Something strange happened yesterday during my church’s celebration of the Lord’s Supper.
English: Baptist communion elements (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
My church is a standard medium sized evangelical church in a “red” state. Silence isn’t usually a part of our worship much less our celebration of Communion. Our church, as do most Baptist churches that I have been a part of, use the time when the bread and juice are passed out for a beautiful instrumental piece or even a reverent solo. Yesterday, there was no music during the delivery of the elements to the congregation.
At first, I didn’t catch this but I did have a sense of something being different. Then, by the time our deacons were receiving their portion, it dawned on me that there was no music. No wonder I seemed to be taking this exercise more seriously. No wonder it seemed that the church as a whole was rapt with attention.
Silence in my church usually comes with nervous clearing of throats and awkward motions in order to break the uncomfortableness of the moment and make it go by faster. I didn’t notice any of this yesterday, maybe I was too focused at the practice at hand. Normally, I would be lost somewhere between my need to concentrate on the sacrifice of Jesus and the distraction of the musical “performance” in front of me. Instead, I was moved to contemplation and reverence and my mind was able to focus on the impact and power of Jesus and his work on the cross on my behalf. It was a refreshing time of worship and participation.
I don’t know if our pastor intended for this to happen (we are in between worship pastors) but the next time we have the Lord’s Supper and there is music being played in the middle of it, I think I will be wishing for a little more silence.
I have a confession to make. I don’t like church music.
No, I am not trying to start a debate about worship styles, instruments, or lyrics. I basically have the same reaction during worship with an organ and a hymn book as I do with electric guitars and lyrics written last month. Church music and the participation in singing just doesn’t connect with me. Sure, there have been moments when the Holy Spirit has moved during a song and I couldn’t help but respond (even raising my hands!?!), but overall I connect more with the scripture reading, prayers, and sermons.
I am sure there are many people who are the opposite from me. They have a deep connection and a spiritual response to the music while the sermon falls flat for them. And that is fine. I have in the past beat myself up for my lack of enthusiasm and activity during worship singing and have had discussions with my wife about why I don’t always sing and why I cross my arms during the singing.
For me, I am unable to lose myself during worship. I think it is the corporate nature of it. All of these people singing in unison kind of messes with my introverted, loner tendencies. I have a hard time seperating the song from the crowd so I can experience its message and power for myself. This is why I will sometimes stop singing and just read the words and let them dwell into me for a moment.
Singing for me doesn’t allow for dwelling, it only allows for experiencing and activity. I don’t feed off of activity and experiences but stillness, written words, and teaching. The strange part of it is, I love music and have been to many concerts and consider some music as deeply part of my spiritual life.
Thankfully, God has convicted me of hiding behind my personality and refusing to participate just because church music “isn’t my thing”. I have discovered ways to remind myself that worship is for God and not for myself. I have started to read the lyrics while I am singing and not just when I am not. Worshiping with music is slowly becoming an important aspect of my spiritual life and one that is much needed.
Week 8: Worship
18. Watch John Ortberg and Dallas Willard discuss worship. Watch from the 6:00 mark to the 13:00 mark
19. How often do we prepare for worship? One thing we can do is expect to meet God during worship. Next, we can pray for the worship leaders, that they may feel God’s presence and can speak and lead effectively. Third, focus on singing the songs directly to God and listening to God in scripture and preaching. Commit yourself to worship with your heart this week.*
This is week eight of 23 Things. See previous posts here and here for the first 17 things and an introduction to 23 Things. If you want to be eligible to win a free book, post a comment under each week’s session. Those who complete all 23 Things will be placed in a drawing for a free book.
*The idea for this week’s exercise came from the book, A Year With God, by Richard Foster and Julia Roller.