Worship: A Heap of Glitter
January 6, 2015 § Leave a comment
My niece Kelsey Jacobs wrote this essay shortly after turning 18, and when I uncovered it recently she gave me the okay to post it here. It’s over 11 years old, but maybe you can relate to this experience.
One of the most important issues the church is facing today is that of unity in worship. The local church has the potential to be a highly effective ministry to the community, yet its inner struggles prevent it from accomplishing as much for the kingdom as it otherwise could. I come from a church with an incredible history of believers, many of whom are still living, which provides a richness to my experiences in a church body that many new churches lack. This heritage is a blessing that selfishness and myopic thinking has caused to become a burden. At times it seems that the young and old worshippers are contesting against each other, weakening their fight to win souls for our King. The issues presented are valid, but need to be dealt with in love, remembering that “by this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).
In recent years, young generations in the Christian community have struck out for a greater freedom in style of worship, and traditional forms of worship have often been dismissed as stale and tame. Breaking free from conventional piano-led hymns, guitar-driven praise bands lead worship in many growing churches. Emphasis has also been put on forms of worship that require no music, such as service, art, and poetry, in an effort to allow every person to express thanksgiving to God in a unique, sincere way. Clapping, dancing, and raising of hands during musical worship has also become more prevalent as lovers of the Lord are encouraged to throw off any reservation that could hinder a completely honest act of worship. As innovations have been made, some resistance has been met from older generations who have not traditionally worshipped in these ways. Although it was a challenge for them to accept some foreign methods of worship, the older people in my church rose to the occasion and allowed changes to be made for the good of the whole body.
I support every effort for true worship with my whole heart. Nothing could be more pleasing to the Savior than acceptance of genuine worship. However, I have noticed that in some ways, the people who once seemed to seek the freedom to worship with sincere and humble abandonment now seek it with arrogance and offense. To dance, scream, and be “undignified,” as the popular praise song inspired by a statement of King David says, is seen by some as the holy way to worship. Quiet ways of worship are looked upon as half-hearted and weak—people are only quiet when they are ashamed of worshipping like they know they should. Enthusiasm and passion are only acknowledged when they are expressed impressively.
I would caution these energetic worshippers not to take their mild brothers and sisters at face value. Society tells us to be noisy. Americans scream at football games, shout along with favorite bands, dance around with excitement. Many people in older generations and some in young generations do not express themselves in this way. Consider a heap of glitter. The specks at the top of the pile are shiny and attractive. There is no doubt that this sparkling mass is glitter. However, the bottom sides of the twinkling flecks of glitter are dark. The mound beneath the scintillating outer layer is dark. But every minute piece in the pile is just as much glitter as any piece on the surface. It is the same way with worship. Some worship is like the glitter on the surface of the pile: it is visible. Some worship is like the mound of glitter underneath: not flashy, but unnoticed, and decidedly worship.
Scriptures undoubtedly call believers to worship in lively ways. Psalm 149:3 says, “Let them praise his name with dancing,” and Psalm 66:1 exhorts believers to “shout with joy to God, all the earth!” However, many Christians who have been raised in an environment of energetic worship do not realize that it is possible to worship while being both quiet and sincere. There exists “a time to mourn and a time to dance…a time to be silent and a time to speak” (Ecclesiastes 3:4,7).
The dignified worship of some Christians can be explained by their desire to “be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe” (Hebrews 12:28). The Psalms are filled with admonitions to meditate on God’s love and His creation. Hebrews 12:3 calls us to “consider him who endured such opposition.” This consideration does not request or require dancing, singing, or any sort of physical indication. All that is needed is a contrite and earnest spirit that longs to “worship the Father in spirit and truth” (John 4:23).
In his book, The Unquenchable Worshipper, Matt Redman, English songwriter and worship leader, wrote, “When we meet to worship God, although structure is important, it must never be allowed to strangle life” (51). I concur, but will continue that life must never be allowed to strangle worship. Paul pled with believers in the Philippian church to resolve arguments among themselves, and I believe he would instruct Christians today to settle their discord. Unity in worship is vital in today’s church. Unbelievers will not respond positively to an environment where believers cannot interact with love and comfort. May the church realize the necessity of unity and may each individual surrender his self-centered desires to the glory of the Lord.