Practices that Hinder Horizontal Awareness in Worship
Over the years, most of us have developed a few practices that can hinder any benefit we might receive from addressing one another as we sing.
1. Singing songs that lack biblical substance or doctrinal depth. If the songs we’re singing are primarily subjective, and focused on how we feel, what we’re doing, or some other subjective element, we’re not going to have much to say to each other.
2. Thinking that “worship” means closing my eyes, raising my hands, and blocking out everyone else around me. I’ve had many profound moments like that, as I’ve focused in an undistracted way on the words I’m singing and the Savior I’m singing to. But being Spirit-filled should actually make us more aware of others, not less. Many of the songs we sing aren’t even directed towards God. Crown Him with Many Crowns, Before the Throne of God Above, and Amazing Grace, are a few that come to mind. So when I lead I probably have my eyes open more than half the time. I’m looking around, addressing others, celebrating the fact that we can glory in Jesus Christ together. I do that even when I’m not leading, sometimes turning to someone beside me to rejoice in God’s grace. I want to benefit from the fact that I’m with the people of God.
3. Singing alone. Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with praising God on my own. But in the age of iPods, earphones, and Internet downloads, it’s easy to lose our appreciation for singing with the church. The Spirit intends us to join our hearts to each other as well as to Christ when we sing.
After I preached the message this past Sunday, I wanted to apply the message in a memorable way. So I had everyone stand up and told them we were going to sing Amazing Grace a cappella. Only I didn’t want anyone closing their eyes. I wanted people to look around the room as they sang, rejoicing at God’s mercy in each other’s lives. It was a little awkward at first, but eventually we were singing with all our hearts, unashamedly “addressing one another” in song, reminding ourselves of how amazing God’s grace truly is, to save wretches like us.
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