Our vocabulary of worship

I make myself shudder when I think this way…

I love singing in worship. It rocks my boat, I engage and have a great time. That is only natural… I am a music person… I have always sung in choirs, groups etc. What about for those for whom “worship music” is not an enjoyable experience?

What about other creative expressions?

The danger when I ask this question is that I myself have to then start to accept the much maligned and mocked expressions. I don’t like flags in worship. I dislike them particularly when those who fly the flags get carried away and whack you in the head (it has happened). Can I accept flags as a true expression of worship without judging and despising?

But it’s not just about flags. Flag lovers may secretly hate singing, and could equally despise me for singing too loud, distracting them from the quietness of their heart.

Our worship should more widely reflect the creativity of our creator.

However, having said this, the question comes up for me – is worship in the church sense supposed to be communial or individual? Singing together is a great way that 10, 100 or 10,000 people can come together and join together in their “worship”. Is there a way that we can have “communial” expressions in other mediums? Yes, I can think of a couple. The problem is that they are liturgy, flags and dance. Shudder…

Our endeavours to be cool, cringe-free and trendy in church have severely restricted other expressions of worship. At our detriment, we have severed our vocabulary of worship.

So what does this expression of worship come down to? (And forgive me on this point, I am thinking of types of communial expression.) Is it anything? Sharing a poem that reflects on God’s glory? Indeed. An instrumental music piece? Perhaps? A painting? Pottery? What about someone who ‘blings’ up their car to glorify God? What about carpentry? Marathon running? What about worship for those who are not creatively minded at all?

Where does this line of expression start and end? How far can we go before we truly miss the point?

Perhaps this is all too difficult. Perhaps it is easier to ignore the “non-musos” and keep singing our songs.

Or perhaps this worship thing was never about us in the first place?

3 thoughts on “Our vocabulary of worship

  1. ..or maybe music is for everyone and some just haven’t got it yet. I’m sure I read of us all singing in Revelation – so it’s gonna happen sooner or later

  2. I think the reason that singing is so popular as an expression of worship is because it is basically another form of liturgy – a way of getting people to say the same things (the ‘right’ things perhaps?) all at the same time. The musical elements (groove, chords, melody etc..) add atmosphere and feeling, and are a means of coordinating people’s contributions into a unified whole, but the words seem to be the most important component.For this reason, I personally do not enjoy participating in group singing as an expression of my worship to God. I find it restrictive – someone else’s words that don’t fit my own thoughts and feelings. I prefer to create my own, unique offering. But how can I do that, and yet still be part of a community expression of worship?Well – I’m not really into flag waving either, but think about this. Flag waving is a less cerebral activity than singing – it’s a freer, more emotional release that will mean something different to each participant – and each observer. It’s meaning is subjective (like an abstract painting), rather than objective (like the Oxford Dictionary).Because there are no prescribed words to say, flag waving is not strictly communal in the same way that singing is. However, it is still accepted as a communal form of worship. Why? As far as I can see – the thing that makes it communal is simply that people are doing it in front of other people. Some people are making the creative offering (ie. waving the flag), and others are ‘consuming’ it by observing it and allowing their response to it to become part of THEIR personal, creative offering.So, what else can we do in front of other people that’s genuine, unique, illicits a response and brings glory to God? How can we expand our vocabulary?And also – How can we make our own response to someone else’s art a more genuine expression of our own personal worship to God?

  3. Respect to Sir H.C and the Colonel.Well, there has to be a unfied response to God in worship. Fact. The church as one must worship.This needs to be accessible, and sustainable. It should be enjoyable but in reality it won’t always be to start with cos it’s not about us or how we feel, it’s about Him. But the Colonel also points out that there needs to be some unique honest expression relating to how we feel. Hence the arguement for free worship. The songs someone else writes won’t express exactly how we feel. Even our songs from a week ago may not. The songs we sing are good (for the most part). God has gifted people to write songs with solid theology, good music, and songs that are accessible to large congregations. But we must also personalise them. IF you send someone a birthday card, it often has a wee note printed inside. Now that’s going to be nice and mean something to the recipient, but it’s what you’ve written yourself that means more. So when we sing “Forever God is faithful, forever God is strong” we can think or sing or somehow express to God the ways in which He has been faithful to us, the times He was there just when we needed Him. And so on we can go. But there must also be a foundation of corporate worship. It’s this delicate balance that is hard to get.I’m sure there will be other ways that we as a body can worship, but for something that’s accessbile to large numbers and sustainable for moer than maybe 10 minutes, singing is (sadly for some) hard to beat. It’s maybe not perfect, but it’s pretty good…

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