Photo by Zhiwen Ng
I have written on this before and I suspect I will write about this again. I am very disturbed that for many, worship has been reduced to singing songs. Every time a worship leader says “let’s enter into a time of worship” and starts to lead the congregation to sing praises to God, I cringe in my seat. This is not because I do not see the importance of singing. Our Bible has a song book right in the middle — the book of Psalms. I think singing is a precious gift from God to enable us to express what is deepest in our hearts. What I am very worried about is the reducing of worship to just singing. One dangerous consequence is that it reduces the impact of God on our lives and our impact on the world for Christ. Romans 12:1–2 says:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (NIV)
Commenting on the above verses, Brian Sanders writes:
Sadly, the word worship has come to mean something more narrow, merely the singing of songs. Just as we have allowed the meaning of church to drift from its true sense, so we have with the meaning of worship.
Worship, then, is not about just admiring God or even praising him. It is about responding to his mercy by offering all that we are to him and walking as nonconformists in this broken world. We become agents of his kingdom, and iconoclasts transformed by an inward, invisible renewal.
Brian Sanders, Microchurches (independently published, 2019), 39.
Sanders reminds us that our worship is a response to God’s mercy. And we respond to God’s mercy by offering all we are to him, not just our vocal cords. If we understand that our worship encompasses the totality of our lives, we will allow ourselves to be transformed by the God we worship. As transformed people we are misfits, people who do not conform to this fallen world. But it is only as misfits that we can play the role of being iconoclasts of all that is false so that we can point the way to what is true and to Who is true. But this can only happen if we understand what worship really is.
For now, we find ourselves in the strange position where we cannot gather for congregational singing. Increasingly, we are being allowed to assemble in prescribed numbers and in designated buildings but we are not yet allowed to sing even when we gather. We can sing in small groups and of course we can sing simultaneously while we connect online but congregational singing is out for now. This could be a God-given time to step back and to think afresh about what we mean by worship.
Shall we start a movement that fights against the idea that worship is only just singing? Or only just about the liturgical practices we do at congregational services? I guess I can live with “Let’s worship God with song”. At least that implies that singing is just one way we worship God. Because we are to offer our whole lives to Him. That is acceptable worship. Maybe we can start a campaign to stop equating worship with singing.