Spontaneous or rehearsed? I think God likes it all, but I'm not so sure that people always do.
I like working in a worship band environment where there is flexibility that partners with a practised plan. Sound like an oxymoron? It may look like that on the surface but it is what we are to bring to any situation in life. God wants our best offering but we are always to stay attentive to His voice... 'cause His plans don't tend to be stationary.
Let me explain. As a band leader, I endeavour to do my best to be practised and to give as many tools to the team as I can to help them to succeed. I also want to honour those (as in, congregation or crowd) that we, as a band, will lead so I try to be as prepared and organized as possible so that I can engage effectively. Am I the best in the world at this? Absolutely not! But I come with my best in that moment to honour God and to honour the people that I work & have influence with.
During these processes, I stay connected with the Holy Spirit, asking Him what He wants. When I have established 'the plan' I continue with my antennae up toward God's leading. He may want to change or add something else and I want to be available for that.
Think of Abraham. God told him to take Isaac and give him as a sacrifice. (Genesis 22) What if Abraham had stopped listening to God's voice, thinking that he had the order and 'come hell or high water' would not let anything or anyone stop him from carrying it out? We would have very different history written down if Abraham stuck to 'the plan'. This is a great example of living in a constant state of awareness, praying without ceasing, walking in obedience and not quenching the spirit of Jesus. Life in Christ is not static. It is full of motion and full of wisdom. God gives plans and keeps building on them -- growing fruit.
If I were to compare spontaneous singing in a corporate worship setting to planned and rehearsed, I would suggest that for the most part there is greatest effect spiritually, intellectually and emotionally as a group when we are singing lyric in unison. There is strength and power and blessing in that type of unity. Declaration is made vocally even if it isn't felt emotionally. If, from that, there comes a moment where the voices start drifting spontaneously, almost as if there was an invisible conductor somewhere leading the group into beautiful, unknown territory, leading us off of the planned chart - I guarantee you that I will feel uncomfortable & vulnerable, but I will want to join the unwritten symphony. I don't want to miss the adventure! I will continue asking though for direction and will endeavour to ride the new song until the Holy Spirit says 'That's sweet! We're done now.'
So I come back to the beginning of my pondering... spontaneous or rehearsed. Right or wrong? I think the answer is in both as these are merely methods of delivery. What is important is what Abraham displayed, a posture of constant listening and quick obedience. Samuel said it as well ...To obey is better than sacrifice (1 Samuel 15:22). Let's be people that bring our best offering, both to God and His people, and in that let's also be people that never stop listening & acting on His voice.
What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding. 1 Corinthians 14:15
“Come, let’s shout praises to GOD, raise the roof for the Rock who saved us! Let’s march into his presence singing praises, lifting the rafters with our hymns!”
Psalm 95:1-2 MSG
I don't think that God cares as much as we do about pitch and performance. One of my favourite singers is someone who sings with passion, gusto, and volume but rarely hits the right note. I love it when he sings!!! Why? Because I can see his heart coming out through his voice. The authentic pleasure that he has, the honour his life gives, and the gratefulness for what he has been saved from exudes from his mouth toward Christ every time he sings! It doesn't get any better than that!
If praise is an obligation, then it ceases to be praise. ~ John Mark McMillan
Don't miss the fine print in Psalm 95:1. SING for joy... God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. If you find that joy is missing and that you are not enamored by Jesus anymore, then maybe it's time you went out on a date... Meet with Him, read about Him, recall when you first met, allow your heart to engage with His again and recover that first moment of love & awe. God's love hasn't changed toward you. (by the way, the Strong's Concordance translates 'date' as 'yalak')
Bruce & I have been married for a long time :) Yup, over 34 years! We have found that laughter has often been the cure for those (inevitable) times where our relationship starts feeling a little mundane. We bond in it -- in smiles, frivolity, and yes, flirting. I think it's the same with God. My spirit surges when I start celebrating Him. When I sing with a smile and with expressions of such incredible gratitude that I feel as though I will burst! I can't articulate enough, sing enough, play enough notes or move enough. In these moments, I sense His intense pleasure and something in me comes more alive!
If obedience is better than sacrifice, then I will praise God at all times. But I confess that I want more. I want to be known by Him and to know Him. I want to be moved and impacted in the very depths of my being by His presence. I want the depths of my being to be known by Him on my alter of praise.
And the saying: "Just do it" works well here...
God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.
As I was closing my Bible this morning, my eyes caught a verse written on the inside cover... "Whoever offers praise glorifies me" Psalm 50:23a. My heart lept and then I pondered; why is this so important?
Praise is a revealer of the heart. When I praise someone, I am giving them attention, gratitude and honour. I am also giving myself something --- humility and a sense of community. Think about it. When someone says thank you, they are not just being Canadian :) They are telling us that we just played an positive part in their life (even if it was a wee one) and they appreciated it. There is recognition that we are not alone, we actually affect one another. Think of some of the phrasing in compliments: "Thanks for the cinnamon buns!" "I like you." "Thanks for holding the door." "You did a great job." "You look pretty." Etcetera, etcetera ... Compliments, given without infatuation, are forms of praise as we recognize that we need each other.
Let's take it up a notch. Thanks, compliments, acknowledgements, praise given to God for who He is, what He's given and what He is doing not only give Him great joy & honour, but serve us well, in that we are reminded of who we are, where we've come from and where we are going! When we see things correctly and give honour where honour is due, it's like a light goes on in darkness. Oh, the right perspective and humility are among some of the greatest gifts that we can own!
One more thought... This verse is not complete. Let me finish it for us: "Whoever offers praise glorifies Me; and to him who orders his conduct aright I will show the salvation of God.” Sweet!!! God is a giver of great gifts. Let's walk His walk and give Him honour for the fruit that His way brings! Have a grateful day!
Whoever offers praise glorifies Me... Psalm 50:23
(DID I JUST SAY LAW?)
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
1 Peter 2:9
I know this doesn't sound really appetizing but hey, neither are instruction manuals fun to read! ...but they make something work, right?!
I originally did this study years ago when we went through a significant shift in our church with regards to how we would worship God in our corporate settings. People who had been doing the same thing for generations were asking hard questions as to why we were changing things. Why was change was so important? I could, as the worship pastor, have given pat answers that came from my convictions but in all honesty, I had to face the fact that the foundations for what I believed in were possibly based on the traditions I was raised in.
I needed to be able to give our congregation respectful answers; answers based on truth. I needed to know what God wanted.
"We seem to have determined that church is all about us when God - the Divine Customer -
has this incredible idea that church is all about Him."
- Tommy Tenney, God's Eye View
And this is what I found. Enjoy the manual...
If you are still reading at this point, either you don't get out enough or you are really searching for God's heart. I hope you've found it! I am praying for you...
But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.
I realized again, following a discussion on praise and worship, that worship is indeed, a big word. Maybe that’s because God is BIG… It’s one of those words that bear personal and corporate meanings. It is both a noun and a verb and looks slightly different depending on the angle that you are considering it from.
I also realized that, in the church, it has possibly become somewhat of an overused word not unlike the word ‘love’. It has become the name of church gatherings (worship service), been labelled the reason for division (worship wars) and branded as a genre of music. In some ways it has developed into all we do from the preaching to the gathering to the praying. Somehow I can’t help but wonder if the essence of worship, the true, specific meaning of it has been encumbered by all of the things that we do. Have we made the term so broadminded, that we have forgotten its meaning?
Here’s what the dictionary says:
wor·ship [wur-ship] Show IPA noun, verb, wor·shiped, wor·ship·ing or ( especially British ) wor·shipped, wor·ship·ping.
1. reverent honour and homage (tribute, service) paid to God or a sacred personage,
or to any object regarded as sacred.
2. adoring reverence or regard
3. to render religious reverence and homage to
4. to feel an adoring reverence or regard for (any person or thing).
before 900; (noun) Middle English wors ( c ) hipe, worthssipe, Old English worthscipe, variant of weorthscipe; see worth, -ship; (v.) Middle English, derivative of the noun
In other words… If I interpret straight from this dictionary definition, I see that worship is the recognition of someone’s great worth and the bowing down to it. When I hear terms like ‘adoring reverence’, ‘homage’ and ‘reverent honour’ I am moved at how deep and significant this really is. It appears that worship is an expression of complete surrender and doing the bidding of someone reverenced, admired, and loved in a most extreme way. I used the word expression purposely ... for surrender without declaration is not worship. It might be slavery though...
When I consider God, my focus of worship, I am struck by His majestic power and payment for my sin, His kindness and mercy toward me, His gift of bringing me into His family and giving me eternal life. I find that I am so enamoured with Him that I am compelled to find ways to show my affection. I want to bow in reverent honour, pour out my thoughts with expressive adoration, and give my life as service to my King. I want to learn what pleases Him and love-on-Him in that manner; so much so, that He becomes my passion … my appetite and desire.
That’s why I suggest that ‘worship’ is a big word. It is a serious one that has great significance. It is something that I can only give to one, and that is God. And, because of that, I need to know His definition of it.
For it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve.' Matthew 4:10; Luke 4:8; Deuteronomy 6:13