Worship in the Church
John Newton was a sailor and later a pastor. He died in 1807. He is the writer of the hymn Amazing Grace.
A few weeks ago I was at a church service where I heard another hymn of his. The title is I Asked the Lord that I Might Grow.
To understand what I’m about to tell you, you need to know a little something about me. I don’t really feel much — emotionally, I mean. Not at church services anyway. And especially not during worship.
I’m a stoic person. Not much moves me. And worship music, in particular, almost never does.
(Honestly, I don’t think that’s the point anyway. Your feelings aren’t the sign you are doing something right. Just because you feel something during worship, that doesn’t mean the Holy Spirit is actually doing something. And just because you don’t, that doesn’t mean the Holy Spirit isn't doing anything.)
But this was different. Worship was going along like normal, and then they sang this hymn.
You can read it, listen to it, or both. To listen, just hit play at the top. (I would recommend listening while you read.)
This song hit me hard. I was singing along during the service and thinking “Yes, yes, I agree. This is me.” And then it came to the end and God’s reply left me speechless. Well, kind of.
I know this is not a particularly pious response, but what I thought was “holy crap.”
I was moved. I felt something. Not because the music built in a special way. Not because we worked ourselves into a fit of repetition. Not because the band did anything special, but because the words meant something. The words moved me. God moved me.
After the initial shock, my next thought was, “Yes, this is true. God loves me. And he uses the things in my life to draw me closer to Him. I need to find my all in Him."
Again, I don’t think that a person has to feel something in order to know that God loves them. God loves me even when I don’t feel it.
But, a song like this is what I believe music in the church should be. The goal is not to make you feel something. The goal is honesty, reflection, to worship God. It just so happened that there was so much meaning in the words that it caught me off guard. It surprised me. And the surprise made me think, which then made me feel something.
Our example for music in the church is the Psalms. The Psalms are incredibly honest. They are angry at times. They are joyful at times. Their goal was to talk to God, not to make you do something.
The feeling is a byproduct. If you are the kind that raises your hands, feel free. If you think God wants you to dance, go ahead. If you feel like crying, don’t let me stop you. But those are byproducts, they are not the goal. The goal is communion with God — to find our all in Him.
(This post, in part was to make a point about worship in church. But the hymn is a lot more meaningful. Read it a few times. Listen to it a few times. Take in the message of it. It’s powerful.)