Music is best when it provokes an emotion. Whether it’s anger, peace, joy, sadness. Good art has the power to change our views, surprise us and inspire. To look outside of ourselves. To connect with other people.
If you’ve been to a show to see a band you know what I am talking about. The feeling that arises when everyone is connected with the music. It’s an incredible feeling, one that explains why for me growing up I much preferred being at a gig with my friends than at Church.
The Ulster Hall was my church. The Barrowlands in Glasgow was my Cathedral.
It connected me with my friends and brought us closer. We had experienced something incredible together and we all had that in common. I don’t see those same friends as much anymore (mostly because I live across the Atlantic ocean than anything else) but they are the ones who when we do meet up even if it’s months or years in between, I am never nervous about seeing.
We have all sorts of connections from growing up that are stronger than time or distance.
That is special.
That is what worship music should do for Christians too.
It should connect a group of people around a common goal of seeing the world outside of ourselves. It should point to God and focus on the love He has for us and the world. It should inspire us to seek justice and to reflect something of His character into the world.
I have had similar experiences to the ones I described with my friends at concerts in church settings too and I can say they have probably been the most significant experiences in my faith.
There is nothing quite like worshiping God through songs that unite us, that remind us of our new lives and the purpose of sharing our new lives in a way that welcomes people rather than exclude them.
Most of worship songs today though focus on the “me” and the “I”. Which is important. How can we share peace with others if we are not at peace with ourselves. But to my shame most of those experiences walking out of a worship session left me feeling great about my relationship with God but rarely any different about my relationship with the people I shared it with. Never mind my relationships with people who were outside of it all.
Which perhaps was my problem. That I saw it as such. That there was us, or more honestly, me inside feeling good about God and those outside who weren’t interested. Rather than seeing us all as people equally in need to be told that this was not all there was.
It’s little wonder then that worship music became stale to me. That I started to feel awkward in worship settings. That I started to care more about whether I put my hands up at the right moment than connecting with others openly. That I made sure that I at least looked like I was one with God even if I wished to be doing anything else, anywhere else.
It had become so much about me that in the process I started to doubt myself.
I felt naked. Is this what happened to Adam and Eve? Had they become so concentrated on themselves that they forgot that they didn’t need clothes? Is this what happens when worship music goes bad?
Worship music should not make us feel vulnerable but empowered. Empowered to be honest with how we are doing rather than wanting to make sure people think we are Holy. Empowered to break through seeing worship as just about music but about how we interact with people, how we treat waiters, how we play sport, how we disagree, how we don’t judge and how we bring hope.
When this happens we can put worship music in it’s correct place. With a purpose not in of the worship itself but about creating unique ways of seeing further outside of ourselves to others.
This is why I am slowly realizing I am naked and being ok with it.
This is why I am falling back in love with worship music.