So I’ve been following along with this series called “The Journey of Worship”” taught by Ray Hughes,at Grace Center in Franklin, TN. You can watch the videos here. 

And I got his 107 Things I Forgot to Say by Ray Hughesbook “107 Things I Forgot To Say The Last Time I Talked About Worship, Creativity and Music

It’s a guided journal exercise to “slow down”, fully experience life, and hear the voice of God. Like all things, you can get as much out of it as you’re willing to put into it.

In this article I’ll share my first journal entry. His first inciting quote from page 1 is this:

“If we can change the way that the church understands music and worship, we will change the way the world encounters God.”  – Ray Hughes

This is a big idea, and quite profound if you’re serious about exploring and applying the answers. This is important because, in many areas, the “world” is rejecting God as represented today by the church. Many, many churches are struggling and in decline. 

So my prayer is first, “Lord help me, for myself, understand what this needs to be”

Here’s some of what I understand about music and worship.

1. Music-in-worship is a response to God.

Worship is a response to the revelation of God’s immense love, the revelation of His identity. And worship is your response to your new identity in Christ. When your individual response is joined with other believers, that gathered response is church worship.

Music is not the only response. Yes, in many churches, music is a primary response and expression of worship, but it does not have to be the only one.

By comparison, and what I have seen in application, is that some churches understand music-in-worship is to be several other things.

  • Some churches see music as a method of attraction.
  • Some employ music as a type of “spiritual entertainment”.
  • Some musicians and worship leaders understand worship music as a form of self-expression, or worse, self promotion.
  • Some ministers understand the power of music to affect emotions and use it in a manipulative manner.

All of these represent mis-understandings of the way music should be understood and implemented in worship.

2. Worship is both a worldview and a lifestyle.

Worship as a world view is a lens, a grid, a framework to understand, perceive, interpret and offer perspective on life.

Worship as a lifestyle means you understand your unique identity as precious, original, and designed to be connected with God and others.

Metaphorically speaking, your “sound”, the sound of your life, is part of a greater whole, a symphony of other lives and instruments playing from God’s music script.

The idea of “song” is a metaphor for one’s life and it’s message. It is intrinsically beautiful and worthwhile. Your life’s “song” is part of God’s song book. Your contribution is part of God’s body of work. That’s a pretty good book to be in!

3. How does the world encounter God?

Directly through His message, primarily though His word and His presence. “The heavens declare the glory of God”.

But also through His messengers. Your life and and your words can be part of His message, if you let it be. Collectively as the church, we represent God, and the world can encounter Him through us.

So what do they encounter as a result of the way the church understands music and worship?

Well sometimes a lot of ‘show, a lot of “performance”, a lot of trying to impress an audience.

The world is not impressed, and why should they be?

What every generation of humanity is seeking is truth, and hospitality, and an experience of love and belonging. People sense the presence of God in our midst when we welcome them warmly, and show our love for God and one another wholeheartedly.

Sometimes our misunderstandings of music-in-worship lead us to be a bunch of isolated individuals having a personal devotional time in the same room. Other times we’re a hyped up audience at a rock concert. Sometimes we’re just finicky consumers demanding a spiritual experience.

Another way the world encounters God as a result of the way the church understands music and worship is as dead, boring and irrelevant. Lifeless singing of lifeless songs, hopelessly out of touch with the very people in the room. This is what the world experiences.

Here’s what I would change about how the church understands music and worship.

First change the mentality. Second, change the practices. Here’s where I’d start.

1. Congregational and Leadership Mentality. Shift the mindset from consumers of a particular preference to givers of a sacrifice of praise. Musical style and leadership personality should not matter.

2. Musical Leadership. Change the emphasis of worship teams from cover bands playing karaoke to innovators and poets collaborating to express a unique sound reflecting and shaping the identity of the community’e culture.

3. Service Design. Shift from legalistic, formal, stay inside the box pattern of canned repetitive religious services; or highly produced pavlovian responses of learned behavior –  to fresh, creative, and thoughtfully organized discoveries of identity through scripture and intentional encounter with the active presence of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

4. Communal Singing. Change the understanding from music as something only special people lead, to a community that sings as one voice (and can hear themselves singing!) with no “stars.”

I think if we could change the way “the church” (and more importantly leadership) understands and actually practices music and worship in this directions, then yes, we could change the way the world encounters God. And that would be very good indeed.

Of course there’s much more to this, but that’s where I would begin.

What about you? What would you change about the way the church understands worship and music,  and how could that change the world? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Share in the comments.