The Worship Business
- Thursday, August 26, 2004
It seems to me that true worship happens when a humbled heart draws near to God and sees reality as God sees it, as much as is humanly possible. In the center of this kind of worship few human illusions exist. They can’t breathe. There’s too much Spirit and Truth to accommodate them. The rule and reign of God shout and whisper, circling a person with majesty on one hand and minutiae of detail on the other. The relentless, patient tenderness of this knowable God is overwhelming. He is a God who creates and relates, who talks to His creation, walks with them and rescues them from sin, death and unnamable wrath. The worshiper knows that everything, everywhere good and true is of grace. It’s all a gift. And because it is, the worshiper responds by thinking, feeling, speaking and acting on the truth that all honor, thanks, praise and glory belongs to God and God alone.
God’s grace is a certainty. It comes to people via storytelling and storied living through the life of the teacher and master Jesus. He amazes people and thaws them out to feel wonder again. And so they praise God. This is the “why” of worship.
Not satisfied with that answer? OK, let’s ask again. Why worship? How can a student/follower not?! For Christians, it is a fact that God is Creator and re-Creator. We tell Him: “You alone are worthy of worship. Your excellence compels us to speak and sing this certainty back to You, to say, ‘Yes,’ with our hearts, lips and hands what is already a ‘yes’ existentially.” Christians believe that you can’t watch God work and not be moved to worship. This belief is worship as a response.
Worship. What a great business to be in — as in “an important concern” and not “commercial activity.” Test yourself on this. Which business are you in? How will you behave when one of these young, popular lead worshipers decides to write and sing about all of life as a follower of Jesus and, as a result, stops using language so easily identifiable as “worship” language. Will you say that he or she has abandoned writing worship music — Christian music? Will you say that the artist has stopped writing vertical lyrics?
Personally, I don’t think it’s very helpful to categorize lyrics as “vertical” or “horizontal.” Vertical is used to describe a lyric that is directed at God — that is, one from humans on Earth to God above (hence the vertical description). Or, it can describe the two-way conversation between God and humankind. Horizontal describes the lyric realm of human relationships, culture and the whole of creation (hence horizontal).
People in the worship arts and the Christian music business use these terms often, especially in working with songwriters. Though I’ve read some arguments for so-called “vertical worship,” which are more holistic in scope (e.g. Sally Morgenthaler), I still think these distinctions are unhealthy and unnecessary. I’ll tell you why. I’m under the impression that the God-human-creation conversation is omni-directional and that God has perfect and total authority over all directions, in all spheres — everyone, everywhere and everything. The categories of horizontal and vertical create a false impression of the Christian life and contribute to the pandemic of compart-mentalization that has infected the church.
Hard to understand? Not really. Just ask yourself some questions: If God really is represented in the vertical, is there anyone, anywhere or anything horizontal that shouldn’t be a part of our ongoing conversation with Him? The answer is “no.” Is there anything good that we should not worship Him for?
The real worship business is 24/7, all directions, all the time, gladness of heart and praise for everything. It is not something that experiences popularity then wanes. It is not a market-share. Instead it governs and is the reason for all good markets. Because He is, we can be, with love, care and unceasing meaning. We proclaim this sure truth back to Him at all times and in many ways. This is an important concern of all who follow Jesus. It is not a commercial activity. If you have gotten it turned around, turn around and leap into the arms of sanity — Jesus Himself.
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