Friday, July 15, 2011

worship = singing?

image borrowed from the post, "Cavinism as 'The Big Tent?'"

Not long ago, our church had some documents to fill out for the IRS  (Why in the world is church connecting with IRS?..  But that's another post and topic for another day).  So I said to one of our leadership team, "can we have you sign a form after worship?"

Later, as we were signing, she said "I wondered wbat happened.  You said we should sign  after worship, so when we didn't sign after worship, I figured you forgot."

I had ansolutely no idea what she meant.

Then it hit me.  In many circles (and in her previous chiurch, the songs that are sung early in the gatherings  are called "worship" or the "worship time" or "worship songs."  So she thought i meant "after the music," and I meant "after the gathering (Of course, my definition was ecen more problematic)..

It is unbelievable that so few ever even notice, let alone challenge, this common practice in contemporary church.  As I blogged a few years ago:

A strange shift began about fifteen years ago,

Ask most evangelical or charismatic Christians in USAmerica about the place of "worship"
in a gathering. For some strange reason, the word has come to be synonymous with "the songs sung early in the meeting."

"Good morning! After the worship, the children will be dismissed, and Pastor Steve will share from God's word"

We even call the person leading the singing the "worship leader."
Whazzup with that?

Of course, this definition is foreign to Scripture, and to the church in all history and places..until our lifetime in the ... continued

So I was thrilled to catch Dan Kimball's post below (the "worship=music" reference is so accepted and entrenched that in spite of this post below, Kimball has another post called new worship music "Radiant")
I would love to get this topic on the table. It's not just semantics.  Well, actually it IS..but semantics matters.


Should the church accountant be the one called the "worship pastor"?

Accountant The title of this blog post and question that I ask is not one I am totally serious about - and not really suggesting we actually do call the accountant the worship pastor. But I do have the question of how we have overwhelmingly defined "worship" to primarily be music and singing.
I have become very aware of the power of words—and the power of defining words. In the Christian culture we have created I don't believe we can ever assume anymore when we say the terms "gospel", "Jesus", "salvation", "inspired",  "evangelical", "evangelism", "missional" etc. we all mean the same thing. I have learned (and sometimes the hard way) that you need to be asking definitions of terms with specific meaning to understand how someone else uses a term that may differ from your definition. 

One of these terms is "worship". 

If you were to ask most teenagers and young adults what comes to their minds when they hear the word "worship" it will likely be singing. I understand why they do, as we have pretty much defined worship to them over the past 20 years or more as worship = singing. Now it is totally true that we worship as we sing. But that is only one aspect of worship. We have subtly taught (in my opinion) a reductionist view of worship limiting it primarily to music and singing as what defines the word and practice.

I try to pay attention to reasons why we define worship mainly as music these days. And it is not too difficult to discover. What do we call the person in a church who leads the band or singing? It is normally the "worship pastor" or "worship leader". When our music leaders say, "Let's now worship," that is when the singing begins. When a sermon begins or when the offering is received we often don't say ""Let's now worship" like we do when the singing starts. When we think of Sunday gatherings of the church and when does worship happen, we generally think of the singing - not the teaching or the sacrifice of people who are worshiping by volunteering time in the children's ministry or other things happening. You look the Christian albums and as we call them "Best of Worship" or "Worship Greatest Hits"  that reinforce the idea that music is the primary—or even only—form of worship. I just read on a Facebook post how a group was bringing in a guest person to "lead worship" and of course this guest person was a musician.We constantly, constantly reinforce by how we use that word casually all the time that it primarily means music and singing.  
"Should the church accountant be the one called the "worship pastor"? " »

I Love what St. Mark Thomas posted on my original post:

Mark Thomas said... 

I teach a lot of younger people about worship and what it means. I usually start in the Old Testament and end somewhere in Revelation (chapter 4 or 5) are great examples of crazy and wild "throne room" worship. One thing that I always stress is that worship is not exclusively music. That worship can happen anywhere and not just the first 20-40 minutes of a Sunday/Saturday/Wednesday church service. In fact, there is no such thing as a "worship song"! A song is simply a song, a tool. One must be in the attitude and in the Spirit for the song to be even used in worship. Otherwise it's nothing different than what we might hear on our top 40 radio stations on any given Monday/Tuesday/Thursday/Friday. Does anyone still listen to FM radio? Worship (and revelation) happens when we're in a place of incomprehension, bedazzlement, and transformation. It has to. What do you expect after meeting God face to face and giving Him all the glory? -Mark Thomas

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