On Worship and Work

By Kersley Fitzgerald

I can't remember when this was — high school or college — but I remember going to these big, city-wide praise and worship services for youth. They were amazing. Hundreds of kids singing their hearts out to God. You could really feel the presence of God in that place.

Orůsomething. Actually, it was a feeling similar to a U2 concert.

I liked the worship services at the semi-mega church we used to go to, also. I liked it when you could tell the worship team was feeling the Spirit because Shelly would forget she was white and Polly would forget to sing.

That's what we look for in worship music, isn't it? Some kind of transcendent moment where we're taken outside ourselves and into the presence of God where we can acknowledge His holiness with abandon. A King David in his underwear kinda moment.

That's what we're supposed to feel, right? I mean, that's the paradigm Donald Miller is bucking against when he bravely announces "I don't connect with God by singing to Him."

He goes on to say he doesn't feel connected to the Body of Christ in a traditional music-and-lecture style service. Instead, he connects with God by doing. By teaching. By building his company. By serving.

Four days later, he has 425 comments. The first several along the lines of "you're missing the point about worship."

But I have to admit, 99% of the time, I don't feel connected with God through music, either.

I come from a musical family. My grandpa sang bass in choir, my aunt is a soprano, my parents sang in choir, my brother has fronted garage bands. I grew up with a radio in every room — including the bathrooms. Music was always playing. It was just the background to life. I love music. I sing in the car, in the shower, and in my office (when no one else is in!). And I've been on worship teams for most of the last eight years.

But I very rarely use music to meet with God.

I first led music in a small group twenty years ago. Not because I was good, but because I was one of the few people there with a guitar. In fact, it was Scott and his singing who ensured it wasn't a complete disaster (it's hard to lead singing as an alto). About eight years ago, a friend finally convinced me to join the worship team at church. I didn't know parts, and my acoustic didn't even have a pick-up, but I went.

Then one Sunday the regular leaders were all gone and she had to lead. She was fully capable — she was a music major, soprano, fully proficient on piano and guitar. She was also scared to death. So from that Sunday on, I started actually singing into the microphone.

I did it to be an encouragement to her.

Fast forward several years and shift a few thousand miles east, and I'm on another worship team. Partly because I've totally caught the bug (how do you worship God without a guitar in your hands?). Partly because I know there's a need. Because I remember being in sixth grade and being scolded for not singing out, later realizing for pity's sake "The First Noel" is high. And I remember the glory of having a worship leader in Alabama who was a high tenor and sang in my range. That's really, really rare. And I know there are people in the seats who don't sing because they don't have anyone to follow. And I'm really not the best at picking out harmonies, but I know from experience something is better than nothing.

So, yeah. I'm not on the worship team to garner attention. And I don't worship with music to find that transcendent feeling. You can't find that transcendent feeling when all that's going through your mind is, "I missed that C#m7, does Becky take the echo here or me, how many times is John going to repeat the chorus, my pick is slipping out of my fingers, Michelle is on fire this morning, wow I didn't know I could make that noise, this is much better than rehearsal, I'm hungry, great how can I sing with communion bread stuck in my throat."

I'm on the worship team because it's the only way I've figured out how to worship God with music in a way that I worship — with service.

And I don't listen to sermons because I like be lectured to. I do it so that I can discover new and improved ways I'm being a pickle-head as well as insights into the Bible I didn't know before. So that I can be kinder to people at home and answer their questions at work. You know — service.

Unlike a lot of people, I am all for finding your spiritual gift. Preaching, teaching, mercy, service — go for it. I think where people fall into the trap is in their lack of creativity. Spiritual gifts aren't to pigeon-hole us into particular roles forever and ever amen. They're to teach us how we best express worship while filling the roles in front of us.

One of the silliest things I hear is, "I don't go to church because I feel more connected with God in nature." Silly because it presumes the point of worship is that close, transcendent feeling. Guess what — Jesus found that in nature, too! He was always trying to run to the wilderness to pray. But that's not where He did His work, it's where He recharged for the work that happened in community.

Church services should be good and lovely and all that, but that doesn't mean they don't require effort. I don't like all the songs we sing. I rarely find joy in sitting on a folding chair for 45 minutes listening to a sermon. But work and self-discipline have always been a part of worship.

Sometimes that work includes asking the question: "How can I express my spiritual gifts through this particular aspect of corporate church life?"

And if you'd rather work than sing, the sound team is always hiring.

Image Credit: Dirk Knight; "Aria TA 80"; Creative Commons

TagsChristian-Life  |  Church-Issues  |  Controversial-Issues

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Published 2-7-14