Saturday, August 23, 2008

Overthinking Worship

There is a line of thought among postmodern, emergent, missionally experimental Christ-seekers that resists identifying worship with singing songs to God. It actually leaves a number of passionate Christians resisting the practice of singing praises in community, all together.

Many earnest Christ-seekers today recognize that worship in the past was often misunderstood as exclusively indicating singing, especially emotionally charged, expressions of romanticicized intimacy resulting in a nostalgiac, self-centered, feeling-based spirituality that overlooked reverent fear, humble authenticity, and obedient action. Unfortunately, a number of those who have rightly made this observation have reacted by viewing all worshipful singing (especially praise choruses) with suspicion. This is what overthinking our theology does to us. It swings us from one extreme to the other without conforming our actions to God's clearly and simply articulated desires.

Biblical worship includes loving adoration, humble fear, and obedient service. The three primary Hebrew and three primary Greek words most frequently translated "worship" support this understanding. So singing, even emotionally charged, heart-warmed love songs, is actually a wonderful aspect of worship to engage in - just not the only aspect.

Psalm 92:1-3... "It is good to give thanks to the Lord and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; to declare Your lovingkindness in the morning and Your faithfulness by night with resounding music!"

Here's a simple, biblical observation... It's good, even necessary, to sing, out loud, to God... both individually ("I will sing praises with my soul." - Psalm 108:1) and corporately ("I will praise you in the midst of the assembly." - Psalm 22:22).

Here's another thought... Worshiping in the assembly of Israel meant singing praises to God among priests and people who were often hypocritical, self-centered and inauthentic. Even so, the command to praise God remained. We can sing, whole-heartedly in praise, even if our worship leaders, their medium, and those standing near us are tainted (as though we are not!).

Singing isn't the whole of worship, but it remains an important part. Let's not overthink it too much. Instead, let's simply be obedient, engaging our hearts and singing praises to the God who deserves and desires it.

1 comment:

Zack said...

For some, "overthinking worship" as you've called it, is imperative. In other words, to be authentic in our journey of faith, we can't NOT wrestle with this.
I agree with your conclusion that song and music are deeply biblical and necessary. But a hiatus on worship as we've always known it in order to re-understand and re-imagine a more biblical theology of worship is important as well. Otherwise we might never understand how important music and song really are to the collective narrative of our faith communities.

You are incorrect (at least in my case), to assume that I don't value music and song as much as you do. We're currently holding off on music as worship to be intentional about sparking our imaginations as to what worship is and could be (other than music). Again - we need to do this because we aren't able to do this without such a hiatus.

Let me suggest that be more open to do things like this more often as the church - that we'd cease to engage in the rote and tradition we've inherited until we truly understand it's intent and purpose ourselves. If we don't slow or cease our practices to evaluate them, and their meaning, our future will lack imagination and fresh contextualization of ancient and deeply biblical practices.