Worship Reflections 09.21.08

‘Heart Rules’ series, week two.

Guest speaker: Greg Gibbs, from this church, brought a great message, “Jesus and My Hot Tub”…. what captivates your heart?  what have you given your heart to? 

Song set:
Sing to the King (Foote)
Awesome is the Lord Most High (Tomlin, Reeves, Pierce, Abel)
From the Inside Out (Houston) 
Give us Clean Hands (Hall)
Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone) (Tomlin, Giglio, Excell, Rees, Newton)

The band was really tight this week, which is always a nice thing.  I unintentionally created a bit of a transitional challenge by trying to move from Rah! Rah! How awesome is the Lord Most High! whoo-hooo!!  to what could be a dramatic ‘a thousand times I’ve failed, still your mercy remains…’ (opening line in From the Inside Out).  Musically it worked, as we began Inside Out with a little piano action under scripture being read, but thematically, and from the perspective of the congregation, we probably could have found a more effective way to make that leap.

Give us Clean Hands was perfect for the theme of the day.  I love that song.  I don’t care how old it is; it will always be in my toolbox.

Personally… it was great to play piano again with the band.  Haven’t done that in a while, not for any intentional reason; it just has worked out that way. 

Musings:
This was another week that brought questions to mind about the response we see, or not, within our congregation while we are worshiping together through music.  As the smaller group of people looking out at the larger group of people, the worship team can’t help but notice what happens in that larger group.  And it becomes a topic for us…. ‘that was amazing! so many people looked like they were responding!’ or ‘why aren’t they responding?’ and then the inevitable  ‘what can we do to help them respond more?’  I’m quite sure you cannot accurately judge the state of a person’s heart by what you see them doing on the outside… can you?  should you? some people are just more demonstrative than others, right?  but then, why do we give excuses for those who show absolutely no response physically in worship, when it’s true that their body language speaks clearly in every other area of life?

I have no answers.  Just lots of questions.  I DO know that I-we-the worship leading group can’t fall into the trap of believing that it is our responsibility alone to bring responses out of our congregation. True, there are more effective and less effective means of worshiping together.  But the response… the connection between a person’s heart and God’s heart in congregational worship… has everything to do with that person’s connection to God before congregational worship, or that person’s openness to God’s activity in and around them. And it has everything to do with how God is actually working. 

Other worship leaders have written about this same idea.  Check out what Rich Kirkpatrick, Fred McKinnon, and Ed Schief have written for more extensive discussion.

So… how do YOU usually respond during corporate worship?  what is your reaction when people respond in ways you usually don’t?

This post is a part of Fred’s Sunday Setlist-a-ganza.

4 thoughts on “Worship Reflections 09.21.08

  1. For me Sunday was an awesome worship experience as part of the “larger” group. The flow of recognizing who God is, The Awesome King, which prompts me to look at myself and want to be consumed from the inside out, with a pure heart and clean hands. It was all very powerful and helped me really be prepared to listen to Greg about what captivates my heart.

    By nature I’m not a very demonstrative person. I seem to be failry methodical and level headed in many things. Worship through music is one area that provides an outlet for for my more emotional side to show. It’s something that touches my heart. Others don’t connect that way. Their heart is touched teaching Sunday school or studying the Word. We are a body of many diverse parts. You are so right, response is not our responsibility. We are just one small tool in the box. There are always going to be those folks He needs to use a hammer on and that week we feel like a wrench.

    Some weeks when it seems like the visible response is lacking (and even weeks when a response is clear) I try to use the times of announcements or song intros and say some silent prayers for individuals I spot in the crowd. Not that they would have an outward response. Rather that the truth which we sing or the message they will hear will penetrate any barrier that would keep them from hearing God’s voice.

  2. “… I think it’s dangerous to draw big, sweeping conclusions about the state of your congregations involvement in worship, or it’s effect on them, just by how they look.”

    Ed: I love that sentence. I agree with you. I also love this…
    “I think our definition of worship, and the weight we give it, ought to be thoroughly re-examined.” Have you written about that?

  3. Here’s my two cents:

    I think it’s unreasonable to expect everyone to react the same way. People are just so different. I’ve been onstage in churches for years (you can get a better sense of this by poking around on my site, if you’re so inclined), and I’ve pretty much seen it all. There were weeks when I thought, “Wow! We’re practically single-handedly gonna trigger the Second Coming!”, and then heard nothing more about it. There were also weeks when people just ‘stood there’, and then afterward some stone-faced guy would come up and thank me for the heartfelt worship.

    Even at a big concert, where you’d expect everyone to be on their feet, physically demonstrative, etc., you still have a lot of people ‘just sitting there’. I’m one of those people. In church, at concerts, sports events–I ‘just sit there’. Sometimes my wife will say, “Are you having a good time?” I am – it just doesn’t show in my body language.

    I don’t think you can categorically say that someone is, or isn’t ‘entering in’ (whatever the heck THAT means) by how they look on the outside. In fact, I think it’s unfair! As a musician, I understand the feeling–I draw energy off the people who are physically demonstrative. For eleven-plus years I was onstage every week at a big church, and many times I’d spot someone who seemed to really engaged, and I’d sort of just play for them. There might not be any way around that, but I think it’s dangerous to draw big, sweeping conclusions about the state of your congregations involvement in worship, or it’s effect on them, just by how they look.

    Okay, that was a little long-winded (three cents, maybe?). I said it better, I think, in my post ‘The Worship-ometer’. I’m to the point now, after all these years (I’m 52) that I think our definition of worship, and the weight we give it, ought to be thorougly re-examined.

    Thanks for reading!

    Ed

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