DO YOU HAVE WORSHIP FIGURED OUT?

thinking In 2008 I suffered a stroke following a medical procedure at a one of our major regional hospitals (if there is an ideal place to have a stroke, the hospital is probably it).   I do not recall any pain associated with the event. In fact, I had no idea I was in the midst of a stroke at the time, but my oldest son was visiting with me and noticed some strange behaviors and summonsed assistance. I am grateful to report that following weeks of in home therapy, rest, and prescribed medication I have had very little residual effect from that event and one other episode two years later. A permanent side effect, however, is that I have an insatiable curiosity to know more about how the mind works. I have read books on music’s effect on the brain, and have watched videos about brain damage and recovery. The neurologist gave me some reading material that heightened my interest about the brain and about ways we humans think, and I have continued that inquisitiveness ever since. Before all this took place I had no idea what a central role the brain plays in overall human well-being in every aspect of human life; physical, emotional, spiritual, as well as mental. It is one of those things I guess we take for granted perhaps other than conscious thought. As powerful as the brain and thinking can be, Michael Walters cautions us to guard against thinking that we have worship figured out or that we can design and control worship by rationalizing what we do or how we do it.

RATIONALISM: WORSHIP DIVORCED FROM SPIRIT

The Lord gave us a mind, and surely intends for us to use that great gift to think, including in our worship. It would seem impossible for us to grasp theological richness, or to embrace biblical truth without the use of our mental capacities. If rationality and reasonableness, however, are the final measure of what we will embrace in our spiritual worship, then we have likely divorced worship from the realm of the spirit. A tendency toward fierce dogmatism by virtue of logic and rationalized theological schemes may well reveal a leader’s hunger for power and control. Worship programmed to serve this ethos can make perfect sense, even be perfectly choreographed and aesthetically pleasing, but without spirit it is impotent. God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29) and the Holy Spirit like the wind, which blows where it wills (John 3:8). Authentic Christian worship is never under our control. Pastors and worship music leaders who take pride in slick presentations that come off without a proverbial hitch under their own control have received their reward, and it is temporal. Such worship that elevates human cleverness will “inevitably weaken the message of the Cross. Rationalistic worship is a feeble attempt to offer our ideas, our notions of spirituality, our conclusions about the world as a substitute for this God whose Spirit cannot be controlled in any way.”[1]

Precisely because our thinking is so central to life, there is a subtle tendency to use that thinking to follow the mantra of natural science’s supreme objective, to predict and control. A hallmark of industrialized society and modernism, organizational leadership styles rationalized a Chief Executive Officer mentality as rational model of efficiency. The inclination of many pastors to try and run their churches via this CEO mentality is as well documented, as it is obsolete in a postmodern culture. Sadly, the practice spills over into worship planning and practice.

Practices that may evidence rationalism: worship divorced from spirit

  1. Worship planning that is highly thematic to serve the rational ideas to be presented in sermon or in a particular theme itself.
  2. Where the Word is seldom read for its own contribution, apart from someone’s interpretive explanation
  3. Worship that is highly scripted as a means of maintaining leader control
  4. Avoidance of silence and spontaneity
  5. Overuse of technology as a means of control

In 1 Corinthians 14:15, the apostle Paul says that worship (praying and singing) engages mind and spirit. Jesus told us through His conversation with a woman at a well that God is spirit, and those that worship Him must worship in spirit and truth (John 4:23-24). This is more than some kind of balancing act where spirit is on the one hand and truth on the other, rather spirit and truth are surely at their full employment in worship. So all-encompassing would be this engagement that it calls us to offer our whole bodies, our whole selves, as our spiritual act of worship (Rom 12:1). Submission is offered in spiritual worship as a spiritual act of surrender and response, and as such, relinquishes control to the One whom we worship. Romans 12 goes on to call us toward worship that transforms our thinking by renewing our mind, and thus the very way we think. Paul offers a good sample of this renewed way of looking at things in the remaining verses of Romans 12. These verses are powerful in their application to our corporate worship gatherings, as they address how we view one another, how we treat fellow worshipers, even how we handle our enemies. The implications go beyond rational thought, but rather reflect a spiritual dimension far beyond our prediction and control.

Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. –Romans 12:11-13

Thanks be to God for such uncommon yielding of minds and hearts to submit to the One Head of the Church, the Lord Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit present among us in worship.  Help us to be worshipers who yield and follow Him Who is the way, the truth, and the life.

[1] Michael Walters Can’t Wait Til Sunday: Leading Your Congregation in Authentic Worship (Wesleyan Publishing House 2006) 57.

Explore posts in the same categories: Choir Ministry, Church Music, Congregational Singing, Leading Worship, Music Ministry, Singing Worship, Spiritual formation through singing, Worship Leaders, Worship Pastors, Worship Reminders, Worship theology, Worship thoughts, Youth Worship

One Comment on “DO YOU HAVE WORSHIP FIGURED OUT?”


  1. […] Paul Clark offers an insightful post about keeping our spirits and our brains on the same page: […]


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