When I was in ninth grade, my youth group and I took a trip to Kansas City for a youth conference, Acquire the Fire. On the way home, my friends and I were talking about the event-and complaining about the music.
The band that lead worship was a talented group of people. But they chose the same songs for every worship session. And they repeated the same lines over. And over. And over again. We all agreed that the worship would have been better if we’d been able to sing different songs. Or maybe if we sang the chorus twice instead of twenty times.
A dear friend and mentor heard the conversation, and fortunately stepped in. She challenged us to see worship in a different way. To see the Lord instead of the lyrics on the screen. To have a heart of worship regardless of how many times you’ve repeated the same phrase. She told us that worship is more about where our heart is than the quality of the music.
That night, she began to teach me a lesson that I still haven’t learned. I still find myself criticizing worship leaders and aspects of the worship bands (which is ironic considering I can’t carry a tune to save my life.) I still find myself saying “if they could just play it the right way, it would be easier to worship.”
This mentality takes the responsibility off of my shoulders. If I blame the band for my lack of worship because they were playing a song too fast, then I don’t have to confront my own failures in worship. I don’t have to admit that I was holding on to anger and that it was keeping me from worship. I don’t have to admit that I wasn’t willing to let go of my daydreams to focus on the Lord that has never stopped focusing on me. I don’t have to admit that I failed the one who would never fail me.
But by blaming the band or the song choice, I’m also telling God that my ability to worship is based on external factors. It is based on the people I’m with and what they’ll think of me. There are times where I’m hesitant to raise my hand in praise because heaven forbid I do something unusual. How different a picture that is from King David, who danced before the Lord with complete disregard for anyone else’s opinions-including his wife’s.
Since that conversation in Kansas City, I’ve come a long way with worship. I am more deliberate with where my heart is when I sing praises, and I understand that worship isn’t about the song. As I move forward in my relationship with the Lord, I want to deepen this intentionality so that my worship fills all my actions, not just the ones when I stand in the church pew. I was created to praise the Lord in all I do, and I’m not going to let a song put a damper on that.