Posted by Elias Dummer on 29 January 2014

Have you seen this video?

You can view it here:

Yes, it’s an ad, but it reminds of us of this eternal truth; our words matter. Just a small change in wording can radically alter the appeal and perception of just about anything - I know that from my time running a small marketing company. What we say changes how we think. 

And of all the words that we’re using, there are two that have been causing me some trouble of late; ‘worship leader’. I’m just not we’re using them correctly.

Now, I’m very grateful for the many resources – books, magazines and websites alike – that have emerged over the past twenty or thirty years, all of them aimed to equip churches in what’s commonly called the “worship renewal” movement or “contemporary worship”. But over time we’ve also seen a gradual narrowing of the definition of that word “worship”. These days it points not just to music in general, but a particular style of music. 

And because music is inherently emotional, our understanding of “worship” has become intrinsically linked to the personal encounter with a God-centered, emotional experience. When we talk about worship, we’re often talking about how we feel when we’re singing.

We arrive at church ready to meet with God, ready to close our eyes and stand like a group of islands in a dark sea, seeking these individual and transcendent emotional experiences. 

Perhaps this goes some way to explaining why some people feel as though they don’t need the corporate expression of church to worship God at all – they can have a better, more intense emotional experience with their headphones on than they do at church with its distractions and imperfections. 

Only trouble is, it’s like watching an exercise DVD from the couch and thinking that it’s as good as going to the gym. 

When we narrow the definition of worship down to music, we risk missing out on so many of the other important elements of Christian worship services; reading the word aloud, engaging in teaching within community, corporate prayer, serving, saying the creeds, sharing in the eucharist, having fellowship. It’s easy to think that these aren’t part of our worship, that they’re side shows or warm ups to the main musical event. 

And when we’re thinking like this, we’re in trouble.

Sometimes it’s good to remind ourselves what all this worship is for anyway. It isn’t so that we might have a profound experience - we worship so that God is glorified. 

But how? Simply by us saying, or singing, so?


[part two to follow]

As one-fourth of the Juno and Covenant Award winning band The City Harmonic, Elias Dummer has traveled the world to worship alongside Christians from of all walks of life. He is passionate about faith, ideas, music, culture and the Church, writing and songwriting, worship leading, and all the ways they collide.  Though originally from Hamilton (Ontario, Canada) Elias now lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with his wife Meaghan and their four children.  

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