I will sing to the Lord as long as I live. I will praise my God to my last breath.
I was nine years old when I attended my first week of Bible camp. I came back singing. The preacher’s daughter (who provided my transportation) told my parents this story about our four hour return trip: if I wasn’t singing, I was sleeping, and if I wasn’t sleeping, I was singing. And I’ve been singing ever since.
Years later it became a sort of joke in our youth group that “Let’s sing!” was all I ever proposed doing. And sing we would. Our church building had a back stairwell where the sound of our voices reverberated particularly beautifully, and when we wanted to sing, that’s where we would go.
I remember learning new worship songs at the Tulsa Workshop. We still used overhead projectors back then. Nowadays we have Zoe Group for teaching us new acappella songs, but when I was a teenager, the only group singing acappella worship songs was Free Indeed, and boy was I in love. They still produced cassette tapes back then. I remember collecting those tapes and singing my little heart out to and from school in a massive maroon Mercury Sable.
I was always singing. I took voice lessons. I was in choir at school. I sang in the shower. I joined the church youth group choir (Go CYC!). I wanted to be like my singer/songwriter hero Twila Paris — though this probably had more to do with my pride than anything else. In college I sang on the worship team at our campus ministry, but after a couple years of singing into a microphone, I quit. I just couldn’t shake the feeling that my singing up front was too much about ME.
I may not sing on a stage anymore, but I can’t get enough of worshipping God through song. It’s one of the strongest ways I relate to God. I crave it, whether it’s in a large group with modern worship anthems, or a small group singing “camp songs” around a fire, or by myself, picking out simple hymns on the piano or blaring worship music through my tiny purple iPod shuffle.
Worshipping in song is still my favorite part of a Sunday (or anyday) service. It’s where I most often and most consistently meet God. It’s what takes me “past the outer courts into the holy place,” and I can’t get enough of it. I get crazy excited singing songs about God’s worthiness and holiness, whether it’s Jesus Culture’s “Alleluia,” David Brymer’s “Worthy of It All,” Brandon Hampton’s “There is Only One Found Worthy,” or Kari Jobe’s “Forever.” Worship never gets old for me.
We preach to ourselves through our worship music. Laura Hackett Park puts it this way: “Sometimes you gotta sing your way into the truth.” Singing the truth tends to penetrate my heart much faster than someone simply instructing me — that’s especially true if I’m in a spiritually resistant phase. Singing is more participatory than preaching, and if feels safer too, as though I’m choosing to believe and obey instead of being ordered to believe and obey. A song might send the same message as a sermon, but it speaks to my heart instead of lecturing to my head.
Worship music opens the door for hearing God’s voice. That’s why we must make space for worship in song. We have to take the time to let the words sink deep into our souls and allow God to speak to us there. Some of the most important things God says to me happen in worship. Weird, unexpected things happen to my attitude. And they are holy moments, these times when I invite God into my heart in order to change it.
I’ve come to realize that my role in calling believers to worship may not be through “my” music or “my” singing, but it will be through sharing my experiences in worship. It will be through encouraging the Body not to neglect both private and public worship.
I may never be a worship leader or lead singer the way I used to dream. But may I always and ever be known as a Worshipper. May I be someone who calls people to worship. We must be a Church full of worshippers. The world needs to see us loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. And honestly, when we worship? It’s just a little taste of heaven.
So I will be a worshipper. I will worship alone, in the secret place, and I will worship corporately, with other believers, and I will call the saints to worship even more deeply than before.
I will be a worshipper.
Other posts in The Church series:
Hungry for Community
“Me Too” Moments
On Not Being the Casserole Lady
Dear American Church
Authenticity is Not New