Rant may not be the exactly right word. I just have these thoughts rolling around that I want to get out. Thoughts about praise and worship.
I think I have a very specific and, in the wider Christian world, unique view on what worship is and what it looks/sounds/feels like. This view is very definitely the influence of years of teaching from Don Potter, Ray Hughes, and Suzy Yaraei and experiencing worship led by them and others at MorningStar where I went to church for nine years.
When I left MS and Charlotte to head to England I knew that experiencing worship in this new place was going to be a lot different to what I was used to. And I want to say from the very beginning that I have experienced the presence of the Lord just as strongly in the back room of a pub with an acoustic guitar and no sound equipment as I have in an auditorium of people and a full band with state of the art equipment.
I just feel like the word worship is used too frequently, in too flippant a manner, and also in a limiting way. If you go back to the Hebrew and dig into the seven Hebrew words for praise you will very quickly see that there are only one or two that refer to singing and only a couple more that refer to music. Most of the words have to do with a physical act of expression. Not to mention the Greek word for worship implies a relationship like that of a slave to master. The act of a dog licking its master's hand.
You've probably heard a lot of this before. We're told in the Psalms to bring the Lord a sacrifice of praise. I just wonder how much of a sacrifice it really is to get dressed in our pretty clothes, go to a meeting with all our friends, and sing songs that make us feel good.
There's also something really powerful about offering the Lord something that is uniquely you. Something that no one else in the world can offer him. Why is it that so many "worship" songs and leaders sound exactly alike? Each of us is created as a unique individual with something to bring to the Lord and to the body of Christ that no one else can bring. I believe, and believe it passionately, that our worship should reflect this.
A few weeks ago I was listening to a worship album that is 10 years old. (This, in fact, is what stirred the thoughts that led to this post.) Ten years ago this album was ground breaking, fresh, revolutionary. And somehow, 10 years later, it still is. I believe that is because the artists wrote songs that spoke directly from their heart. The music is a reflection of their individuality. The passion they have for the Lord and for his church is obvious. (That album is Enter the Worship Circle by 100 Portraits and Waterdeep.)
Worship should be a response, the deepest parts of us call out to the deepest part of God. Singing a song which is a prayer for the Lord to bless us is not worship. I'm not saying there isn't a place for songs like this. Songs that ask the Lord to fill us with his Spirit and courage to go out and minister to the lost and hurting world are very powerful. They are intercessory prayers. But they are not worship. Songs that reaffirm the Lord's love for his church are also very powerful. But again, this is not worship.
Worship is about acknowledging the awesome worthiness of the all powerful God who created the universe and every living thing in it. Worship is about realizing that in comparison man is dust and of no account. The reason that we have any worth at all is because this God, this majestic, beautiful, powerful God loves us and values us. And that is what worship is about. Not about making us feel better about ourselves. Not about calling the church to action. Simply about realizing who God is and giving him his rightful place in our lives.
Now I think praise and worship are two different things. Praise is about expressing our love and thankfulness to the Lord. Blessing him and honoring him for who he is and what he has done for us. Praise is about verbalizing (though maybe in paint or dance, not always in words) how we feel towards God. It is often God's response to this praise that leads us into worship. That deep place of (inner) silence where we (at least begin to) truly know him.
There's a lot more I could say. I've just really skimmed over the surface of this vast subject. (I haven't said anything about living a life of worship, being a living sacrifice.) But maybe this will help still my thoughts about this a little bit. I hope you don't mind.