In John chapter 4, Jesus tells the Samaritan woman at the well that there will be a time when believers worship in Spirit and in truth. She is trying to pursuade him off-course, to get him into an argument. "Our ancestors worship here" she said, "but the Jews say we have to go to Jerusalem". Being who he is, Jesus gets to the heart of the situation, gets straight to her heart, and gets her off track.
Worship, the apostle Paul says is to offer ourselves as living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1). We so often tie worship in with singing and shaking tambourines, playing the guitar, or organ, or piano during a church service or event.
Paul takes it further. He reminds us that just as Jesus repeatedly sought to get to the heart of the Samaritan woman, he is trying to get our hearts. Like Juliette wanted Romeo's full heart - forget your name, forget your past...come to me!
This is what Christ wants. Our lives. The stuff that's the hardest to give. Ourselves. This is our spiritual act of worship. Surrender...not an easy word to swallow.
But music does play into this. As does any other art form. Painters, sculptors, and photographers among others all throughout history have expressed worship through their art. Letting their gift speak for itself.
Joe Thorn in an article from June '06 states that the style of the music to which we worship is "accidental", though the act of worship itself is "essential" to a gathering of believers, or in an individual believer's life. The music is important, and should be done in a creative, expressive way to which the worshiper can best respond. The worship leader is responsible for building that conduit through which the worshiper can, indeed worship. But, again the style, genre, etc... of the music is secondary and while we should be aware of how our congregation best worships, we need to be sure to teach recognition of, and growth in creativity. To simply rely on a particular genre because its 'what we've always done' tends to breed fickleness rather than authentic expression of adoration towards Christ.
Rather, we need to teach worship extending into and enveloping life as Christ as its center. Worship then, transcends culture as Christ transcends culture. True, authentic worship, is creative in the way that it comes from each individual as well as corporately in expression of praise toward Christ. Like Jesus was seeking the heart of the Samaritan woman, he seeks our hearts in worship. It is not easy for us to open up in that way. We rather prefer safety and choose not to disclose our inmost thoughts.
But worship isn't safe. Jesus isn't safe. C.S. Lewis reminds us of that when he has Tumnus the fawn speak of Aslan. "He's not a safe Lion, but he is good."
Our God is wild. Look at his creation. How often did God use a violent storm to get someone's attention. How often did he speak in that storm? Look at what most intrigues us. The depths of the sea; the wilderness plains in Africa; the jungles of South America; the highest mountain passes; No, creation and creativity is not safe. Nor is surrendering ourselves to someone we love, let alone the God of Creation. Its not safe...but it is good.
singer-songwriter, guitarist, worship leader... benjamin coy