Before I get started I need to get a few things straight. I really don’t like capitalizing things, but I will in this blogpost because it’s super serious. I really like fragmented sentences, so prepare yourself, they’re in there. Finally, my mind travels at a million miles per hour, so if I skip to another topic really fast or go down a rabbit trail, I promise I will eventually come back to my main point. Hopefully.
There are many things in life that I can’t fully comprehend. I don’t understand death, I don’t understand fear, I don’t understand love, I don’t understand grace, I don’t understand perfection – the list goes on. I’m human. I have a finite mind incapable of ever fully understanding many things, especially to do with God. If you’re reading this, you also probably don’t fully comprehend everything either, and thats ok. Our inability to understand the complexity of everything in life leaves us in dependency upon God and that’s so beautiful.
Something that has been on my heart lately is the way the we respond to God. That includes worship. I feel closest to God during worship. I feel like everything else fades away and I’m left there in the presence of God, which is an indescribable feeling. Recently, people have written articles about who’s way of worship is more “godly,” or focusing on the type of music being played, how dim or bright the lights are, or if the music is too loud. I’m only eighteen, I don’t know every fact about every different denomination and I forget to read my Bible some days, but I’m preeetty sure that the Bible doesn’t really describe how not to worship.
When you add rules like that, it turns your relationship with God into a mere religion. I don’t want to be religious. I was religious for thirteen years of my life and there was nothing tangible about God during that time. I’ve always been southern baptist and I’ve always been proud of it. It wasn’t until I was thirteen and I went to a camp in Tennessee and saw 300 students worshipping God, in the dark, with their hands raised that I saw what true pursuit of God was. It wasn’t a new concept, but it also wan’t something that was regular for me. Like I said, God wasn’t real for me, He was a distant concept way up in the sky. By the end of the week at camp, I realized I was missing out on something. I realized that my love for God was lackluster and it needed to change. And that was when I raised my hands. If you know me at all, you know that I’m shy. My mom laughs at me all the time because I hate doing anything alone. Its a major fear of mine – to be alone. I went to that camp, where kids came from across the country, all by myself. God put me there, outside my comfort zone, to realize that I was too far away from Him, and that He wanted me back.
I came back home from camp a different person. Nothing in my life was satisfying to me. I needed more of God, I was so hungry and my church wasn’t feeding me. I didn’t want to stand in “big church” and worship with an orchestra playing, not because that isn’t worshipful, but because that didn’t satisfy me. I hated the feeling of standing there with your hands by your side because God forbid your raise a hand to worship the One who created the world, singing quietly because thats what’s polite, peeking out the corner of your eye to check if the person next to you is engaging in the stand up-sit down version of worship. Sounds judgmental right? Maybe, but thats the thing.
Worship is not a “one size fits all” type of thing. I now attend an Assembly of God church.. I know what you might be thinking, “what type of southern baptist goes to that type of church?” Southern Baptist? That’s a label. I don’t really feel the need to define my relationship with the God who created an enormous universe by a label or denomination. I don’t want it to be definable.
But back to being judgmental about worship styles. I currently go to Clover Hill Assembly of God. From the moment I first walked through that door, they were welcoming. When you look around Clover Hill, the diversity is mind-blowing. Nobody is denied access because they show up in sweat pants, or judged because they’re broken. They’re welcomed with open arms and shown the love of Jesus. The worship services? The lights are pretty much completely off, except for on stage. Why? Well, why do we need light to worship? Personally, I don’t need anyone watching me to see how spiritual I get during a song, and I don’t want to be distracted by anyone else. It nice. The lack of light gives you the chance to stop looking around and focus on worshipping God. The music? It’s loud. But not so loud that it hurts your ears. Why play it so loud? My theory is that, not everyone is Whitney Houston.. so when the music is that loud, it frees the people who are shy about their voices to worship without worrying about who might be listening.
A lot of people find that type of worship to be “wrong,” as if there was a wrong way to worship. As if we, sinful, flawed humans would be able to define “wrong worship.” Its almost humorous. In Bible times, do you really think the disciples and people worshipping God sat quietly in pews, wearing their cutest outfits with their hands by their sides, quietly singing hymns? Highly doubtful.. Let’s think about it. Jesus was performing miracles, do you think people who witnessed them applauded Jesus with a little golf-clap, do you think God only performed miracles on people who had their lives together? No. He performed the miracles for the people who were broken and needed healing. I’m sure the people who saw Jesus in action responded by dancing and shouting praises, worshipping God with hopeless abandon.
This isn’t a post to bash different worship styles, or prove that one way is the right way. The point is that every person is created differently, therefore the way they respond to God is going to be different and that is beautiful. Christianity is about every different person coming together with their flaws and brokenness before God and being healed. It isn’t our job to determine who is the better Christian for worshipping the way we consider to be the perfect and right way. My relationship with God is so much more tangible and real since coming to Clover Hill, but I know of people who have incredible walks with God and whose fruit and spiritual maturity is so evident.
The problem isn’t that our worship is too progressive or too conservative, but that it’s too small. Why constrict worship to a certain way for an infinite and undefinable God? God doesn’t want perfect people in a perfect church, he wants broken people on their knees searching for Him. He doesn’t just want another song, but a reflection of His love and mercy among the poor, imprisoned, voiceless, and oppressed, as well as the people who have their lives together. Worship isnt’ an event to be attended and watched, its a lifestyle to participate in. Its everyday. Its relentless. Worship will get you through the toughest times because it shifts your focus from the problem, to the problem solver.
“Worship is simply giving God his breath back.” – Louie Giglio