I’m not the biggest concert person, but a couple weeks ago I went to John Mark McMillan’s concert when he was here in Eugene. It was so freaking awesome. The last concert I had gone to before then was for a band called The Swell Season, way back in the fall of ’09. And while that concert was awesome as well, there is a major difference between the two.
The Swell Season’s concert contained lots of booze and cuss words. When people cheered, they were praising the band’s musical talents and voices; not anything else. But at John’s concert, all of the songs were, in a way, worship songs to God. At one point during the concert, he got us started on a lyric that we’d repeat for a while and the crowd was so into the moment that our eyes were closed. When we finally heard the music stop, we opened our eyes to an empty stage; John Mark and his band (all but one guitarist) had gone backstage.
There is something about worshiping God through music and song that is just liberating. Closing your eyes, lifting up your hands, shouting out the lyrics – not caring if you get them right, and sometimes even dancing to the beats seems to speak in a way that we can’t through anything else. Books, blogs, sermons, devotionals, and even prayers can’t move me the way that music tends to. It’s like it’s its own language.
What seems strange to me, though, is how this feeling from worship changes when I show up to church on Sunday morning. For whatever reason, I find myself focusing on the rhythm, notes, and tempo of each song rather than the God those songs are written for. You see, unlike most concerts, when we gather on Sunday morning to sing and play music, it isn’t for ourselves or for the masses filing in through the doors; it’s for God.
During worship services, I don’t normally lift up my hands. I don’t know why; could be fear, could be that I don’t want to feel awkward, or it could be that I don’t want to workout my shoulders. Whatever the reason may be, my hands usually sit nice and comfortably hanging on my pockets. And yet, when I go to Autzen Stadium and cheer on my beloved Ducks, my hands rarely rest at my side.
It seems strange to me how quickly I change modes when I walk into Calvary Fellowship. Outside of it, I’m much more relaxed and comfortable cheering on my favorite teams and players without care or concern what other people think of me. But when I gather with the fellowship – fellow members of the same faith and church body I’m a part of – I suddenly become self-conscious about ridiculous stuff. I’m not trying to beat myself up over this; just pointing out an inconsistency in my own life.
One passage that encapsulates what worship is all about comes from 2 Samuel 6. At this point, David basically gets naked and dances around in public in worship to God. No, I’m not encouraging people to pretend skinny dipping in the middle of service, but I do want to highlight what David says when someone tried to rebuke him; “I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes,” (vv. 21b-22).
Worship isn’t about praising the talents of the musicians on stage or about getting the lyrics right or not sounding terrible amidst the congregation; it’s about praising God. The great thing about concerts for God is that they don’t have to be perfect. You can raise your hands, shout the lyrics, make up your own, pray, read Scriptures, lay down on the floor, stand up on a chair – do whatever it takes to experience the freedom God offers us in worship. Thinking about it this way, then, it seems obvious to me that worship is more beneficial for us than for God.
When Sunday morning arrives, let go. Let go of your concern for how well you’re singing or if you should close your eyes or whatever else might distract you. Lift up your hands, your voices, and – more importantly – your hearts to God – not because He needs it, but because you need it. Our time with God matters more than the social standards of our day. It’s okay to be a little crazy for Jesus.
Here are a couple videos that show what I mean about being crazy to the glory of God. Enjoy: