Monday, August 8, 2011

The Spiritual Discipline of Worship

Yesterday, I ran slides for church. It’s one of the “perks” of being married to the Worship Director- I automatically get roped into volunteering in nearly every capacity. But I don’t mind this... it allows me to serve the church and be connected with Anthony’s ministry. However, yesterday was an early morning. The typical Wednesday evening rehearsal had been canceled, so the band was meeting extra early on Sunday morning to practice. As I sat behind the computer clicking sides, the sound man Chris made an observation. He said to me, “Do you think we really mean the words we sing about?” At that moment, the band was rehearsing a modern version of the hymn, “Take My Life.” Do we really want God to take control when we sing these lyrics? We mused for a few moments about what it means to truly desire God to take our lives, but then duty called and we were quickly pulled back to our respective jobs.

I found myself, however, mulling over this idea all afternoon. What does it mean to truly worship*? Why don’t more people actually bow down when we sing the lyrics “We fall down, we lay our crowns, at the feet of Jesus?” Why don’t more people lift their hands in worship when we sing “We come and lift up our hands, for the joy of the Lord is our strength?” I realize part of this is due to culture and comfort levels. But I found myself reflecting on my own history with worship. And it dawned on me that it takes me much longer to enter into authentic worship than it used to. So naturally I began to try and analyze why this is so. Back in college, it was easy for me to enter into worship without worrying about what people thought or without evaluating the band or my surroundings. But I think a large contributor to this fact was that I was attending chapel 3 times a week, church twice a week, and worshipping on a regular basis with wonderful communities and an amazing band. It was a constant part of my life.

On a bit of a different track, I have also been thinking a lot lately about spiritual formation and spiritual disciplines. I am working on choosing a book for our church’s women’s ministry small groups to study this fall, and the book I am looking seriously at is all about spiritual formation and discipline. It has been a great reminder that much of our faith is about training ourselves to become more like Christ. We don’t easily and naturally sit down and pray for 5 hours. Well, at least I don’t. But through discipline and training, this can become possible. In some ways, I think the same is true about worship. I believe in order to authentically and genuinely worship, it takes practice. It takes practice to shut out the nagging thoughts about the day’s schedule. It takes practice to turn your thoughts fully on God. And it takes practice to not think about how your voice sounds, how the band sounds, or how your neighbor sounds. Perhaps this is too harsh a way to think about worship. But I think we have to admit that there is a ring of truth to it. If our only time of worship is on Sunday mornings from 9:30-10:00am, then we don’t get much practice, do we? It’s difficult for your heart to be focused on worship. But if it’s a discipline that we focus on throughout the week, we learn to be better and more authentic worshippers. And not just alone, but together in church, in our small groups, at MOPS, wherever we gather. For me, I have been challenged to try and be more disciplined in my worship experiences throughout the week. I want worship to become a natural part of my life and who I am, and not just be a Sunday morning at 9:30 thing.

Do you ever feel out of practice with worship? What are some ways that you incorporate worship throughout the week?

*for the context of this post, worship is referring to singing worship songs. I realize that worship is so much more than song, but for simplicity’s sake I will use the term worship for music.


  1. I don't want to be too hard on you, but this quote stood out to me, " It has been a great reminder that much of our faith is about training ourselves to become more like Christ."

    I know some people think it's splitting hairs, but I think it's a very distinct difference. We can't do it, and we will never be able to. Much of the church teaches how to do stuff, how to think, as if education or our hard work will pay off. In John 5:19 is says, "So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing...." Yet we constantly try to live life out of our own strength. If Jesus could do nothing of His own accord, how much more can we not do anything?

    I was talking to someone the other day who described our minds being renewed by the Holy Spirit as us looking at our beliefs, where they come from, and comparing them to scripture, so that we can change our world view to alien with scripture. Once again it's our own efforts. We need to recognize our weakness and inability to do anything. In those moments we will naturally pour out worship because at the same time we will see God's greatness, and worship Him.

    Not trying to go on a tangent, just recognizing this difference that people teach and believe, that they can do things on their own. I am in the process of giving up control as well, and it's hard, but the rewards are much greater.

    I know it seems petty, but this is what the Gnostics did, they based religion on learning and human effort.

  2. Hi Matt! I agree with you that we will never achieve perfection here on earth. It doesn't matter how much we try by our own strength, we can't do it. That's why we are saved by grace through faith. Works for the sake of works won't earn us anything.

    But I also think that a beautiful thing about Christianity is that it's full of both/ands. It's true that works won't save, but they are also crucial to our faith. At some point, we need to decide to act on our faith whether that be in service to others, in worship, or in our own lives. I think this is where disciplines come in. We need to form habits that are healthy and that point us to Christ. I think that's an important part of becoming like Him. Can we do it all on our own? No, we need the Spirit's guidance. But I do think we need to take some responsibility to take action.

    I think worship can come at times of weakness when we give up control and recognize God's greatness. I also think that sometimes, it's difficult to worship when you don't make it a daily habit in your life.

    Going back to your original thought, I do think faith is about training ourselves. It's not all it's about. And it's not by ourselves. And it doesn't determine salvation. But I think it's essential to growth and sanctification. (see 1 Tim. 4:7-16, 1 Tim. 6:11, 1 Cor. 9, Eph. 4:1, Phil. 3:12)

  3. Worship is huge for me and I've noticed that Im either 'in it' or not there is no middle ground for me. One of the ways I love to worship is through Sign Language (man I miss the conference I had to miss it this year.)

    As for spriritual training this is an area I too need some extra support in that area so let me know what book your talkign about even if its not the one you choose.

  4. Amber! We missed seeing you at the conference this year! The book we're thinking about using is called "The Good and Beautiful God" by James Bryan Smith. It's part of a 3 book series called the Apprenticeship series. I would also highly recommend "Celebration of Discipline" by Richard Foster. A classic and sooo challenging.