If corporate singing were a spiritual discipline…
1. We Wouldn’t Expect Immediate Results. No faithful practitioner of spiritual disciplines expects to walk in, practice a discipline for an hour, and leave humming a tune and tapping their toes. In the realm of spiritual practices we know that the blessing is found in the practice itself. You could practice contemplative prayer for years without any tangible outcome, uplighting feeling, or goosebumps, but you come to love and enjoy practicing the presence of God.
2. We Could Sing On Behalf Of Others. There are songs I hate, like “Amazing Grace.” I’ve never liked it, but I know “Amazing Grace” is tremendously meaningful for others. A friend recently shared with me the place of the song “Amazing Grace” in the recovery movement. The song means a great deal for members of AA and other recovery groups. Those folks are in my church. As a spiritual discipline, I can sing that song – though I despise it – on their behalf. I sing, therefore, not because it’s efficacious for me, but those around me.
3. We Could Be Less Manipulative. I hate to be the one to tell you, but many worship experiences are designed to manipulate your feelings. That’s not all bad. Church leaders should want you to do something at the end of a service, and music is frequently used to disarm congregants toward that end. Anecdotally, Christian Rich Mullins was approached by a fan. The fan said, “I was really moved during the song, going into the third verse. I felt The Spirit.” Mullins responded, “That wasn’t The Spirit. That was just when the kick-drum came in.” Perhaps, as a spiritual practice, all of us would be more open to simply allowing God to move in our midst rather than modulating up the last chorus, jumping around, turning up the volume, and hosts of other tricks we invent to gin up the congregation?
4. We Could Hear The God of The Desert. Perhaps God doesn’t want us to sing the songs we love. Might it be possible that some of us have come to praise our worship and worship our praise and the call of God for us is to go into the desert; to experience emptiness in an area of life we have come to overly depend? If so, could all of the church-hopping and in-fighting over music over the last 20-years been our avoidance of entering the space in which God wants to lead us. Could it be possible that one of the reason we are not experiencing greater engagement with God is because we have abandoned His voice and chosen a tune we like. We must never forget, before Jesus begins His life of impact, He goes into the desert.
5. We Could Actually Praise God. We have to ask ourselves serious questions about the nature of who we worship for when we walk out of common worship upset with God-directed music and lyrics, regardless of whether or not the praise team was “singing our tune.” If corporate singing were a spiritual discipline God would be at the center of it and in God’s presence, humankind has always simply bowed.
I am coming to the belief that reframing common worship as a spiritual discipline is the only way to rescue the church from never-ending and bloody worship battles that maintain the unity of the church. What ideas do you have?