Mindful Corporate Worship
I have loved worship music since I was a little kid. I remember that one Christmas my dad bought my mom and large stereo-system and from the time it was set up it was rarely turned off. Contemporary Christian music would fill our house from sun-up to sun-down. I grew up listening to the likes of Michael W. Smith, Stephen Curtis Chapman, Sandi Patti, Damaris Carbaugh, Philips, Craig, and Dean, and, yes, Petra!
In middle school I began attending a private Christian school in middle school. It was here that I saw for the first time a worship band complete with electric guitar, bass, and drums. This newly experienced phenomena changed my life. As I watched the upper classmen play in the band I was determined that I would be doing that someday.
On my thirteenth birthday I received the most significant present I would ever receive - a drum set. This started me on a journey that would eventually lead to me playing in a band, in a stadium, with professional artists, and at many churches in my city.. I say this not to boast but to convey the reality that I have been around worship my entire life. There are few songs in the realm of worship that are foreign to me.
Recently, however, I was challenged when it came to the concept of mindful worship. You see, like anything else, worship can become something that becomes automatic, routine, and robotic. This can certainly be the case if a large portion of your life is spent doing what I did. I cannot count the number of worship services that I have played in, but I wonder in how many of those worship services was I mindfully worshiping God.
There is something very important to understand about worship - it is anything but going through ritualistic motions. Worship is anything but simply saying or singing lyrics with our mouth. True worship springs from the heart, is engaged with the mind, and spoken out with the mouth.
Too often, Christians do not engage in corporate worship in a mindful way. I know that I have been guilty of this. Worship becomes a mindless activity. Lyrics are sung, but the lyrics are not understood. I cannot tell you the number of times I found myself in a corporate worship setting singing a popular worship song only to realize that my mind had been disengaged the entire time. I was reciting lyrics, but my heart and mind were disengaged.
This is a dangerous territory to tread when it comes to worship.
In Deuteronomy 6:5 God says to the Israelites, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might." The words "heart, soul, and might" stand out to me. The use of these words conveys an actionable and thoughtful worship of God. This is not a call to ritual worship, mindless worship, or mere external appearance. This is the call to mindful worship.
Later in John 4:23 Jesus is talking with a Samaritan women and says, "But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” Again, like its Old Testament counterpart, this is not a call to ritual worship or mere external appearance. This is a call to mindful worship.
If there is one thing that God is not pleased with it is external actions that have no heart behind them. In Isaiah, God speaks to Israel through the prophet and chastises Israel for going through the motions of worship. "I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beats; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats" (Isa. 1:11). He tells the Israelites that their external worship has become a burden to him and because it is not translating to their heart.
Could it be that the same spirit has crept into modern corporate worship settings? Could many Christians be guilty of worshiping mindlessly?
I have been challenged by this and I am determined to change my approach. When I enter a corporate worship setting I am not entering into a moment where I sing worship songs with my mouth while my mind and heart are disengaged. When I worship through song I am speaking out truths that I must believe in my heart and understand with my mind. I agree with the Psalmist who writes, "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight" (Ps. 19:14).
May the words that I sing and speak in worship be pleasing because they are spoken with an engaged heart and mind.
May all of those who call themselves Christians pursue a mindful worship that engages the heart, soul, and mind for the glory of God.