Tuesday, April 24, 2007

so tell me how singing worship works

Dear worshipper, you who stand beside me, arms thrust into the air,

Please help me. I am lost.

You see, I love live music. But I don’t get singing. I listen to lots of music, most of the time I work. But very rarely do I stop my work and do nothing but sing.

I love Salmonella Dab. I love U2. When I go to their concerts, I do sing. But that is a by-product of entering into an experience. And they are good. And no matter how good they are, I could not imagine singing their songs, the same songs, week after week.

So I stand beside you, quite mystified. I feel strange, doing corporate, sung worship in church. Why do church’s sing?

For a long time I have stood beside you. For a long time now I have been feeling less than Christian. For a long time now I have looked around large groups of people singing and thinking “If I love Jesus, and they love Jesus, why am I bored. Why do I feel manipulated when lots of people sing the same thing?”

So dear “into-singing-worshipper”, I need some help. Can you explain to me: Why does sung worship work for you? How does it connect you with God? What do you do when the lyrics don’t match your experience? Why the pressure for the songs to be always new and up-date? How does excellence and musical quality work for you?

When people make put down comments about Baptist churches “your worship songs are old-fashioned”; “your music is not as good as it could be”; “you don’t know many new songs”, “you lack the freedom of the Spirit (to all sing the same hip, new song?) — what are people really saying?

I’m not complaining. I simply want to understand. Help me please,

Posted by steve at 06:41 PM

30 Comments

  1. I liked what J.I. Packer writes in the preface to “God has Spoken”: (rough paraphrase from memory)
    Theology promotes doxology. Good theology should make you want to sing for joy

    When I have been praying a lot, and am feeling connected to God, I enjoy expressing love to my Creator and Lord. It’s spiritual and thoroughly biblical. The Westminster Confession states that “the chief end of man is to worship God and enjoy Him forever”. This is completely understandable when one has received the love of Christ and is in fellowship with the Holy Spirit.

    But singing of course is only one vehicle for entering God’s presence. Sometimes the noise is a distraction and I just stand there trying to enjoy the moment and quietly open my heart to what God might be communicating to me. Try it sometime :)

    Comment by peasant — April 24, 2007 @ 7:00 pm

  2. Hi there, I think I resonate with what (I think) you are saying. I am in fact a worship pastor, at least in part! I blogged my confession of a worship pastor this last weekend. I have similar music tastes to you, primarily U2, and do actually sing their song. I’ve also experienced God in a very profound way at their concerts! But in general I wonder if the singing thing is a cultural hangover, and is at the very best way overdone.

    Comment by Jon Hallewell — April 24, 2007 @ 9:24 pm

  3. OK, I’ll forgo my usual lurking habits.
    Normally I worship at a small place quite near Opawa where the date on the front page of the most loved hymnbook is 1885. Because of incapacity and age, decent musicians are no longer available so I have ended up on keyboard. Hence I don’t get out much anymore. The hymns are so disconnected from my experience they mostly have no impact on me at all, though they are jampacked full of theology.

    Some of the older folk who have experienced them all their lives do seem to be deeply affected by them. They seem to unlock all sorts of memories and experiences long past. But perhaps something more…

    Last weekend I went to a largish Brethren (Open) conference in the North Island where the worship/music was provided and lead by a group from a large Wellington church. All the music was contemporary, mostly written by the music group, though there were modern arrangements of older hymns. I found it really quite uplifting. To me, what was happening was a kind of anticipation of (or perhaps participation in) the great picture of the crowd of singers in Revelation 5:11-14. Our singing may an be imperfect version of that, but then you singing along isn’t as good as Bono doing it either – doesn’t matter.

    So I think it’s got some similarities with the U2 concert: you sing along to enter into the total experience of being U2. I could be wrong – as I say: I don’t get out much anymore.

    I don’t know why you don’t experience this. Perhaps God needs you to keep your head for the sermon following?

    BTW: Your book was being promoted effectively at the conference. Keep the faith. Thanks for the Easter Journey

    Comment by Graeme — April 24, 2007 @ 10:24 pm

  4. I often wonder why we sing as I look out into congregations who seem anything but happy to be singing.

    Singing works best when people sit together rather than as far apart as possible!

    I love music. I listen to music all day but I hate singing. I’m not good at it. I feel self conscious and silly. That said, a well sung hymn is one of the most moving things in the world.

    I think what I’m trying to say is that much of my dissatisfaction with singing in worship is to do with quality, usually poor, and relevance, usually tenuous at best.

    I think in general we Scots have become a listening culture rather than our past experience of being a singing culture. People only a generation or two older than me sang at parties. Everyone had a song that was their’s. Our history was encapsulated in song. We don’t have that now. We listen to music. If the music is loud enough, at a gig perhaps, we will sing along because we can’t be heard.

    It’s interesting that there is lots of music but very little singing in emergent church…

    Comment by stewart — April 25, 2007 @ 2:58 am

  5. Steve, I know exactly what you mean! After years leading worship, I find I just don’t connect with corporate singing these days… actually I do find some of the “old” hymns do stir my heart but modern worship songs more often than not just annoy me! Too much poor (or at best simplistic) theology parroted by unthinking “worshippers” who seem to be able to switch off life “outside” and be transported immediatly to a place of ecstasy with a lovely, romantic god! To say nothing of the embrace of Plato and a sacred/secular dualism, superficial adoption of Jewish terminology… etc, etc.

    I think there is a problem with “the chief end of man is to worship God and enjoy Him forever” if is read with a modern hermeneutic… that may be part of the problem… it all reads so ME focussed… worship and singing are not the same thing ! Enjoy does not mean “have a nice time”! I “enjoy” being in God’s world amongst the people he loves and yearns to embrace, I “enjoy” watching the way God transforms lives and communities, I certainly don’t enjoy “doing Praise and Worship”… I think I would rather understand “enjoy” in reference to it’s latin route – to “rejoice” or to “take delight in”, but it seems too often we read it in terms of personal consumer satisfaction! Worship, to me means reflecting back the imagio Dei, honouring our creator by fulfilling to the best of our ability the way we were made to be… compassion, justice, love etc. etc. nothing to do with what we do in our “gatherings”… I guess one could read Micah 6 as a reminder of that… replacing the rituals of that day with those of our own religious culture!

    Comment by Mark Berry — April 25, 2007 @ 3:48 am

  6. Steve,
    I used to be one of those singing worshippers. I couldn’t wait to get to church and enter in to that place that seemed both intimate and anonymous. Somewhere in the past few years it’s started to make less sense to me. Maybe it was all the upbeat songs when I was really hurting – I can take the cognitive dissonance for a little while, but then I started to wonder why contemporary worship songs are so one dimensional compared to say, the Psalms. Maybe it was the experience of standing shoulder to shoulder with people I really didn’t know and didn’t feel free to share my true self with — how can I open my heart to God in such a setting? As I’ve been longing for a truer experience of community, the way most of the songs focus on “me and God” grates on me even more than the vapid theology.

    Comment by Maria — April 25, 2007 @ 4:24 am

  7. My kids sing all the time, like it’s some sort of genetic/natural expression. Then there were those two annoying kids on my last plane flight that sang full-voice while their parents chatted with some stranger in another row . . .

    Singing seems to be a 75% universal expression (vs. the 99% universal Talking — 100% of all statistics ever quoted by me are made-up). Perhaps you are one who just doesn’t express-by-singing. Or maybe it was socialized out of you (that happens to males here in the U.S. quite a bit).

    Either way, if it’s not an expression of your self, then someone explaining it as their own expression probably won’t make a ton of sense to you (i.e. expression-experience translated into rational verbage doesn’t work great unless it resonates with the hearer/recipient — you know, the frustration of communicating beliefs, values, “my soul,” etc.).

    Seems like it’s just another messy part of being one(another). My opinion.

    David – Arizona, U.S.A.

    Comment by David Malouf — April 25, 2007 @ 4:30 am

  8. I like singing to God. so do my kids. so does my husband. Why? I dunno, I find that I express my adoration well through singing. I don’t even mind a worship set that has a poor quality to it. maybe it’s because I grew up in that church culture? I dunno.

    there’s certainly biblical precedent for singing as “worship” and there’s something about corporate singing that I find mystical.

    Comment by Mak — April 25, 2007 @ 5:38 am

  9. I think we suffer from a reworked genetic fallacy that says that if we can describe the roots of something, its beginnings, then the thing loses all power.

    Music is a thoroughly human construct. And I think sometime we look at it and say: “how can this bring us closer to God. It’s G C Em and D for crying out loud! The same secular songs give the same emotive response!” And thus because we can explain music we feel it has lost its power.

    But, for me, you answered your question. –”When I go to their [U2] concerts, I do sing. But that is a by-product of entering into an experience.”– Yes. It is a byproduct of entering in. Now, singing in and of itself doesn’t mandate God’s involvement or attention. But we need to remember the number of times Christ’s attention and action were accompanied with words like – “seeing their faith”, “Your faith has saved you”, “Never have I seen such faith in all Israel.” By his Grace, God chooses to inhabit the hope of an encounter with Him. Thus, for some, He is the by-product of entering in.

    The tragedy you see (I think) is that some believe (or live as if they believe) that it is only in those four droning chords that one can hope for an encounter with God. How much they miss! The gritted determination of a fast, the constructed nothingness and deliberate seclusion of silence and solitude, the dogged and bleary-eyed morning reading of scripture, the routine dedication-to-Him of meal with friends, the looping-techno repetition of a meditated verse, the wide-eyed expectation that cracks open a new book on theology – God will meet us in the hope of an encounter with Him. Wherever we hope. For whoever seeks, finds.

    Comment by Seth — April 25, 2007 @ 11:09 am

  10. Peasant writes, “The Westminster Confession states that “the chief end of man is to worship God and enjoy Him forever”.”

    I love John Drane’s definition of worship: “worship is all that i am responding to all that God is”.

    I can worship God by singing, and can (often/sometimes) enjoy that. However i begin to shrivel up if i don’t also respond to God as Creator (for example) with share joy in creation. I worship God in all sorts of ways as i go about my everyday.

    Comment by lynne — April 25, 2007 @ 11:11 am

  11. Steve

    You have definitely hit a point here – both in how your question resonates with me, and it has got a lot of feedback!

    My 5 cents worth. Firstly that I totally understand your comments. To me contemparey worship/church music is like so boring, dull and dis engaging. And I struggled for a long time to figure out why I was the square peg in the round hole. After feeling guilty I observed the the following.

    1) That I can get a huge kick out of old hymns and singing in a small group without any music. I think that this is because it is really scary – cause no music to hide and it is very real. Lastly the older style often have deep lyrics that penitrate into me.

    2) That when driving in my car (I love driving per say, and love driving even more with music up loud) and have my kind of music up loud, I get a release from singing and praise and often touch God in a way that is absent from Church. I have through about this and come to the conclusion that church worship music is often not technically good music. It is kind of like has the emphasis on singing and musicians kind of take back seat. Where as I love clever and funky guitar with clever music style. Can’t quite put this in words right, but let me give an example. I love Delirious? music cause to me it is real music that is high technical compandacy. Where as a lot of church bands the music that is played does not have the rich depth of music in it.

    Another way to think of it is – take the lyrics away and would you still listen to the music? Most of the time I find in church worship music the answer for me it no. But for the CD I choose to praise too the answer is yes.

    3) I find that lyrics can have a big impact. I enjoy truthful lyrics that are “real”. That is a lot of worship music is kind of happy clappy. Now that it cool if you like that. But to be honest my 30 years on this world has not been very happy clappy and I find God is not that way inclined. I do take note that a lot of Psalms are life is hard but I will praise God anyway and he will come / did come and rescue me. Psalms don’t tend to focus on the good, but the good and the bad, and were God is/was in all that.

    So maybe that it is not my fault for feeling empty inside more often than not when I go to a church worship service (and to be truthful I often feel very board)

    In conclusion I would like to add that everything I do is worship and is holy – and praise (aka singing) is something that I can also touch God in – if it is authentic music.

    Thanks for raising this issue Steve it is great to know that there is others that may not get a big kick out a worship at church, cause when you don’t get a kick out of church stuff the implication is that is is my/your fault!

    Comment by david whyte — April 25, 2007 @ 5:07 pm

  12. I think it was a saying attributed to Benedict, “When you sing you pray twice.”

    Hey, there are times I don’t sing either. But, I think the tradition of singing came about for two reasons in public worship – the art of music does seem to capture the heart. In other words – more than other forms of communication – singing engages the emotion (maybe the Spirit, as well) and the mind to convey our intentions and desires.

    Secondly – it is a corporate experience – something that can be done by all.

    For me – whether it is effective in meeting the two stated objectives – is the content and the art of what we are singing. A song full of first person singular or plural pronouns – doesn’t engage me. A well-crafted and music that doesn’t sound like a television commercial jingle – will win me over and I will join my voice to sing declaring praise to God with music.

    for then I get what benedict is saying… “when you sing, you pray twice.”

    Comment by Doug Jones — April 26, 2007 @ 5:34 am

  13. I have no answers but share your expriance and confusion,when i consider all the elements of worship within the bible very few relate to singing!! many relate to prayer, meditation and fasting, sacrifice and quiet, but we do not see much of these elements within the modern new song era!! many may say these are individual elements but throughout time there have been corporate expressions.
    I fear we are heading to a new era of idol worship where we are seen as go forward churchs if we have all the new songs, with all the worship equipment, no matter what the words??!!

    Comment by warbiesbread — April 27, 2007 @ 5:06 am

  14. Hi Steve

    I wonder how a pre-dominantly Maori congregation would answer your question? Or a Pacific Island congregation – or even a Welsh one?

    (Apologies to those above who may be from any of the above ancestories)

    I have swung back and forward and back again over singing over the years. I had a period in my life when I listened to only “christian” music cos it seemed right. Now I really dislike it and can’t listen to it

    Singing is not my strong suit – but playing music is (more so). I like the challenge of doing this mechanical action that results in a beautiful sound for God and serving my brothers and sisters by providing an environment in which they can express their artistic preference (singing)

    I can’t speak about singing but music for me is service, beauty and creativity – 3 aspects of God I identify with strongly – altho I no longer feel the need for that music to be directly aimed at God (i.e. “I love you Jesus” music) – in fact I find this music cliched and empty

    Comment by Randall — April 27, 2007 @ 10:13 am

  15. Interesting I have been thinking about this lately too. why on sunday do I see lots of people enduring the singing and me trying to re write the songs so I can sing them. I often sing different words to songs but its hard work not so “uplifting”. I love to sing and do so best when words resonate with my experience – so on monday “on an island at a busy intersection” came out of my mouth naturally as I thought “someone understands”! I’ve spent the preschool parent years feeling like I was missing out on corporate worship and now I’m free to enter into it again I find I can’t.
    Sing star was another singing experience lately that connected with some of the group I was with. Those of us who liked singing that was and discussion on lyrics arose too.
    The comments on quality music I can relate to as well – a big ask for our overworked music team which struggles to get musicians. And I remember critcism when I was part of the worship team at our church in Auckland that we shouldn’t be distracted from the words by loud music. How it wasn’t to be a “performance”. Is that why good musicians don’t want to play in church?

    Comment by Jo wall — April 27, 2007 @ 10:34 am

  16. I wonder if in our corporate worship we should do it a little more like the old days. We work with three or four well known tunes and just ask people to place into them their own lyrics, thoughts, scriptures etc. They don’t have to be hard core polished poetical lyrics all the time but well thought and heart felt… it would save a lot of practice time for the worship team too, although they could also think about how their playing reflects this new set of lyrics that are real for at least one person in the church/community, and I suspect many more.

    Perhaps, choose a well known song and ask five or six people to take their own thoughts from a particular theme/reflection/pssage of text and write some lyrics for the tune then everyone could sing it because everyone will know the tune and the words can be printed out or projected. Just an idea I had after reading this and thinking about how we can give people the opportunity to tell their own story in a church context.

    Comment by Dave — April 27, 2007 @ 11:30 am

  17. appreciating all the comments.

    i have heard a fair bit of discontent about singing, and a fair bit of discussion about definitions of worship. all well and good but not what i hoped would come out of this post.

    i am still really wanting to hear from people who love singing, love the crowd, love musical excellence, love new songs — really wanting to hear how and why that helps connect them with God,

    can anyone help me?

    Comment by steve — April 27, 2007 @ 11:42 am

  18. As someone who leads worship reasonably regularly I often ask myself the same question. The argument often used is that of football matches where singing together seems to have some sort of effect.

    Now I don’t do football matches, and corporate singing in other contexts leaves me cold and embarrassed. So why do we do it in church?

    Perhaps it’s just our culture? In many other cultures, singing together in all sorts of contexts is seen to be perfectly normal, and encouraged. So it was with UK culture until not so long ago. The culture has changed, and church culture hasn’t. But should it?

    Comment by Mark Berthelemy — April 28, 2007 @ 2:53 am

  19. Here I am, Steve :) I qualify on all counts.

    Singing is an expression of the self- whether that “self” is individual or corporate. It unites nearly all the senses with the intellect and makes the internal thing external in a more complete way, becoming another form of unity, or, if you like, embodiment. That’s why when it “works” it works so powerfully, with or without a sense of the divine added in to the mix.

    There is also the cultural component of expression, which is reflected not only in different countries of origin, but also in different parts of the country, the ethnic background of those inhabitants, and different age groups and life experiences; I’m sure you could think of others. Most of the time, common culture and language make expression of any sort easier.

    When what I am singing comes into close approximation with my understanding of who God is and what God is up to, that’s when I connect the most. At this point in my life, the musical style matters much less than it did when I was younger. My circumstances may or may not be reflected by the lyrics/mood of the song. If they are not, I look for reassurance in the song, or else I don’t sing- rather like letting others pray for me when I can’t. I believe God is more interested in honesty/integrity than in rigid conformity. (So don’t sing if it’s not “real” for you! You are most likely worshiping when you’re listening to that other music. I know I am when I listen to certain music that is not overtly “worship music”.)

    I used to very much look forward to new songs to enable me to express my/our connection to God with a different color, so to speak. New songs didn’t used to sound reworking of the same old thing. I think this is the source of many people’s frustration with current worship songs, and why using U2 songs in worship might be appealing. There’s a lot of creativity (and “anointing”) there. Currently most of them I encounter do sound like such reworkings; there are not very many interesting worship songs coming forth.

    “Interesting” does not necessarily mean “complicated”. I’m a classically trained musician, but I admire simplicity that somehow captures meaning; complexity for its own sake is not among the technical elements that characterize a good worship song. If the leader keeps the beat and clearly sings the melody line, that is excellence enough for me. All else is icing on the cake in this department, and the same things that “work” in a concert setting “work” here too; sometimes in a concert setting it’s very effective when there’s just one singer and a guitar.

    As for the comments, I think what people are really saying is that they have certain preferences and they want the music to fall into their categories of preference/comfort level. I’m not sure most of them really think about what they mean when they make the comments, and they may not be able to talk about it very well. The most important thing I have learned with church people and music, especially with people in different “cultures” as above, is that we need to LOVE one another enough to be reasonably comfortable singing each other’s music and not demand that there be one expression only, all the time.

    Does that help?

    Dana Ames
    Ukiah, California

    Comment by Dana Ames — April 28, 2007 @ 6:29 am

  20. this comment is reposted by emergentkiwi from another post, cos it belongs here also:

    …………

    I directed your link to some of the people involved in worship at ‘ the place ‘ and I got the following response from someone who is a good mate of mine, so don’t be alarmed at his tone -

    …. “No, I will not let you pull me into another ridiculous conversation about this subject. Tell that ignoramus pastor from your hometown that – at the end of the day – it’s not our need to feel something visceral that compels us to sing. We sing because the scriptures tell us to. Not only is it commanded and narrated throughout the Old Testament as the most dominant form of community worship, but it is constantly commanded throughout the New Testament. Examples?

    Ephesians 5:19Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, 20always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    colossians 3:6Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

    Is worship defined beyond the words we sing? Yes (Romans 12). Has the evangelical church reduced ‘worship’ to some ecstatic feeling while singing ‘love songs’ to my boyfriend Jesus. Yes. But, come on Tangira, we are not those people.

    I’m going to turn the argument around and say that I think it is your personalized self- unfulfilling need to feel something during music that is the true issue here. So stop poking holes and those who are being obedient to scripture and start living in obedience to the living God.

    There … take that … you Kiwi @#$%^&!!!

    Author shall remain anonymous.

    So what do you think Steve, Is that the response we should expect from a ‘sensitive’ artist/musician ?… does he in fact make some good points ?… by the way, he thinks you’re purposely being insincere and are basically sh*~ stirring… Or are you serious, I mean you can’t deny the scriptural precedence for singing and music as a primary worship expression….

    By the way, the book looks interesting. I’m actually finding art as more of an inspiration to worship than singing songs. But can art inspire corporate worship like music does ?… Or should art be there to compliment what we normally do in corporate worship ?

    Naku na,

    Tangira.

    Comment by steve — April 28, 2007 @ 11:07 am

  21. Tangira,

    Tell your friend that in the Bible they also used rams horns and sung in Hebrew and separated men from women. and then there is Isaiah 1:10ff – worship as acts of lifestyle justice. So if he going to apply a simple “Bible says, so obey it,” then are those part of his/her “Biblically obedient worship”?

    my question was serious and your mate is doing me an injustice by writing me off as stirring.

    peace to you and may your friend enjoy worship with their rams horn this sunday

    steve

    Comment by steve — April 28, 2007 @ 11:08 am

  22. Thankyou so much Dana. This is so very helpful. Let me now go and process it further. If there are any other commenters in the spirit of Dana, i would find it so helpful to hear also how you connect with God through worship.

    steve

    Comment by steve — April 28, 2007 @ 11:19 am

  23. It’s been a while since I’ve stood in a Pentecostal church on a Sunday morning and sung worship songs. Some of them resonated with me and some did not. But the ones that did, did.

    The church I now go to does Taize chant-singing once a month. The songs there are even simpler than Pentecostal choruses. Some are in Latin. But the experience of singing them is very interesting. A sort of resonance gets set up. Repeating the same simple words allows my mind to slip into a sort of meditative state.

    (Even the Anglo-Catholic use of a standardised liturgy seems to have the same effect. If you know the words, you can move beyond *thinking about* the words and start *feeling* the ideas behind the words, and from there, to what’s behind the ideas. A bit like martial arts training; the idea is to repeat responses so they are instinctive and you get to the highly trained state of unconscious competence, or ‘acting without thinking’.)

    I think the idea behind Pentecostal chorus-singing is exactly the same. It’s a fairly ancient and valid form of worship, as far as I can tell. Not necessarily the be-all and end-all however.

    Whether or not specific modern forms or instances of worship songs work precisely in this way, I’m not sure. I do agree that I started getting mightily bored in the EPC church I was going to a few years back. The lack of theological content in the songs that I could agree with was probably part of it, but a larger one was the lack of other ways of interacting.

    Comment by Nate — April 29, 2007 @ 1:53 am

  24. dear Steve,

    In no particular order here are a few thoughts on your questions re singing the “getting” of it and why do church’s sing.

    Humans ability to sing is a gift from God that enables an infinite range of creative possibilities. An auditory expression of creativity as compared with art which is visual.

    Humans like to respond to a gift given, by using the gift to offer something back. “Thank you God for our ability to sing, here is a song we have written and sung just for you. We hope you like it”

    Songs can be simple or complex – a mirror of God’s creativity.

    Singing and music alter brain waves and so can invoke certain states – refer to studies on Baroque music, which has a certain beat, that alters brain wave patterns and helps students retain knowledge as they are studying.
    Not surprising to find that many people chant or use music to get them into the “right space” for prayer, contemplation and meditation.

    Singing seems to come from deeper within us, it requires more “inspiration”, it feels different to speaking, something “resonates” in us.

    A song can offer something more than simply talking. I think of offering someone the words “Happy Birthday” which works well but there is some extra magic when a group sings the same words to the birthday person. The song allows for a group response where speaking the words as a group would be muddly or long winded.

    Songs can invoke emotions and respond to emotions, so work well in our daily relationship with God.

    Singing praises, exalts, acknowledges power and majesty. “O come let us adore him”

    It allows us to explore God’s power and majesty especially when it is a group that is singing. The power and majesty of their efforts reflects the power and majesty of God.

    We are often struck by God’s power and majesty in the natural world and music and singing can strike us in the same way but through our ears and heart.

    Singing is said to “lift the spirit”. People have sung together in many challenging situations to keep “their spirits” up – look at the wealth of songs that came out of slavery in America – the Negro Spirituals.

    The language we use to describe singing gives us indicators to a deeper internal/spriritual/soul process. “my spirit soared when we were singing”

    People are often heard to comment after a concert, massed singing, choir recital etc that that was “awe-some”, “Amazing” etc etc
    The group energy released from such singing is incredible.

    It is safer for people to sing in groups. Heaps of people are sure that they can’t sing.

    God keeps us humble by his gift to the birds. We may be clever and amazing with our music and singing but we do not have a double voice box like the Tui and it would be a hard act to copy perfectly the fluting notes of our native Kokako.
    More of his mystery to sit back and wonder at and to celebrate.

    I’m off to sing in the shower. Hope this offers something to your wonderings.
    Blessings
    Adriel

    Comment by Adriel — April 29, 2007 @ 10:48 am

  25. Hi Steve

    I’ve been following this post with interest. For me, the sung worship as part of the Sunday service is where my spirit really connects with God. It is in this time that He ministers to me and I am sometimes surprisingly brought to tears – this does not happen during other parts of the service. It also does not occur the same way just listening to music alone. There is something precious about joining with other believers in praise to our Father.

    I guess we all experience God in different ways and there are some of us who definitely connect through sung worship and music within a corporate setting.

    Comment by Jenn — April 30, 2007 @ 7:49 pm

  26. I think what I most like about worship is that it engages the three parts of me – my body (singing, lifting my hands, bowing down my body, lifing my face, bowing my face down…etc), my mind (lyrics both set and inspired in the moment, as well as prayers and mental pictures…etc) and my emotions (love, peace, joy, excitement, unity, sadness, openness, submission, surrender…etc). When these three are all enacted at the same time, I feel like I am more completely giving myself to Them.

    Also, I really find worship is a time when I have nothing else to do. There’s no one to talk to, no assignments to write, no house to clean, nobody else bothering me – just a few moments when all I have to do is open up my heart to Them. I can take it or leave it, of course, and heck, no one’s perfect, but it’s a time when I can choose to discipline myself to worship him.

    Lastly, in a sense, it is mystical. I’m a pretty academic and intellectual person, but I also have quite a lot of mystic in me! And music has a big element of the mysterious to me. It makes me ‘feel’ and I think that’s part of it. I could go on, but I better go write more of my journal due tomorrow (I revile you lecturers, each and every one).

    Comment by Sharyn — May 1, 2007 @ 12:42 am

  27. Steve – thanks for posting this, it not only sums up how I often feel but it raises lots of important issues.

    I used to love singing, and on occasion still do. At times the words and music would combine to express how I felt about God in a way that I struggled to do with just words. I guess in this way it’s a bit like poetry.

    Yet more and more I don’t feel this conection.Part of this is due to the journey I’m on and part of it is because of the shallowness and at times bad / poor theology expressed in the lyrics.

    Comment by Brodie — May 1, 2007 @ 9:18 am

  28. I’m realising more and more that music is just a small tool in the complete box that is worship.

    In my opinion the most significant acts of worship are also acts of service and compassion.

    I don’t rely too heavily on Old Testament form of worship such as public parades, sacrificial burnings, corporate hymns and the waving of banners etc. . . because I consider these to be “level one” worship if you will. These are valuable religious rituals but I don’t think they really go far enough in terms of the servant worship that Jesus modelled, and is referred to as the “in spirit and in truth” in the New Testament.

    I recall the horror (if I may use such a strong term) of the prophets of old who observed our “carnal ordances (i.e. public singing and music) and they proclaimed that God detested it because a lifestyle of service and compassion should preclude, or at least accompany it.

    I also find the “children’s song” lyrics of much contemporary worship music to be far too common, and altogether too cheesy. Whatever to happened lyrics like “ineffably sublime”? LOL!

    Comment by phil_style — May 2, 2007 @ 4:37 pm

  29. Steve
    I’m one of those people who love singing, at home, in church, at big events, whatever.
    I find it lifts my spirit, my focus off myself and back on to God and what he’s doing away from me and everyone else’s opinion and thoughts.
    Everyone is different and people are at different stages in life’s journey. I’m happy with that and I’m happy with myself with what I like and respond to. Maybe I’m simple or something. Sometimes it’s good to be just that.. simple.
    Thanks for asking the question though. It’s good to think about stuff..just not to much!

    Comment by Cheryl — May 5, 2007 @ 7:03 pm

  30. Steve, this is a late response as I just came upon this during some research. I fully qualify as one who loves to sing as part of my worship experience (both corporately and individually!)and I am also a worship leader at our church. Why do I love singing- because I find God and connect more fully to the Spirit when I open myself up in this very intimate nature of this community experience. Because sometimes words fail but music does not. Because sometimes when we gather together and worship (through music, prayer, the Word, whatever) His presence is magnified and the ground is holy and I am fed and fortified to continue in this world. Because sometimes I have closed myself to God and He once again revels himself to me through music. Now, does this happen only at church, only at traditional services or emergent services or contemporary services? No, it also happens when I hear the music of the waves crashing on the beach or the sound of rain or birdsong in the morning. My kids laughing over a silly joke or boy inspired noises! In the blessed quite moments of life. At a loud rock concert (love U2!) or musical (love we will Rock you!) or symphony.

    So, it really comes down to being open to worship, where ever and whenever. In prayer, music or spoken word. And hey, if it is not the thing for you, maybe it will be- maybe not. As long as you worship.

    Comment by Pam — May 8, 2007 @ 7:10 am

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