I write this as I struggle with Sunday Morning Gathering yet again. I have stopped going because I’m too discouraged about my inability to join in. This is not unique to the house where I have gone the past 5-1/2 years; any gathering that projects the words on a screen and plays music I don’t know will be inaccessible to me.
The challenge in the modern Church seems to be broader than this. It’s as though there’s a “Do not disturb” sign on the door: Anything or anybody that causes discomfort is neatly set aside.
I have heard pastors say they shouldn’t be expected to visit people when they are in the hospital; in fact, I had that happen about 13 years ago. I hear believers say they “just want to experience God’s presence,” which turns out to mean that they don’t want to see to others when they are at Church; that they don’t care about the quality of music…they just want to feel good.
“What’s in it for me?” seems to be the measure of what makes a successful gathering – In a word, consumerism.
I always hesitate to pick on the Church too much: There is plenty of that; God loves His beautiful Bride.
The deal is, we need to repent, and soon, before this anesthesia kills us.
The Sign On the Door
“I’m a pastor, paid to pray;
Please don’t intrude on my life that way!
I don’t want to visit the poor;
Please note the sign posted on my front door.”
“We like our worship; it makes us grin.
We don’t care if you can’t join in.
Please don’t tell us you’re distress and bored;
Please note the sign posted on our front door.”
“Do not disturb,” it plainly reads;
We don’t care about your wants and needs;
Please don’t ask us to do any more;
Please note the sign posted on our front door.
Years ago in such a place,
A man came in who was full of grace.
He made a whip with many cords;
He ripped that old sign right off their front door.
Animals, money, vendors, they say,
Watched tables turn as they ran away.
“No den of thieves; not anymore!”
Disturbance had just come through their front door.
May this same God, who longs for his bride
To be pure and spotless when she stands by his side
Confront and deliver, heal and restore;
Till that dreadful sign is off her front door.
Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly, we pray;
Forgive our sins; take our selfishness away;
Disturb us until we long for more
Of you in our lives; Please come through that front door.
“When I first began leading worship, I served at a tiny suburban church plant in West Fort Worth. The pastor of that church constantly reminded me that folks would never leave our Sunday gathering humming the sermon he preached. They’d leave humming the songs we had sung together. In fact, they were far more likely to have the words we sang rattling around in their minds all week than any words they heard from the pulpit. For whom do we sing? I believe we sing for ourselves and for one another, that we might come to believe more fully the truth of the words we sing and to love more deeply the God to and about Whom they were written.
That belief has transformed the way I personally worship God in song, the way I plan the musical portion of any worship gathering I’m involved with and the way I discern which songs should or shouldn’t be a part of our corporate worship life. If music is, in essence, sung theology, then things like lyrical content and melodic hook become significantly more important to consider.
However, that doesn’t completely quench my desire to know “why we sing.”
If that was all there was to it, then why not just leave the singing to the pros, and attend a musically excellent, theologically rich concert every weekend? Or, for that matter, why not just buy musically excellent, theologically rich music on iTunes and listen to it day in and day out? Why must we gather and actually sing together?
I’ve long been fascinated by the prayer Jesus prays in John chapter 17. He prays specifically for the oneness of those who will come to believe in Him. He prays that we, His people, may be united together; that we might be one just as He and the Father are one.
In the book of Acts, we find the early church living and worshipping together day in and day out. They share what they have. They break bread together. They seek God together.”
…”How many acts of worship are communal in nature? Congregational singing lends itself perfectly to the togetherness & vulnerability that the Gospel demands, deserves and seeks of those living in community. We, together, are the people of God. We, together, are the bride of Christ. Therefore, it’s right and good that we, together, with one voice, should express our affections for our great bridegroom, Jesus.
When we step outside the familiar walls of liturgical tradition and peek back in through the window at all the people standing and singing and raising their hands together, it may look a bit foreign or silly. But, brothers & sisters, as I said, it is absolutely vital to the life of the Church and to the lives of the individual believers therein.
When we gather together, let us lay aside any concern about the quality of our singing voices. Let us lay aside any reservations about whether or not we “feel worshipful” in a given moment. Let us sing. Let us sing as an act of discipline, training our hearts to believe more completely the Gospel of our salvation. Let us sing as an act of community, knowing that the people around us are our brothers and sisters and that they need the truth of the Gospel on our lips to ring in their ears.”
From “What’s the Point of Singing,” by Luke Brawner
I’m reminded of something Paul writes in Ephesians and Colossians:
singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves,
and making music to the Lord in your hearts. …
Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.
I have had more than one person tell me that they don’t care about the quality of music or musicianship; they just want to feel God’s presence.
That sounds good, but it’s not biblical.
God designed us to worship, individually and together. He calls us to join in unity (Psalm 133) He tells us to sing to each other…
I think this is especially important in a day when people are so isolated. The last thing we need is to go to Sunday Morning Gathering for more of the same.
There is also a synergy that happens when the worship is made up of live voices. It has a vibrance to it that simply cannot be communicated in recorded or streamed music. Joining our voices says, “I’m with you. I know and love you, here and now.” We desperately need that.
By the way, Scripture also admonishes us to dance, raise our hands, shout and declare.
What does it mean to you;
How does it make a difference?
Knowing that God is ever present;
That He is the Almighty One
Who protects and provides?
Knowing God’s wisdom is infinite;
He sticks closer than a brother;
Who comforts and counsels?
Knowing that you are loved perfectly;
Now, in every way and forever;
He always draws you closer?
What does it mean to you?
How have you changed,
Being born of the Spirit;
A child in God’s household;
Son and daughter of the Most High?
In a word, everything;
Each heartbeat and breath;
All thoughts and feelings;
Expectancies and perceptions.
It means that in Him
We live and move;
In Him we have our being;
He is our Source and Goal.
To God be all glory;
Every song of praise;
Blessing and adoration;
To You, oh Lord;
To Your Name always!
I fix my eyes, oh Lord,
On things unseen:
The reality of your kingdom;
That for Eternity will be.
I set my mind, oh Lord,
On things above:
Where my life remains hidden in you;
Enfolded in your precious love.
I set my heart, oh Lord,
On who you are:
Savior, Redeemer, Healer and King;
Most brightly shining morning star.
I lay my all, oh Lord,
Before your throne:
As a sacrifice of devotion;
I serve and worship you alone.
shine ever brighter
Until all darkness flees before you.
Prince of Peace,
Take your rightful place,
Until all principalities yield.
Lord of love
Fill us more fully,
So that we recognize and know you.
Most High God,
We glorify you,
Till even the atmosphere has changed.
The whole world is yours;
Let Heaven and Earth bow before you.
We live in a world that our enemy tries to paint with smudges of profanity, perversity, division, strife, prejudice, distortions, deceptions and lies of all sorts.
The good news is, we get to choose where we will direct our attention. This is important, because we become what we behold. You know the saying, “we are what we eat.”
When I think of purity, the”milk of God’s word” comes to mind. Because He is pure, everything He says and does is, too. When we feast on Scripture and positive examples from other believers, we are strengthened and changed.
The Word also refers to Jesus (Read the first part of John 1.) Jesus is pure; without sin or blemish. He is absolutely trustworthy. To think on Him in worship, adoration, praise and meditation is to become more like Him.
As we focus on God and His Kingdom, we are transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2.) While God’s approach is respectful and revelatory, not “brain washing,” I dare say that most of our minds need a good scrub from time to time!
These are lyrics to a song I have started working on:
Rejoice my soul;
Join this song of praise;
Twirl and dance with great delight;
Raise your hands;
Worship all your days;
Soar to the greatest height.
Let happy sound
Come from your inmost part;
Till all that’s found
Is singing in your heart;
Lift your voice
In joyful song and mirth;
Let it resound
In all the Earth!
Sitting with Jesus in heavenly places
Gives the world a very different look:
Instead of troubles being over me;
Their tucked under my foot.
And when I speak to Jesus, I know
He hears my every word,
Sitting here with my Savior,
My Redeemer, Healer and Lord.
Worshipping Jesus in glory and honor,
Brings great pleasure and joy to my heart.
Inner awareness and love seem to grow;
New songs just seem to start.
When I’m held in Everlasting Arms,
I feel His loving touch;
Devotion to Him explodes
With joy, I love Jesus so much!
“No one has ever seen or heard of a God like you, who does such deeds for those who put their hope in him.” Isaiah 64:4 GNT
Jesus, You are the Only One who comes to us. You didn’t wait for us to get things just right; You didn’t require that we ask with specific words or ceremonies; You simply came, according to the plan that You and Your Papa put together before the beginning of time.
Not only that, You came as a helpless, powerless baby, born in humble circumstances.
Next, You lived among us, teaching, healing, delivering, saving; bringing the Kingdom of Heaven to Earth.
Then, You did the most loving thing that ever has been or ever will be done: You suffered and died so that we have eternal life with You.
You didn’t stop there: You rose from the dead, defeating Satan and all of his effect forever. You said, “It is finished.” With that the new covenant of Grace was made.
And as if that wasn’t enough, You returned to Your Papa and sent Holy spirit so that You now live in us instead of merely with us.
The candle was simple and plain,
In a holder made of glass;
But oh what radiance when given a flame
It had a purpose at last.
It stood with its soft, gentle light
That warmed and inspired all;
With a fragrance and glow that brought great delight
To those in the banquet hall.
The gift that it offered was great,
Though it didn’t seem like much.
But the candle carried its flame with such weight,
No one could miss its warm touch.
Whatever my talents and gifts,
I will ever serve God my Lord;
So that in my actions all worship I lift
To Jesus the Living Word.