time specifically intended to show Him love and respect. And what did I do? I sang to Him that I was "running to His arms" when in actuality, I wasn't running at all. I was standing still not even walking. Arguably, barely moving. I wasn't shouting out, or falling on my knees (ouch!), bowing down or spinning around. I may not have even had my hands lifted or my arms wide open.

Why do people who write worship songs put this kind of stuff in them? Certainly, everyone is supposed to be participating, and singing (loud or otherwise) and even lifting hands are appropriate in many churches. Bowing down, yes, if the situation is appropriate and the mood strikes. But most churches don't do that much spinning and running during services. So why do these songwriters force us to lie like that?

I'll take it a step further. I would be surprised to find out that any of the people who wrote those lines were actually doing what they were writing, as they were writing it. Although I would like to see someone trying to write "I'm running to Your arms" on a sheet of paper while actually running, or "lift my hands and spin around" while actually lifting their hands and spinning around. Those folks were making liars out of themselves as they wrote the lines on the paper! I guarantee that each of these songwriters, as they wrote those lines down, was sitting somewhere with a pen or pencil (or a laptop, or whatever) and not doing any worshippy actions at all.

I'm not particularly a person who likes to be told what to do. I don't consider myself rebellious, but I like to be authentic... if I raise my hands, I want it to be because I felt love for God well up in me and my body wanted to express it that way. If I shout, I want it to be because a shout built up in me until keeping it in wasn't an option anymore. Once upon a time, I would kind of feel guilty if a song said something like "I wave unto God" and I didn't wave. Or "Shout to the Lord" and I didn't shout (by the way, who actually does shout during that song? Nobody!) I would feel like I was being disobedient, and on one level, I suppose I am.

But that's not the important level.

Worship, I've learned, comes from your heart. Not from your hands clapping, or your feet jumping or dnacing, or even from your voice singing. Worship, like everything else that matters at all to God, occurs long before it is visible to the naked eye. Things that you do during the worship service are only the physical sign of something that has already occurred on the inside. So you don't have to fall on your knees, earning yourself a visit to minor emergency because you've fractured both of your kneecaps. You can worship God standing up.

But don't refuse to lift up your hands just because you want to be difficult, either. Because you know what else occurs in your heart before the action occurs on the outside? Rebellion. Resistance to authority. If you're refusing to play Worship Simon Says on principle, then you're actually being counterproductive to worship... you're distancing yourself from God.

Make sure the next time you are in worship that you are offering your heart to God. Not your hands, although they are His, not your clapping or your singing or your running or jumping or standing on your head, but your heart. That's what God really wants. If you've got that going on, it doesn't really matter if your voice shouts to the Lord or not. Your heart does the shouting for you.

This week I have several posts planned about worship - I hope you enjoy them! What are your thoughts about worship songs that tell people what to do? Are they like playing Red Light, Green Light... or do they actually provide a useful structure for people to worship within? Sound off in the comments below and join the discussion!


J.R. said...

I also have a bit of a problem with these kinds of songs. I don't hear songs that 'tell me what to do' very often, but what I notice that I feel as I sing them, is a feel much less worshipful singing them as I would with songs that, for example, praise God and don't mention 'I shout-Run-Bow' etc., because like you said, I like to be authentic. I feel a sense of hypocrisy as I sing them, because not everybody reacts the same way to spiritual connection with God. Not everybody has to shout or fall or run around frantically. The only universal 'outer' result of true worship is that you are happy. Truly happy. You are absolutely right when you say worship comes from the heart. I come to God, talk with Him, Worship Him, praise Him, and He fills my heart with Joy. That is where the authentic souting, running, spinning etc. should come from. We also should never do these things to be pious. My friend and I have recently had a discussion about this. 'Is Jesus going to uneventfully disregard your prayers if you are standing up or have your eyes open? Does the wearing of a hat deflect prayers? No. If you feel it is appropriate, and moreover, if you earnestly mean it, you should by all means be as reverent, or shout-spin-runny as you want. But it has to come from spiritual contact with God. Not just because the song says so.

TulsaMJ said...

I think there are very real dangers that people will either refuse to participate and feel guilty, or participate and feel smug and pious. Both reactions are wrong. However, if the song reminds you that "oh yeah... I'm supposed to be actively engaged in worship!" then I can see some value in it. As a songwriter myself, though, I tend to try to stay away from that kind of stuff.