Here I go again. Agonizing over worship.
I recently found a blog by a man named Bob Kauflin. He seems to be genuine and sincere, intelligent and Biblically based. I really respect a lot of the things he says and most of what he stands for. He demonstrates humility and a burning passion for the glory of God.
He is a church musician, a.k.a. "worship leader." And therein is my stumbling block. The a.k.a. part, I mean.
It is so hard, so very, very hard for me to live with the idea that "my worship" is how I respond to the music in my church. There is something about this idea that just sits very badly in my spirit. It causes me no end of angst. I don't believe that Jesus meant for it to be this way.
I read Mr. Kaufman's blog and was impressed. I wondered if the Lord were convicting me of a wrong heart towards contemporary Christian music. I prayed and resolved to approach things at my church with a fresh perspective. I listened to samples of Mr. Kaufman's music (he writes a lot himself). I actually kind of liked a few of his songs. Some of them I did not care for very much, but I could recognize that concern for the centrality of Jesus' sacrifice and attention to theological detail had gone into the crafting of the lyrics. "Is God calling me to learn to like contemporary Christian music?" I wondered. If that's what God wants me to do, I need to be willing to do it, otherwise I am in disobedience, whether or not worship is more than musical expression in a corporate gathering.
On Sunday, I went to church with a hopeful attitude. Surprisingly, most of the songs on the program that day were older ones (from the 1990s) that I actually knew; they were not all new, unfamiliar ones. Although I can't remember what they were, I relaxed into the music and began singing in a looser way than usual, less binding up in my heart and throat.
I relaxed and sang, closed my eyes and let my head fall back. I felt good. And then, suddenly, I realized what I was singing: "In all I do, I honor You... In all I do, I honor You... In all I do, I honor You..." My mind kicked back in, and I realized, "I do not honor God in all I do. I should honor God in all I do. I hope to get to a point where, at least, I honor God in most of what I do. But I most certainly do not honor God in all that I do. I am lying. Over and over. In church. I am standing in church, repeating a lie over and over to the Lord." And that was the end of me being able to engage in the music for that morning.
What is vexing is this: I cannot even remember what song it was to look up the rest of the words. This is a thing that I really used to like about hymnals. If you blanked out for a moment and failed to concentrate, you still had the whole song on the page in front of you, and you could scan with your eyes to see what you had been singing about and how the words all worked together, even beyond the ones you were singing in that exact moment. When we only get a few lines or phrases at a time on a video screen, we can lose the meaning of the song quite quickly as words disappear. At least, I can, but perhaps I am unique in my propensity to have a mind-glich now and then while singing. Probably everybody else is completely overwhelmed by the glory of God, and I am just standing there, distracted because the video screen has an apostrophe in the wrong place, and I am just that nasty type of person who would notice. I remember once I was in an assembly, and we were singing a song, and we got to the end where we began to repeat the last line over and over and over, as there is a tendency to do these days. The line was, "Here I am." Over and over. Those were the only words visible on the screen. All around me, people were holding up their hands, weeping. I had no idea what was going on. "Here I am." Well, yes, there I was, desiring to focus on my Lord--the One who created me and redeemed me. But apparently all I was supposed to do was to tell Him, "Here I am," which, as far as I could tell, was just a painfully obvious fact. Painful, because my toes were freezing and the constant emphasis on my own presence was making me repeatedly aware of them.
I feel really bad about myself. But then, on the other hand, I wonder about all the other people who were singing, "In all I do, I honor You." Did they really believe that they do truly honor God in all that they do? Maybe they are all that much more sanctified than I am. I guess I am not supposed to judge. But really, aren't we all in this sanctification thing together, with responsibility to help and encourage one another and hold one another accountable? Aren't we? Or aren't we? Maybe the other people are just as "middle of the journey" on the path of sanctification as I am, and maybe they even know this about themselves, but then why would they sing those words? Is it an issue of mental (dare I say intellectual) disengagement?
I often feel that the goal of the song leader is--subconsciously of course--to get the singers to engage with the music and disengage from "life" (a.k.a critical thinking, and by that I mean critical in the sense of "involving skillful judgment as to the truth," not critical in the sense of "inclined to find fault"). Whenever I am walking in the grocery store and hear the song that goes, "Give me the beat boys, and free my soul, I wanna get lost in your rock and roll and drift away..." it reminds me of the way I feel in church during the music, the uncomfortable, on-guard feelings that rise up in me when I sense that someone is telling me, "Let go... stop thinking... engage with the music..."
Jesus said, "God is Spirit and His worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth," (John 4:24). I think we've got the worship in spirit part down, but I really cannot quite relax about the truth part.