Our Response in Worship

“I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause; I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause; I’d rather have Jesus than world-wide fame.  I’d rather be true to His holy name.” – Rhea F. Miller (1894-1966)

A few weeks ago in worship our praise band sang/played Matt Redman’s song “Where Would We Be Without Your Love” from his new “10,000 Reasons” album.

The band rehearsed on Saturday night for an hour and the song went very well on Sunday during worship.  But what happened after the song caught the attention of some others:

Nothing.

Nothing happened.

To a worship leader, silence after a song is not an issue.  In fact, I relish in the silence of the church after a song because to me, its purpose is to set the tone for the message and glorify God, not put on a show or performance.  To the congregation, though, some see silence afterwards as a lack of response.  Moreover, they interpret it as though the congregation didn’t like the song.

A friend of mine approached me about the “lack of response” after the song as a negative thing.  He suggested that the church wasn’t responding in worship.  I shared my thought process of how our song was given to God as an offering of praise.  If the congregation clapped, couldn’t that response have been one out of habit or routine?  (Recently, we wrote a synopsis of a WorshipTogether.Com article about clapping in worship.  See more of that article here.)  He said this sounded like a good blog article for me…so here we are!

What say you? 

Do our congregations clap out of habit? 

Do they respond in cases other than a “special song” by the choir or soloist? 

How do we gauge our response as worshippers in worship?

 Finally, shouldn’t our response be given in every aspect of worship…not just music?

Mike Harland , Director of Music and Worship at LifeWay said: “Worship is our response to God’s revelation to who He is and what He has done (page 9, Seven Words of Worship, 2008).”

What is a response, actually?  Well, I think the answer to this question is simple.  A response is an act done to someone or something after an encounter.

Our friend, Webster, puts the definition as “something constituting a reply or a reaction”.

In our worship, it is important to respond, but first, we must have an experience.

In Seven Words of Worship by Mike Harland, he notes that the book, Experiencing God shows us that there are seven realities in the process of experiencing God.

1. God is always at work around you.

2. God pursues a continuing love relationship with you that is real and personal.

3. God invites you to become involved with Him in His work.

4. God speaks by the Holy Spirit through the Bible, prayer, circumstances, and the church to reveal Himself, His purposes, and His ways.

5. God’s invitation for you to work with Him always leads you to a crisis of belief that requires faith and action.

6. You must make major adjustments in your life to join God in what He is doing.

7. You come to know God by experience as you obey Him and He accomplishes His work through you.

So, there you go.  Before we respond, our attention must be on the experience.  Our eyes must be on Him.  And if our eyes (and ears) are on performance, then: we clap out of routine, we say “amen” because we think it is the best spot to say it, and we give tithe out of habit, rather than give because God has first given so much to us.

The acts of silence after songs we share are as appreciated as the applause afterwards.  But, neither response means much to me.  I am not focused on the congregational response from a cheerleader’s perspective.  It is our job – as worship planners and pastors – to lead based on the calling of the Holy Spirit.  Granted, I am concerned when God works in the lives of His people and they do not react or respond.  But, how am I to know?

How am I to know if God used the silence after last Sunday’s song to move people to respond and they didn’t?  How am I to know that God didn’t lead the people to “be still” and feel His presence?  How am I to know?

I’m not supposed to know…

They are…

Worship is our response, but the response is a collective response from individuals.  I cannot make every person sing “Blessed Be the Name” or “Blessed Be Your Name” when it’s time to sing.  We can’t make everyone bow their heads and close their eyes when it’s time to pray.  We can’t make everyone take diligent notes…or just notes…during the message or bring their Bible.

We can only design, plan, prepare, and pray through the worship and then lead the people in those times of worship and pray they have the faith to step out and respond even when their neighbor doesn’t.

It’s our job to get the sign from the catcher, wind-up, throw the pitch (right down the middle) and pray the batter hits a home run.

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