Monday, March 22, 2004

This is an article I wrote for 'Jackson Christian Family' magazine

When I first walked into a Vineyard church back in the early 90's I found myself immediately drawn to their music and their worship style. That is a consistent story when you talk with people who have identified themselves with the Vineyard... almost always the worship is the distinctive to which they were first attracted. Often, however, it takes a while to understand that Vineyard worship is less about a style and more of a philosophy. There are several values that Vineyard has maintained since its inception dating back to the 70's Jesus Movement that influence their worship styles. The first is what we call 'Culturally Current'. For a church to be culturally current simply means that it has to present an eternal truth, an unchanging message to a culture that is constantly changing. In simpler terms we must speak the language of the people to whom we are ministering. This finds its expression in our music when we strive to keep our sound contemporary to our culture. This is the reason that the musical style we use in a West Coast church may be somewhat different than that in a church in the South or the Northeast even though we will all share the same values. Second is our philosophy of 'vertical' versus 'horizontal' worship. Think of vertical worship as singing 'to' God instead of 'about' God. Although there is value to proclaiming God's goodness and his deeds to each other in song and other proclamations we believe that there is a special intimacy with God to be found in expressing our love and adoration 'vertically'... singing directly to him. This leads us to our greatest value... personal intimacy with God. Vineyard worship seeks to provide an atmosphere where people can connect with God in a personal and meaningful way. It is in this intimate place with God that we can truly worship "in spirit and in truth."

Friday, March 5, 2004

Worship Leaders vs Music Leaders

I am concerned about the use of the term worship being synonymous with the term music. If someone says, "We have worship before the preacher preaches." what they obviously mean is that's when we sing songs. Try this axiom on... something I jotted down last week.

If you are unable to worship God effectively without music, then what you are experiencing with the music is not really the worship of God.

Our music and songs are counterproductive to true worship if the are allowed to become a replacement or substitute for worship. Music and singing effects us physiologically. Our emotions are influenced and our body, mind and spirit respond... that is not a negative thing... but it is not a substitute for the worship of God. I have often said that people worship the act of worship sometimes more than they worship their Creator... I mean, obviously, that they enjoy the stirring of their emotions by the "act of worship" and often mistake that for the presence of God moving in their spirit.

As a "worship leader" I easily get sidetracked and focus my attention on the songs... the music... the delivery... but if I truly were to go lead WORSHIP I might be inclined to get on stage with no instruments and simply kneel or bow as we offer ourselves to God.

I love music... and music that lifts up Jesus is my favorite. Often it help me to focus in on God's goodness, expressing what's in my heart better than I can myself. This gives my worship (my love for my Creator) wings, so to expression... in this case it becomes an instrument of worship. In no way do I perceive music as an enemy to true worship or anything like that, simply that we as Worship Leaders must strive to present a broader experience than a song to sing.

Worship Notes

** wow... been awhile since I wrote anything. I have just moved into a new home and the process of getting in has sapped my energy and time. Anyway, I have been thinking about worship a bit lately and thought I'd pass a few thoughts on... they may be somewhat disjointed but then again so are my thoughts. These are actually some excerpts from emails I have written over the last couple of weeks**

John 4:23,24 speaks of "true worshippers" worshipping in "spirit and truth". Am I a true worshipper? I believe that I am occassionally but probably more often I'm not... in reality I still approach worship on my terms and still approach the throne in my own flesh. Its a constant struggle to be first a spiritual being. In Psalms 27 David is obviously sensing peril... he feels overwhelmed by the challenges he is facing... particularly his enemies... very literal enemies seeking to take his life... and yet he comes back to the realization that his security is not in his own armies but in the Lord and in his presence. One thing I ask and seek... to dwell with you... to gaze upon you... that is incredible language for someone running for their life. He sees his security in spiritual realities... John 4 speaks to this "spirit and truth"... truth is not separated from spirit... Matthew 6 says "seek first the Kingdom and everything else will be taken care of" Spirit AND truth... truth is reality... spirit is reality... what we normally function in is a facade... a big untruth or lie masquerading as truth and even occasionally masquerading as spirit.Only by spending time in the presence of God can we know what is truth and stop "conforming to this world but be transformed by the renewing of our minds" (Romans 12:2)

For the most part we all segment our lives into nice little compartments. We have the spiritual person and the 'real' person. We have work lives and home lives... church lives and play lives... Worship just becomes one of those segments in our life. Worship must become our overriding motivation in all segments... not just a segment. We become whole creatures only when we stop segmenting and begin placing our entire person under the authority of Christ. Worship is truly just loving Jesus back because he first loved us... when we worship him in all areas... "doing all as unto the Lord"... "Praying without ceasing"... all these things speak to an unsegmented or whole person.

I would probably not separate the experience of feeling God's presence and the act of worship too much... God's presence is him loving me... worship is me loving him back... worship is almost an automatic response to his presence. God's presence is always there to be experienced but I'm not always in the mood or the mindset to experience it. Its virtually impossible for a minister or service to overcome my own attitude... our ability to receive from God in any environment is directly tied to our attitude, humility and expectancy.

Why do some not experience God on Sunday while others are overwhelmed by his presence? I believe everyone is touched by God but not everyone returns that touch... and most don't recognize the touch. (how's that for circular arguments) I believe that everyone who seeks the Lord on Sunday finds him... everyone who calls on him receives him... that is a matter of the individual and their desire.

Those who don't recognize the touch and WANT IT can be instructed and encouraged. I tend to believe that most people don't know how to enter into his presence and many of those don't really want to. I believe you can help by teaching them to begin with thanksgiving... praise... celebration... these things are said to cast off the spirit of heaviness... then we can instruct in focusing on God and hearing him... experiencing him. But that only goes as far as people are willing to follow.