When our worship becomes worthless – Part II: Preserving our heritage
by Erin Wikle –
In his book, The Dynamics of Corporate Worship Author Vernon Whaley unfolds the intricacies of music and worship, questioning the significance of heritage.
Whaley says, “We should focus on the purpose of music in corporate worship because people will always express concerns about preserving their musical and cultural heritage. Preserving heritage is not worship. And it is not the reason Christians join together for praise. We cease to worship when we make the preservation of our traditions and heritage the primary motive for singing and making music to God.”
It’s worth repeating: We cease to worship when we make the preservation of our traditions and heritage the primary motive for singing and making music to God.
This is not a discourse on the age-old battle of traditional versus contemporary. This isn’t even a ploy to declare some worship ministries as worthless and others as worship-filled. This is simply a call to reconsider the role heritage and history plays in our effort to be a worshipping body—in and outside of the church.
Why do we do what we do? I have made the choice to start asking myself this question, bringing it down to a more tangible level. As I consider my involvement in multiple ministries, I ask myself: Why do I do what I do? If at any time my answer does not fit within the parameters of Christ’s vision for my life, then I take that as a sign to reconsider my involvement.
Again, my purpose is not to sway you from involvement in one worship ministry for the sake of another. Whether you prefer singing soprano in the songsters or playing piano in the worship team, ask yourself why.
A few years ago I led a workshop at a youth councils on non-musical worship. It was a stretch for me to teach this class and a challenge for the young delegates to stay engaged during our exploration of a somewhat foreign concept. During our short time together we explored Scripture’s take on worshipping in spirit and in truth and spent time praying the Bible, a new concept to many. After an hour of chanting, marching, listening, singing, yelling and praying, I walked away from our time more disappointed than encouraged. Why? It wasn’t so much that several delegates fell asleep as we prayed through Psalm 139 (apparently the knowledge that God knew them before they even came to be was old news). It was this: these young people didn’t know how to worship.
And that broke my heart. I knew many of the delegates well. Some were involved in their corps’ brass band. Some wore their uniform proudly every Sunday and sang with the worship team. They knew what The Salvation Army was about; they just didn’t know what Jesus was about.
I have hope. Whether you’ve been a long-standing, steeped in tradition soldier, or you are a new believer, or even if you are an officer in The Salvation Army, I have hope that Christ will continue to compel us to offer ourselves as living sacrifices, as worship-filled creatures. I have hope that we will learn and relearn how to worship. I have hope that, when necessary, we will call into question the importance of preserving our heritage for the sake of worshipping our creator and King. I have hope that God will graciously accept our offerings and make our worship beautiful.
In Part I of When our worship becomes worthless, A.Z. Tozer states, “Worship is not something stuck on or added, like listening to a concert or admiring flowers. It is something that is built into human nature. Worship is a moral imperative.”
Count this as a reminder. If you must read it weekly, then do so, perhaps just before the start of your worship service. If you do not agree, as so poignantly put by Tozer, that worship is our moral imperative, consider this instead:
We were created by God’s hand, the master of the universe, to worship him. It is not by some divinely appointed moment that we will recognize our need to worship him—it is through our human nature that we were designed to do so! The need is inherent. The choice is not. We have our sinful nature to blame for that. But we have God’s grace to thank for the freedom to worship him in any capacity.