SUPERIOR WORSHIP ? | Grant Norsworthy
I ’ d like to think that I am the same person - the same father - for each of my three sons . But there are significant differences in the ways I relate to each of them .
My youngest - six-year-old Casper - is a boy without fear and with a higher pain threshold than either of his brothers . He just loves it when I toss him and wrestle with him on the trampoline . Seven-year-old Marcus is quite sensitive in many ways - more prone to becoming upset or hurt if play gets a bit rough . He and I bond best as we quietly build Lego R together . Max - being thirteen years old - connects with a more mature level of conversation than his younger brothers . Some of the things I do or say that Casper and Marcus find hilarious will get the teenaged eye-roll from Max .
In a similar way , I believe that God is the same God for all us . But we are all individuals , and in many ways distinct from one another . While there might be similarities from one person ’ s relationship with God to another - we can expect there to be differences . I should not think that the way I have experienced , understand and relate with God will be the same - or should be the same - for other people .
It can be similar with music . It should not surprise us that some people have a stronger sense of connecting with God when music is used in a particular way that suits them , and a lesser sense when the style is different .
Yet , it seems to me , that we often do this : We fall for the trap of thinking that the way we prefer to worship God through songs is the best way - the superior way - and that those who don ’ t worship God like us - at best - are missing out on some higher level “ worship experience ” or - at worst – are not really worshiping God at all !
We would do well to remember that the only entity that has the ability and the right to measure the worshipfulness of our worship is God himself . We humans lack the necessary perspective to measure how worshipful God finds people ’ s worship . Not our own . Not anyone else ’ s . We can find in Genesis chapter 4 - the terrible story of Cain and Abel - what happens when humans mix willfulness and a sense of superiority with the worship of God . It ’ s been a tendency of the human condition ever since .
When music is utilized in a Church gathering , many people hope for an immersive , transcendental ( and possibly very personal ) experience of the manifest presence of God . The music that best sets the tone for this utilizes a wide dynamic range , has long , slow energy builds with sections of ecstatic , anthemic power , sudden dynamic drops and drawn out periods of tranquil , open , meditative musical textures .
Lyrically , this music may be characterized by greater use of simple , often-repeated phrases , be sung from the very personal “ I ”, and refer to God in the second person “ You ”. The leading musicians may also be free to exercise spontaneity - being ready to “ go with the flow ”- and change things in the moment “ as the Sprit leads ”.
Emphasis is given to vertical connection , communion , and communication ( between people and God ) above any horizontal ( peopleto-people ) communication .
It can appear that the overall presentation may implement more elements of musical performance - seeking to provide an atmosphere in which people will experience the manifest presence of God - more than actually inviting the congregation to sing together .
Other people would prefer to be part of a congregation that is invited to sing deep , rich and theologically correct poetry as they worship through songs . Preferring a more ordered , even liturgical style , the music can tend to be more tightly arranged and structured . Instrumentation is more likely to play a supporting role - serving the “ voice ” of congregational participation .
While some songs will take the form of prayers to God and praises of God , some may have a horizontal focus - declaring truth about God for the benefit of the community . Vertical connection is important , but so is the horizontal - a sense of the community worshiping God together . It would be true to say that the music is seen not only as a vehicle for the people to express worship directly to God . It is also an opportunity to teach good theology - truth about God - and for the congregation to encourage each other in their faith journey .
I feel very privileged to have had a wonderfully varied range of experiences of the Christian Church and of how music is used as an