If you had one phrase to describe the corporate worship gathering of your church, what would it be? Lively? Stoic? Spirited? Mundane?
Over the years, I’ve experienced just about every type of atmosphere in worship. One church I served had a spirited, responsive atmosphere where the altar was full and the participation was amazing. People sang, shouted “Amen” and “Hallelujah, ” clapped and lifted their hands. It felt free because it seemed like everyone wanted to be there and take part.
But another church I was part of was much more reserved. People would participate, but in a quieter, more reflective way. It seemed like most folks were engaged, but you couldn’t really tell from the externals. I found myself wondering sometimes if the people felt really free to worship.
But thinking like that can be a trap. The truth is… you can’t really tell what is going on by just what you see and hear. The church that felt free struggled to meet its budget because people weren’t as generous in their giving; While the church that was more reserved was one of the most giving and loving groups of people I’ve ever known. Who’s to say which one was really hitting the mark in their worship?
I realized something about freedom in worship several years ago, and it is this:
Freedom in worship is not when you overcome your inhibitions – it’s when God overcomes you.
And when God overcomes you, you will be free to lift your hands – or not. You’ll be free to sing and shout – or sit in silence. When God overcomes you, your life takes on more of the essence of Jesus’ character – which may be in ways no one else can see.
When you find yourself in a worship service all knotted up over what everyone else is or isn’t doing, then you may not have come to the place where you are so overwhelmed with Him that you don’t even notice what is going on around you. When that happens, you won’t be drawing a spiritual assessment on how well your fellow worshippers are doing. You’ll be overwhelmed at grace.
You might shout – but you might sit in stunned silence.
When Jesus is all you can see, you will finally know what freedom in worship is all about.
Mike Harland is the Director of LifeWay Worship. When he’s not directing 30+ employees, you’ll find him leading worship at various churches around the country, writing/arranging worship songs and/or, writing his next book. In his spare time, he loves playing basketball and spending time with his family. Mike can be found on Twitter @MikeHarlandLW and on facebook.com/Mike.Harland.37.