I will celebrate before the Lord. 2 Samuel 6:21
Worship from the heart reflects seasons of celebration, meditation, and lamentation. In 21st Century conservative western religion, our corporate worship tends toward emotional neutrality. Dr. Albert George Lemmons said of this, “I am afraid some people are more interested in dignity than deity.” I am reminded of David and Michal in 2 Samuel 6:16-23; David danced before the Lord while Michal despised him in her heart. Oh, that the people of God would lead the world to smile, to laugh, and to shed tears – yet with hope.
“a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;” Ecclesiastes 3:4
While at an area wide singing recently, I experienced worship that was a pouring out of joy before the Lord; we stood the entire time and I did not even notice until the end! Other times, we sang and prayed softly or took a few moments to meditate. The mode and mood of our worship may naturally provoke a corresponding change in posture.
“Clap your hands, all peoples!
Shout to God with loud songs of joy!” Psalm 47:1
“I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes.” Psalm 119:48
“Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!” Psalm 95:6
We have a rich heritage of a cappella worship that is worth preserving. Our music is core to our distinctive identity just as is our biblical foundation. For over two thousand years Christians have gathered together to sing from the heart, yet a cappella worship is waning in the church. For many it is just something we do at church, and even then it is not very good. I assure you this is the perception of our youth and guests, at the minimum. Culture and radio are shaping our tastes and slowly encroaching upon the church, thus the growing adoption of praise teams and instrumental worship. It is the judgment of this writer that such innovations and the shallow music they bring with them are counterproductive to our purpose of meaningfully engaging rather than merely entertaining our congregations. We are all priests, and God desires to hear the praise of each one – not just the exceptionally gifted.
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” 1 Peter 2:9
“Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!” Psalm 150:6
Imagine if our leaders passionately conducted with well-practiced skill and carefully selected a repertoire of masterfully composed songs with rich lyrics and congregational (not performance) music. Imagine if our families listened to a cappella music throughout the week and sang together at home. Think of the possibilities if our churches would again invest in teaching the simple shaped-note system and sending our leaders to the Singing Schools. As at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem in Nehemiah 12:43, the resonance of the joy of our singing would be heard afar off! Our immanently present and continually good God compels our heartfelt worship on a daily basis rather than only on a Sunday basis. For our rich heritage of a cappella music to endure, it must become as dear to us as is the gospel itself.
“And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5:18-20
Worship worthy of our God is a lifelong pursuit. Since worship begins in the heart, it is in the heart where much work must first be done. It is not about us; it is about Him. He is worthy of our total devotion to discipline ourselves daily and grow holistically as followers of Christ and worshipers. Those in leadership hold a special responsibility to continually strive for excellence in heart, soul, and body. Let us not be concerned with comparison, but rather, as Oswald Chambers once wrote, let us render “our utmost for His highest.” May we be fruitful stewards of the gifts God has entrusted to our care, however humble.
“I will praise the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.” Psalm 146:2
May God be exalted in our praise!
“Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together!” Psalm 34:3
There are various worship retreats throughout the brotherhood with classes for men and women that offer fantastic opportunities to elevate worship. For more information on some of the various worship training available, see the following links: