I surrender ... do I?
Rebecca writes on the importance of words in worship and offers some ways for us to reflect on our approach.
Words, they make the world go around
Some people say that money makes the world go around. Perhaps it might be more accurate to say that communication makes the world go around. We wouldn’t get anywhere if we couldn’t talk and connect with people. While some people may communicate with sign language, or other means of gesture, the predominate avenue of communication involves words.
I think this highlights the fundamental importance of words. We use words all the time and in all aspects of our lives. As a law student, words are what I spend much of my time studying and considering. We can build up people with our words and we can also hurt people with our words. Words are important.
What about worship?
You may know my boyfriend, Tim. He has been a part of our church worship team for a long time. He is a passionate, talented and dedicated musician, and outside of worship music, we spend lots of time listening and appreciating music together. We’ve been to a few concerts together and we love listening to new albums when they come out.
On several occasions, we’ve had a few conversations about the power of music and worship. We enjoy reflecting on the incredible worship lyrics that are written, lyrics which praise and honour God, as well as the beautiful, creative music that accompanies them.
One of the things in particular we have talked about is whether when we are singing worship that we understand the weight of the words and that we truly mean it when we sing them - because music, particularly, well written music, has the power to move us emotionally.
While we know and follow a creative God and music is a beautiful way for us to glorify God, music has the power to really lead us to certain emotions and to feel different things. The slow build into the second chorus as it then moves into a powerful bridge or instrumental. The repetition of beautiful, encouraging words in the bridge, followed by a spirited last chorus. These features of songs can really move a congregation and elicit a strong response from people. This isn’t to say every worship artist is trying to deliberately manipulate us emotionally, instead, I think this highlights the importance of the words we are singing.
The words of worship
We sing worship to honour God and glorify and praise him. But sometimes I think we can be tempted to instead turn worship into an experience for ourselves. The powerful way in which music works really contributes to this.
When we sing worship, we are singing important and powerful words. You may not love or agree with the sentiment behind every song (just as Christians everywhere do not reach a consensus on every aspect of theology). However, I think we ought to sometimes stop during worship to really reflect upon what we are singing. We don’t always have to be singing. And I think it may be better to not sing than to sing something we may not really understand or even mean. Because if the worship team up the front is leading the congregation in singing “I surrender” to God, yet when I look at my life and, clearly, I do not surrender, then should I really be singing that at all?
That may sound harsh and perhaps it is but I think we don’t have to completely shut down and not sing. We can do something in that moment to change our approach.
One of the ways I think we can start to take a deeper accountability for our worship is to instead use the lyrics as a prayer to God: “Father God, I am sorry that I have not surrendered this part of my life to you. Holy Spirit, will you lead me to surrender to God every part of my life? I want to surrender.”
Consider the following examples and suggestions:
If the song is singing about surrendering to God, perhaps consider the aspects of your life you are holding close and prioritising over God, and then offer it to God.
If the words reflect on God’s goodness and kindness, maybe think about whether you have been kind and loving to other people, or if you have been bitter or angry.
If the music leaves you feeling on a high, yet you have spent 10 minutes either side of worship complaining to your friends about various aspects of the church or your life, might I suggest you spend time thinking about and thanking God for the ways he has blessed you.
We serve, love and follow a kind, compassionate and generous God who loves us so much. We demonstrate his love to those around us. Let us be good examples to the world. Let us worship God honestly, deeply and meaningfully.
Take some time to reflect upon your favourite worship lyrics. Trace them back through scripture and admire the wonder of God. Thank God for music, for worship, for words. For the Word became flesh, and it is our joy to worship him.
Rebecca Hoverd studies law and geography at The University of Auckland and loves writing as a way to communicate with God and to unpack her thoughts. She loves coffee, conversations, and would love to hear your feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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