Worship or Singing?

On November 21, 2011 by Eddie

A few years ago Andy Stanley, our Senior Pastor, laid out a framework for our Sunday services called the “Rules of Engagement.” Actually, the first name he gave it had something to do with a funnel, so most of the time that’s what I affectionately refer to it as. I remember the first time I heard it, my initial reaction was to be nervous and afraid, worried that this new system was going to eliminate all creativity, all room for the “Holy Spirit.” But as I pondered the idea, I realized once again how gifted of a leader Andy is, and how thankful I am to have an opportunity to work at this church.

The Rules of Engagement are actually very liberating and challenging. They aren’t the walls of a prison, they’re the rails on a sandbox. Everyone who’s creative works within limits. A painter only has so much canvas. A dancer only has so much stage. A musician only has so many notes. Everybody has to work within boundaries. The ROE simply lay out those boundaries, inside of which we are free to be as creative as possible. And the biggest thing is, it just works. It does, I’ve seen it over and over again. In this culture, with this group of people, it works like crazy.

One of the things Andy said in that first talk that set off alarm bells was that we were no longer going to call our worship time “worship.” Instead, we were going to refer to it as “singing.” Once again, at first the worship leader in me started preparing for battle. But over time, what I realized is that this is really a very healthy way of looking at the service. Everything we do is worship, from the parking lot to the final goodbye. Worship isn’t just musical, it’s every bit of life. We say that a lot, but it’s hard to remember it sometimes, and these words really help me remember that singing is just a way in which we worship God.

After giving that first ROE talk, Andy came and met with our worship leaders and laid out a strong challenge. He challenged us to think beyond the typical “worship leader” role. He challenged us to try and find ways to connect with people who are far from God and people who intimately know Him, all at the same time. It’s easy to be a worship leader to Christians. On a Night of Worship, when only the core of our church attends, we could sing “Here I Am to Worship” 12 times and it would probably be a powerful worship experience. It’s much harder on a Sunday morning to try and reach the atheist who doesn’t want to be there in the first place. But that’s our challenge, and it’s what we set out to do each week.

I constantly have to re-train myself. I have to watch what I say and constantly re-evaluate it to make sure I don’t slip into “worship-leader lingo” that makes no sense to people who aren’t church insiders. I have to work hard on my heart to remember that the measure of effectiveness on a Sunday is not how many hands are raised. Who knows what God is doing in the hearts of people who aren’t even singing? For some of them, it’s a miracle that they’re standing in the building and reading the words to “Mighty to Save” for the first time.

These things are so hard to remember every week, it is a constant challenge, but I think it’s one worth fighting for. People need to experience the power of God’s love through music, and hopefully through our preparation and the Holy Spirit’s power, that can happen for anyone and everyone who walks through our doors on Sunday.

What do you think? In your church, is it “worship” or is it “singing?”

2 Responses to “Worship or Singing?”

  • You’re article is like one of Andy’s sermons: to the point and spot on!

  • I think it scares people a bit to hear that “worship” has been “reduced” to “music.” However, I totally agree that the distinction serves to make our music times even more worshipful. kind of weird… and I can’t totally put my finger on why…but i think it broadens are thoughts on what worship is. Just like you said, when we gather on Sundays, we want to help facilitate worship from parking lot to parking lot. Well said.

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