Opinions are plentiful and the comments often go something like ‘we are looking for a more traditional feel’ or ‘we worship best with a full band’ or ‘we really like the simple approach with just a guitar and voice.’ Opinions and preferences are great… they contribute to the diversity God desires within his people. As with many things in the church, we find a bit of an anomaly in regards to our preferences and our worship. It is a cultural anomaly because everything else in our contemporary culture is designed around a preferential multiple-choice way of living. Do you prefer Tex-Mex or Italian? Whataburger or Chick-fil-a? SUV, pick-up truck, or mini-van – eco-friendly hybrid or environmental assassin? We choose what serves our desires and preferences.
It is no surprise that we can allow a mentality which reigns in so many other areas of life to creep into our spiritual and church life. Here in Katy when I meet new people I will often hear about their preferences and how that impacted their church shopping experience and decision. Let me be perfectly clear, I am not saying that your preferences are unimportant or irrelevant. However, I would like to add another dimension to the way you critique worship.
First, we have to remember that we are enculturated consumers. Our default approach within our current culture is to choose based on preference and then consume. So, we critique everything because that is how you survive in 21st century America. Since the goal of a gathering of the church is not purely consumption, we must adjust our mindset. This demands an intentional shift in thinking after swimming down stream amidst the cultural flow for the previous six days.
Second, we have to remember the goal of worship. Worship is a response to God for who he is, what he has done, and what he will continue to do. This means that worship is a response from your heart. In comparison, worship is not the excitement a worship leader sparks in you. Worship is the presence of God dwelling and working in you. From that stand point it is very personal, but it doesn’t end there. God designed the church to be a gathering of people who come together benefiting (i.e. growing) from being with one another. As you have this personal idea of worship, you have God’s creation of the church which facilitates a gathering of people coming together to respond to the same God based on countless variations of his presence and work in their lives. The church gathering is a symphony of response where the healing marriage relationship is the violin section, the miraculous financial provision is the brass, the conviction found in scripture study is the percussion…
When the church gathers it is the symphonic response to God for his faithful presence and work amidst the family gathered. The music is simply a guide rail which defines a path forward as the people of God respond. God gifts and uses the one who facilitates worship for the church to guide, teach, and encourage this response, yet he is not the creator or the object of the response. As we move ahead in our journey as worshipers, let us never forget to critique our own hearts before we begin valuing our personal preferences over the beauty of authentic hearts responding to the loving presence of our God.
Matt Powell serves as teaching pastor at Crossings Community Church, a body of believers whose mission is to engage, equip, and empower homes for gospel transformation in Katy, TX.