Why I love Church. But not as you know it.

So Don Miller says he doesn’t enjoy church services and Christians get defensive instead of asking why? Truth be told in the last three years I didn’t go to church for the teaching or worship etc. but for the community. Sundays were an extension of the rest of the week and the everyday life I had with my church family was more important. As a result I fell in love with the body of Christ again. Not by singing “Blessed Be Your Name” for a millionth time.

Let me explain why. Continue reading

Worshipping worship.


Everyone knows why prayer is important right? Everyone knows why we should read our Bibles? These seem like pretty obvious ideas for Christians to implement. But what about worship?

I used to think worship as something that not everyone was supposed to do. I mean I have heard some people sing and I’m not quite sure how those noises can bring Glory to God. Regardless of my or your musical ability, worship is something that I think we can all benefit from partaking in.

So first off, perhaps the fact that some of us have been blessed with a good ear while others it seems were last in the line for musical ability. shows that worship is more than just music.

I think that much should be clear to most people; so how then can we move forward and offer a definition of worship that can welcome everyone.

Let me suggest one. Continue reading

Why I loved, then hated and started to love worship music again. Part 1.

If worship music and I were in a relationship we would be Ross and Rachel. We are meant to be together but we’ve had our ups and downs over the years; even been on a break but ultimately everyone knows we’ll end up together.

Even writing this about how I am falling in love with worship music again, or at least the idea of worship music, I know that by next week we could have had a massive falling out.

Worship music for me was always about a song that could create an emotion in me. One that made me feel close to God or excited about God; made me feel like all the stuff that I know messes me up is forgiven and gave me hope.

There were songs that I loved to sing with other believers and honestly some of the times I have felt most at peace in this life has been with other Christians singing these songs. I remember listening to Amy Grant and Marantha! worship cassette tapes as a kid in the car. Going further back I remember Psalty. Worship in song form has shaped my faith in so many ways.

Then something changed. I started to grow tired of worship music and I started to tire of God. I am pretty confident that the correlation between my struggles with worship music and with God are linked. There are obviously a lot of other factors such as sin or life circumstances or my doubt (or my misbelief that doubt relates to the absence of God), but none of these were as loud in my life when my relationship with worship music was strong.

So what changed?

Well I did for a start. After a while Psalty just didn’t cut it. So he got thrown out (If your get that reference then you were a Psalty kid too) After a while I also became embarrassed by many practices in church some of which were music related.

Which was a big thing for me.

Music was something that was important to me. Music was the thing that most of my close friends and I bonded over. Discovering new music, going to shows and generally spending all our money on CD’s was our favorite thing to do together. We liked the same bands and we liked different bands but music was at the core of most of what we did together.

The problem with worship music was that it just didn’t match up to the music I was listening to. It wasn’t as good musically, most of the songs sounded the same and it all seemed so contrite. As a teenager most of my spiritual experiences were to be found in a dark club watching a band rather than in a Church with my hands in the air.

Worship music it seemed to me, became less about worship and more about performance. Worship leaders had to look good, kids at shows were there more to be seen than anything else and the lyrics were unconnected to anything that I was going through or feeling.

If I didn’t feel good during the worship part of a service then I felt left out as if I was an imposter. Music and faith was all connected in how you were doing. But what about the times when I didn’t feel like God loved me? How could I sing ‘Blessed be His name’ then?

Then there was of course the style of music. I hate most Christian music. There I said it. I know I am not the only one. But even the style of music wasn’t so much the problem as was the lack of creativity that it showed.

And here in lies the problem I had with most worship music. I believed and believe that God is a creative God. A God who is constantly creating and recreating life. In our individual lives, in our communities and in every part of human life. But I believe that Christianity excludes this character of God more often than not. If a Christian artist is relying on sounding like Snow Patrol or by changing the lyrics of Coldplay songs to express something then we are in trouble.

Now, I realize that much of this post is negative and it has probably made some people upset or angry and that is ok. It is ok because for a long time I felt that way too. For so long I fought against worship music in my mind until I realised that my unhappiness was actually a good thing. It was a good thing because my problems with it mainly came from the feeling that there must be more. That worship music should be creative, surprising and ground breaking.

My unhappiness was simply the process of me increasingly lining up more and more with who God is.

A God who loves to create.

So as I struggled with worship music in church and the subsequent struggle with who God is I realized that there was hope all along. That God had been trying to say something to me about who He is and who I am.

So I took worship music back. I started to look for music that was creative, yet still pointed to God in a way that helped me grow. I looked for music that was honest, even when that was ugly in comparison to how much of worship music portrays those who are feeling good about God as the norm.

I found artists like Gungor. Bands who didn’t rely on old formulas or old cliches. Bands whose sound changed with every album. Bands who were creative and equally comfortable writing songs about struggling alongside songs of praise to God.

About a God who wants worship to be something that doesn’t just deal with the nice, happy emotions but with the ugly, unspeakable ones too.

Worship that is real and honest.

Or as we’ll discover in Part 2, worship that is more than just about music.

When worship music sucks

Music is food for the soul. That’s what they say isn’t it? Yet I can come out of church and feel more hungry than ever.

I’ve always had a love hate relationship with worship and music in church. I own albums by some of the most well know worship acts around today, but more often than not this type of music is missing something for me. There is an easiness to it that I don’t find sits well with me. Worship music has become music by numbers. We try and write songs that could easily sound as if they are Coldplay and Snow Patrol songs. Which is alright unless you aren’t a fan of those bands.

Then you might as well be outside. Continue reading

Death, worship and remembering God is here.

Three things have been shaping my view of worship in the last while. Corporate worship, the music of Gungor and the death of a close friend. This may not seem like a list that easily connects to each other and perhaps they don’t, but let me explain.

A few weeks ago Brittany’s ‘wife’ Sarah was killed in an accident on the road in Michigan. The details aren’t too important to this but it’s safe to say it was completely unexpected and shocking. Now when something like this happens when you lose your best friend, your sister or your daughter it is hard to see what the point is. There are no words that can change the situation or make it bearable. It is simply painful.

Getting past that point is extremely difficult. To see exactly why God would allow the life of a creative filled, kind and joyous person to end so abruptly doesn’t make sense. Maybe it never will.

We want to find ways to ignore pain or make it disappear so sometimes we use words and actions to try and block it out. But often they do more harm than good.

To experience the sort of pain that we felt and still do, we need to have faith in a God that doesn’t hide away from our tears or our angry questions, but welcomes them. God is in the pain, we don’t need to suppress it to feel close to Him.

Which is why I have a problem with a lot of ‘worship music’. How does one come to worship God when life makes us feel like there is nothing to worship? Does our worship music help us grieve for example or does it simply strive to make us feel good in a moment.

And this is one reason why worship music will never satisfy us. Why a lot of peope feel uncomfortable standing amongst people who have their eyes closed and hands raised. If you are not in that place where you feel you can do that, and are made to feel like this is what worship looks like, it will leave you feeling lonely and far from God. It will demand that you question what you are doing wrong and will ultimately cause you to try and feel God through actions.

I am not saying that all corporate music is unhelpful or misguided. Amongst the most intimate moments I have ever had with God have been in a setting where I have indeed had my eyes closed and arms raised. Even very recently.

The loneliest I have felt and far from God, have also occurred in these places though.

Our definitions of worship have left us with a God who is in a tiny box that we are constantly trying to squeeze into. A box that blocks out the world and it’s darkness. A world where pain is present, right in our face and unbearable.

I don’t blame anyone for wanting to squeeze in.

God is in the box, but the box is only so big and eventually the world will put so much pressure on the walls that we will die inside it.

And we are left with confusion at where God went.

But when we look at worship, simply as living on this Earth acknowledging the presence of God already there, then we don’t need to be frightened of pain and despair. It’s there that we actually find joy.

Not a joy that makes us feel happy or warm, but transcends how we feel in particular moments. There is joy at the funeral of your best friend. You do not feel it maybe but it is there and our sin and our doubts don’t change that fact. This is what Grace is about. Not simply a way to get us out of the pain, but which allows us to dwell in it.

Let’s sing and praise God. Let’s be over joyous and ecstatic. Let us let our inhibitions fall away and welcome God in. I want to smile and be happy in corporate worship.

But let’s not forget this is not the only place where God is.

He is in the pain.

He was there before we knew it.

And He will be there when we leave it.

Because no matter how we feel about corporate worship, no matter how good we feel when we partake in it or how shitty we feel,

This is not the end.