Every time I walk into a church I criticize everything. Not only am I someone who thinks critically, but I am also just a judgy person. The worship service is always the one that gets me. I like dancing to music; I like singing to music; I even like singing and dancing with others. I like good music, and that’s not what Christian music is. So I miss the point of worship every time not because I don’t get it on a technical level, but because I haven’t ever experienced that true desire to worship.
So what does it mean to worship? Isn’t it praising God for who He is? I don’t need a crowd to do that. I can do that by myself. So what’s the point of corporate worship?
G.K. Chesterton begins his book Orthodoxy with an tale of a man who departs from England in search of a new land. He sets sail into the waves, and is unknowingly pushed back to the shores of England. He stumbles through the city street marveling at the new sights and standing in awe at the oddity of this new world. The entire tale is a metaphor for Chesterton’s beliefs: leaving the familiar in search of something else, and eventually finding what he was looking for in the old, but seeing it from a new perspective.
This manner of a return to the old/new is the only way I could even pretend to be a Christian right now.
It’s the only way I found a desire to worship with others.
I was working at a camp with my girlfriend and a younger, fellow staff member who we affectionately call our daughter. At this camp there are chapel sessions in the afternoon and evening some days. I assume this because I never go to them. This day however, my girlfriend and daughter were both asked to sing and play music for the worship sessions, and I figured I would help out and watch them practice. As they played and sang, it hit me. At that moment, singing some god-awful Christian worship song, I wanted nothing more than to sing and play with them.
The music could have been anything. In fact, I would have preferred it to be anything else, but I guess God can use anything even Christian music.
It could have been anywhere. We could have been in the car going down the highway with the windows down, but we were in a tin-roofed gymnasium.
But it wasn’t just anyone. This was my family. My body of Christ. They didn’t have to be Christian, they just had to have a community with me. And that’s what I had been ignoring.
Corporate Worship is two parts. Yes, I can worship God alone, anywhere. Yes, I can have community with anyone, anywhere. But it’s where I can worship God AND have community at the same time.
Someone once told me that Prayer is all about aligning your will with God’s will. The more I think about that, the more I believe that corporate worship is part of a series of liturgies that force us to get over ourselves and align ourselves with everyone else who is taking part in them. Its the moment when we all sang in different voices, but all saying the same thing. Its a unity reflective of other liturgies like Communion and Prayer; Times when we are forced to look at ever imperfect voice, song, and person in the room, and just deal with the fact that it’s not everyone else that is preventing you from have community there, it’s just me.
It’s strange. I can even see the value of Modern Christian Worship music after all this processing. The words have no deep value; they are incredibly shallow when it comes to theological meaning. That part remains true. But they are simple, which makes them easy for anyone walking in to pick up right where the words on screen are at, and join in the Body of Christ raising their voices together as one. I have my gripes about the Christian music industry, but if you can learn 4 chords you can play almost every worship song. It’s accessible, which is what it needs to be.
Do I still sing in worship services? Sometimes. It’s a struggle. There are some days that I sit down out of a profound lack of interest, or some sort of silent protest of the song choice. But it only takes a few moments for me to look to those to the right and left of me, at those people that I know and love, and after a few more prideful minutes of inner-turmoil, I will finally stand up and sing again.