I recently had the opportunity to speak to our church dream team on the subject worship. Our dream team is made up from everyone who volunteers, at any capacity, at STORYCHURCH. These are the people who are invested in the vision and life of our church.
I had such a fun time sharing my heart on this topic. What seemed like an eternity at the time turns out to be only 12 minutes and 48 seconds! I’m not sure how Jeremy and Joel can throw a 30-35 minute sermon together in a week!
I am so thankful that I get to be a part of what God is doing in Durham through STORYCHURCH. I’m thankful for the team that God has placed alongside me and I’m thankful for the congregation that I get to serve.
One of the highlights (and not available on the audio download) was getting to hear feedback on how music has impacted lives in our church. That was super encouraging for me and the team to hear.
I promised to publish my notes from the session, so here they are. I have also attached the audio recording if you wish to listen to it.
Leading From The Seats
Download MP3 // File Size: 12MB // Length: 12:48
Why Do We Sing
But the time is coming—it has, in fact, come—when what you’re called will not matter and where you go to worship will not matter. It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. (John 4:23 MSG)
When Jesus talked with the woman at the well about true worship, it was clear that worship was much more than some ritual. It was a matter of the heart.
Jesus said, “It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God”.
There will be some of you relieved to find out that we can (and must) worship God without having to sing. However, we’re going to look at why singing is an meaningful way to worship when we meet with other people to seek God.
The Call To Worship
If you have ever read the psalms (silent p, silent l), the largest book in the bible, you’ll have come across numerous calls to sing to God! Throughout the 150 chapters we are encouraged many times to sing out our praises to God.
Sing God a brand-new song! Earth and everyone in it, sing! Sing to God—worship God! (Psalm 96:1–2 MSG)
I’ll often jump into the psalms for a quick pick-me-up. They are full of God’s praises and help me to align my heart and mind to worship.
On Earth As In Heaven
In the book of revelation, John describes a vision he received of heaven. The throne was surrounded by thousands of angels, singing and declaring together God’s praises.
I looked again. I heard a company of Angels around the Throne, the Animals, and the Elders—ten thousand times ten thousand their number, thousand after thousand after thousand in full song: The slain Lamb is worthy! Take the power, the wealth, the wisdom, the strength! Take the honor, the glory, the blessing! (Revelation 5:11-14 MSG)
In other words, we better get used to some singing, because it sounds like heaven has it’s fair share of it!
Singing Promotes Unity
Don’t drink too much wine. That cheapens your life. Drink the Spirit of God, huge draughts of him. Sing hymns instead of drinking songs! Sing songs from your heart to Christ. Sing praises over everything, any excuse for a song to God the Father in the name of our Master, Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 5:18-20 MSG)
“Sing hymns instead of drinking songs!” – I love that. No one will be surprised if I tell them that a room full of people singing drinking songs is no quiet affair! Quite the opposite! They are giving it everything they’ve got – whether they know all the words or not.
Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way. (Colossians 3:16-17 MSG)
So, let’s sing our hearts out to God! Let’s sing like we mean it. Let’s sing together and lift up the name of Jesus in unity with each other.
I believe a unified group of believers is a very powerful thing for a seeker to witness. It shows we have each other’s back and we support and love each other. It portrays a kind of community, that deep down everyone longs to be part of.
Singing Helps Us Express Our Worship
We are His portion and He is our prize
Drawn to redemption by the grace in his eyes
If grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking
(John Mark McMillan, How He Loves)
Not only do we have the bible, in particular the book of Psalms, but God has also gifted modern artists and songwriters with the ability to pen words that we can sing as our own. These songs help us to express ourselves in worship using language that may not come naturally to us.
The lyric from How He Loves often brings a tear to my eye. The imagery that John Mark McMillan uses throughout this song helps to bring these truths to life in new ways and impact my heart and mind.
Singing Helps Us Remember Truth
“A song will outlive all sermons in the memory.” Henry Giles
As children we learn the alphabet by singing it to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and we remember the number of days in a month with a rhyme. Melody and rhythm help us remember lyrics.
This is why it is important to sing songs full of biblical truth. Songs that give hope, build us up and encourage us. Songs that stay with us during the weeks and months.
Singing Helps Us Engage Emotionally
“The voice is never more emotional than when raised in song, as the meaning of words is heightened, becoming something larger than what we want to say; the melody and form at the pinnacle of what humans are capable of, tuning in to beauty itself.” – David Rothenberg
God made us, along with our emotions. Emotions are not something that should be left outside the church. In fact, singing without emotion is an oxymoron – especially when worshiping God. Singing engages our emotions, our whole being, connecting the truth that we sing with the passion in our hearts.
Singing Brings Freedom
Along about midnight, Paul and Silas were at prayer and singing a robust hymn to God. The other prisoners couldn’t believe their ears. (Acts 16:25 MSG)
One of my favorite stories in the bible is when Paul and Silas were imprisoned and despite their situation sang praises to God. In was in that very moment God moved and shook the prison with an earthquake releasing all the prisoners inside.
We want to see God move in us as we worship. We want to see spiritual chains broken. Relationships mended. Stress lifted. Clarity received. Peace given. Illnesses cured. Anything is possible if we trust and praise God despite what we are going through.
Leading By Example
At STORYCHURCH our Weekend services are deliberately tailored for the unchurched. When we’re planning the sermon, and service elements, we always try to view it through the lens of a visitor – someone who most likely has not grown up in church and is currently far from God.
When we’re teaching from the platform on Sunday mornings we’re careful not to make assumptions of our congregation’s biblical knowledge, so extra explanations are provided to ensure everyone is able to follow.
Everyone stand up and worship!
New guests always arrive early and are always in the room, seated and waiting for the service to start. If a lot of our regular people still in the foyer when the service starts then our guests can feel a little lost and exposed.
So when we start our services with a song, why do we expect new guests to know what to do? Chances are, they’re not sure.
They are going to want to look around to see what everyone else in the room is doing. That means they are looking to see what you are doing, and how you are expressing yourself in worship!
We Need To Model It
Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1)
As people, invested into the life of STORYCHURCH, new guests will recognize you and look to you for examples of how to live out their faith and that includes how to express themselves in worship.
This makes us all worship leaders in a sense. It is our (collective) responsibility to shape the culture of worship at our church. It is us that define the boundaries – negative or positive – to how people express themselves.
If we want a church that worships well (and I hope we do), then WE need to model it – and model it well.
[Solomon] knelt in full view of the whole congregation, stretched his hands to heaven, and prayed. (2 Chronicles 6:13 MSG)
Unleash Your Emotion
Let’s not be afraid to unleash a little emotion when we gather together to sing. We’ve already discussed how emotion helps us to connect deeply with the words – by marrying the passion we have for Jesus with the words leaving our mouths.
Imagine singing “Oh No You Never Let Go…” with zero emotion. Who is going to believe those words have any merit? Who is going to believe that God has never actually left you?
Don’t fake it – that would be worse. Be authentic and vulnerable before God. Let Him work through you when you worship. Your emotions will kick in automatically.
God Wants Your All
Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. (Romans 12:1-2 MSG)
God wants our all in worship. He wants us fully engaged – all in. God in turn will have permission to do a work in our life because we have surrendered to Him. We will be changed from the inside out! The passion, excitement and joy will bubble out of us and will be CONTAGIOUS!