Today I am breaking away from my usual mom/woman/day to day life things writing and putting on my worship leader hat. My business card says “Worship Pastor”… I just feel like I have since I was a little girl, a singer who loves Jesus.
I’ve been a part of “the” church since I was comfortable in the womb. Since the day I was born, I have been in some sort of capacity, a church member. My parents have been faithful members of the church, believers, followers of Christ, raising my sister and I in the routine and rhythm of the church. Some of my earliest memories are of 1st grade Sunday School, learning the books of the Bible, in order, to a tune. I remember Ms. Ruth, the nursery worker who held babies for GENERATIONS. I remember Bible Drill, GA’s, Discipleship classes, Youth, Summer Camp, Mission Trips, “big” church, drawing on the pink offering envelopes (sorry FBC Canyon for being so wasteful, being on a church staff now, I see the expense I cost you HAHA) and church choir.
Most of my childhood memories revolve around the church. We would play hide and seek in the “haunted hallway” in the old building. We would chase each other up and down the stairs in the education building. I remember hanging out after youth on the steps and then taking our group senior picture on the same steps. I remember walking down the isle to my Nicholas, with my Dad at my side, in the church that built both Tbyrd and I.
The church has given me a foundation that I’ve built my life on and have not regretted it one bit. I don’t know why I fought the idea of being in full time ministry, but here I am. It seems as though when I look back at my life, God has been paving the way, the whole time. (He does that, doesn’t He)
I grew up in the golden age of youth ministry. The dark trenches of “the contemporary vs traditional church music war” 1990-2003 was the bulk of my childhood/adolescence and early adulthood. Within that span of time, I remember singing everything from “I Surrender All” to “Shout to the Lord” and everything in between. I enjoyed church choir from a tender age. We started church choir at preschool age, but I actually remember it most from 1st-12th grades. I remember singing Chris Tomlin worship songs one way in youth and then singing them in the choral adaptation for our youth mission trip my Jr year, for choir. It was an interesting time. It was hard at times to be so drawn to the “new” sound of the music that was shaping my faith, as my own, not my parents’ or even grandparents’, but I felt deeply rooted in the hymns that, in fact, taught me how to harmonize. See, when the choir would sing, I would sing the alto line (I didn’t know it then), but I was more interested in that line of music and before I knew it, I could harmonize. I felt so fancy. ha! Church and music have been instrumental (pun intended) in my life.
My great grandmother was a pastor’s wife and church pianist for the bulk of her life. My Dad was in church choir, my Uncle still is and leads worship in many capacities to this day. My grandmother sings and plays the piano and has been involved in church choir for as long as I can remember. From the time I was in 9th grade, I have been involved in a “worship band” in some capacity. Church music is in my blood.
Here is where I’m going with this.
Church music often doesn’t have anything to do with True Worship.
I love love love modern worship music. It breaks down barriers and walls in my own life/heart. It fires me up, it has been the battle ground in many seasons of my life. It has been a part of my walk with Christ since I first heard “Shout to the Lord” during my 6th grade year of Disciple Now when hot tears were streaming down my face and I couldn’t tell you why. I just knew that the Holy Spirit was real and that He changes everything. I could tangibly experience God’s hand and his movement in my life through worship. I remember not long after our son died, I was in church, during the worship time, and a song began that I immediately got frustrated with. The title of the song is Healer. I stopped, put up a wall, got extremely frustrated with it all. How dare we sing a song about healing and God being our healer when my son had died a month prior?? I was completely justifying my attitude because “I was right” and “he is not a healer”. I suddenly felt as if God was holding me by the face and in the most gentle yet stern voice I heard, “I know you don’t understand and I know you’re mad at me right now, but you can’t have an attitude with me. Your worship doesn’t depend on what you feel about me, your worship comes from trust”.
Worship changes us. Worship, when we let it, works things out between us and God.
I Surrender All is a hymn I will always love. It is rich, deeply rooted and timeless. To me, it reminds me of when I decided that I wanted Jesus to have my heart and my whole life. That song is a moment in time, that thankfully, has shaped my life. Hymns are rich with truth, strong words, weighty statements of faith, deep thoughts and classic tunes. They are so simple and yet so dynamic in content. I can get lost in hymns when I sit at my piano and play alone, singing along without the pressure of the world on my shoulders.
Church, I want to encourage you to lay aside your preferences, so that, you can worship in spirit and in truth. Whether you prefer loud or quiet, up beat or slow, hymn or praise song…the music of the church is not what it is all about.
“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” John 4:23-24
It is a scripture many of us have read many times. But, have you stopped to think about what it means?
True worshipers. It doesn’t say true worship. It doesn’t say “those who worship with hymns”. It doesn’t say anything about music. It says true worshipers WILL worship in spirit and truth. So what does it mean to be a TRUE WORSHIPER. It means that we lay aside our preferences as we walk in the door, our preference not just about a song we like, but our preferences of what we believe. We walk into church on any given Sunday with attitude towards our spouse (I did last Sunday. I promise you that those of us behind mics and drums sets and guitars are REAL PEOPLE with STUFF) We come in frazzled and frustrated, we try to open our mouth and sing out a song and we find that we are completely scatter brained, hurt, tired, sad, broken, maybe puffed up with pride, lying to everyone around us,even ourselves, that we are indeed exhausted and barely making it. You know what we do, so often? We fake it until we make it. We fake it through the songs, we half way listen to the message, we pretend we’re fine with everyone around us and then we leave saying “church was ok today, I didn’t like that one song and the sermon went long, why do they always ask for money and I don’t feel like getting involved in serving because I don’t have time and I’m too tired”…
Do we believe He is worthy, despite how we feel? Do we believe He is God, even though we are doubting? Do we believe that He is enough, when we don’t see how things will work out? Do we believe he heals, even when he didn’t heal our son?
What do we believe?
Let me suggest something. What if, we came into worship as our true selves? Sinful, prideful, broken, not ok, tired, exhausted even, worried, anxious, fearful, shamed, condemned by the world, over worked, under paid, feeling unseen, clueless and not knowing where to start. We can feel feelings, experience emotions and struggles. God created our feelings and emotions. We can be fully and honestly angry or sad or upset. We can truly feel alone and hurt. We can be anxious and scared. THEN, we let God do work in us, surrendered to Him as His Spirit and His truth come forth. Yes, it is messy. Yes, it is uncomfortable. Yes, it will cost. Yes, it will force us to make hard decisions, trust when we can’t see, believe when we can’t feel. Yes, it will mean REPENTANCE. Yes, it will mean struggle. Yes, it will mean making life changes. YES YES YES. It will mean work. But, what if?
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? Matthew 16:24-26
Our preference for comfort and easy keep us from a life of true worship. Notice that most of our worship doesn’t actually come from our music preference. Worship comes from our life preference. We choose to prefer easy over committed. We choose convenience over sacrifice. We choose priorities. We choose what we worship. If we aren’t worshiping God with our finances, we are worshiping stuff. If we aren’t worshiping God with our bodies, we are most likely worshiping self medication/addiction or over indulgence. (raises hand here, solidarity friends) If we aren’t worshiping God with our time, we are worshiping our own agenda. Listen, God has called us to our homes, our families, our jobs, ministries, projects even. He is calling us to live our lives he has given. He has given us all of these opportunities. He blesses them even. He also is the provider of them all and if we don’t recognize that with how we live, then we are leaning and trusting in ourselves and most likely drowning in it all.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Phil 4:8
For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day. What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us. 2 Timothy 1:6-14
We live our lives within the context of God’s character, His commands and His agenda. We don’t just fit God into our preferences, our wants and our convenience. When we begin to live our life as True worshipers, we will begin to see. We will see. See His character as faithful, true and good even when we hurt. We will see His people as He does. We will see the enemy for what He is. We will see sin for what it is and quit making excuses for it. We will see needs. We will see what God does, not what he doesn’t do.
When we begin to prefer Him over the world. We will live a life of worship. Will it look perfect? Heavens no. Will we get it right? Nope. Will our kids never mess up? We wish huh. Will our marriages be magically picture perfect? *shakes head* Sure won’t. Friendships will still take work. Life will still be hard. Life will be centered on His will though.
Through thick and thin, trouble and delight, all the highs and lows and in between, we can be assured that when we worship Him for who is He, not how we want, our lives will be centered on Truth.
I want to encourage you and give you some tools in this.
-Be planted in “the” church. Find where God has called you and root deep. Do life with other believers. It will take vulnerability and honesty. It will not always be comfortable or easy. It will always be worth it.
-Repent of sin. Be disgusted with sin in your life. Be willing to admit fault before the Lord and receive grace, right where you’re at. Be diligent in this practice. (learning this, y’all. it is hard, but it is key)
-Let God be God. I don’t know how to help you in this, other than saying it. You know where God is asking you to let go and trust. Do it. Most of the battle of faith is being obedient. As Lysa Terkheurst says, “God is good. God is God. God is good and being God.”
-remember this is going to take our entire life. We will never arrive at perfection, until we see Christ face to face. Do not lose heart, do not quit…”keep on swimming” as Dori says. Please do not quit church because you got hurt or quit reading your Bible because you missed a week. Don’t quit serving all together because you got burnt out. Let God revive you and sustain you as you continue to be obedient to serve him.
I hope this encourages you today. I hope it challenges you today. It certainly has challenged me. God is not finished with us yet. Let’s not be finished with Him.
Worship Pastor/Creative Arts
Family Life Church