Worship Frustration

November 16, 2006 — 12 Comments

“Worship is an act of obedience of the heart. It is a response that requires the very core of who you are, to love the Lord for who He is, not just for what He does. Worship is more than singing beautiful songs in church on a Sunday. It is more than just instruments and music. As a true worshipper, your heart will long to worship Him at all times, in all ways, and with all your life.” –Darlene Chszech

I lead youth worship at my church, and for the past two years I have been horribly frustrated each time I begin singing every Wednesday night and Sunday morning. Something isn’t right. I’m distracted by the sound system not working quite right, the piano too quiet, my guitar out of tune, someone singing off key, the beat is way off, the words don’t come up on the screen, and although I see listeners in the audience, the worshippers seem to have not shown up.

I blamed the distractions for this frustration. I blamed others for the problems. I think we all do that in our lives at some time or another, blaming others for some of the problems we have, when in reality the problem is not with them. It’s with you and me. That’s the point where I finally came to. I realized that my view of worship was distorted. My focus was completely off. I sang the words, but didn’t truly mean them. I was going through the motions every time I hit the stage. I didn’t stand up and share about the songs, yet I called each night a bad one because it felt empty. I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing on stage, yet the reality was that I didn’t move forward and try to understand and plan things out or take a lead. I just let things flow out of control, not caring what happened because my heart was all wrong.

In the end, it looked like I resembled everyone else. I was apathetic about worship.

Worship is an astounding thing
— we, the minuscule men and women God has created, can actually enter into the presence of God with thanksgiving and praise (Psalm 100:4). We can have access to God through Jesus Christ, because of the gospel (Romans 5:2)! That truth is what we forget when we enter worship. So many times we go in “expecting something” for ourselves. It’s all about us, and not about the Lord. We may say we don’t want it to be all about us, but what we mean is that we don’t want others to say “what a great singer he is!” It’s false humility. As a leader in worship, I should be praying that I fade out of the picture so that everyone is led into the presence of God and is able to give God their all, and receive nothing, because only God deserves the entire honor and all the glory. We go to worship to give to God, not to be blessed by Him. Yet we understand that when we draw close to God, He draws close to us (James 4:8). His grace never ceases to amaze me.

I finally realized what was wrong as I drove home last night after worship. I wasn’t working to lead others into worship because my understanding of worship was distorted. I thought that I understood it, but it was clear that I was mistaken. My prayer that night was full of repentance — for so many years, I have been worshipping with myself in mind, and not God alone. It’s called idolatry. I’m telling God that He’s not as important to me. I’m the one who is important in this relationship, not Him. I want to receive. I don’t truly want to give Him anything.

But this is so terribly wrong! Only by His grace will my view of worship shift from myself to giving my all to the Lord of Lords and the King of Kings.

This was a major step I was missing. I was not delighting in God and giving my all back to Him. I only wanted what I could get out of worship. Now, of course, we do receive edification from worship, especially when we are taught the Scriptures through our songs, but that was all I wanted. And I wasn’t even opening my Bible during the time we sang! I was missing the deepness of worship, the rich nature of worship, the beauty; because I was focusing on myself and the emotion I wanted to receive. But that cannot and must not be my ultimate goal. I want to enter into the beauty of God because He has saved me from my iniquity. I deserve nothing, but God deserves everything. He saved me from impending judgment and from my depravity and black sin.

“If we are truly to draw near to God in worship,” says Wayne Grudem, “there must be a striving for personal holiness of life.” He tells us of the verse in Hebrews that reminds us to strive for “holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). And that is where I have finally moved to in the realm of worship. It is about God, not about me. All the side benefits are wonderful, but I just want to give all I have to God. The frustration must end as I enter into the very presence of God, laying all of me at His feet.

Tim Sweetman

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Tim Sweetman is a young writer, blogger, and student who lives near our nation’s capital, Washington D.C. He has been much more widely known by his “code-name,” Agent Tim. This name also served as the name of his popular blog, which received over 750,000 visits between 2005 to 2007. In 2005, he quickly rose to become a leading teenage spokesperson and cultural critic within the booming blogosphere, taking on issues such as MySpace, alcohol, homeschooling, pride, racism, tolerance, and other topics relating to our culture today. His blog has come to the attention of people such as Albert Mohler, C.J. Mahaney, Alex and Brett Harris, and La Shawn Barber. Tim’s written work has appeared in Lifeway’s Living With Teenagers (February 2012), Lookout Magazine, FUSION Magazine, The Brink Online, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, Virtue Magazine, Regenerate Our Culture Online Magazine, and on many other blogs and websites across the internet like Marry Well and the Lies Young Women Believe Blog. He has also been featured in WORLD Magazine, The Towers Magazine, and Maryland Newsline. He is scheduled to have an article appear in Veritas Magazine this December. Most recently, his work can be found on Focus on the Family’s Boundless Webzine. His personal interests include writing (surprise!) and sports, both watching and playing. He is a die-hard Washington Redskins fan.

12 responses to Worship Frustration

  1. Very good post! I appreciate your thoughts on this subject, and your willingness to be transparent enough to help others learn from your life. Thank you!

  2. Tim,

    Thanks for sharing this–worship is a very wonderful subject; but sometimes the nature of it is quite mysterious. I confuse emotion for sincerity at times. Other times I confuse sincerity for emotion–and it’s given me a deep wariness of the whole subject to begin with, simply because I don’t understand it completely.

    In part, I realize that God calls us to worship with our whole life–that’s the easiest part for me–and that with our every action we should worship God. The hard part is knowing, during the actual singing/playing of it, that I am really, truly worshiping. Because I would venture to say that more often than not we are just singing the words because that’s what we do at church. We sing songs because we’re supposed to.

    And I don’t really think that’s right. Sometimes I think it’s better if I keep my mouth shut and just listen for His voice. Because sometimes that is a more worshipful thing than singing.

    If I do know one thing, however, it’s that it’s really confusing.

  3. What a hard but true word. Thank you for listening to the Lord and reminding us all what true worship is all about.

  4. Tim-
    Thank you for reminding me what worship is really all about.

  5. Very good post. Thanks for sharing this–it’s so necessary to understand it before you can do it. I know how long it took me to “get” this and the huge difference it made in my life. Worship dance, in particular, took on fresh meaning. God is *so* kind!

    (BTW–one of the pastors at our church–a bit of a Rebelutionary himself, being only 22–gave the best sermon I’ve ever heard on this topic last year. Would you like for me to try and find a copy for you? It’s the message that really gave me fresh understanding, as I said above.)

  6. Good post. Abiding in Jesus the reason for worship is important, often times I miss the point too.

  7. Bethany Sanderson November 22, 2006 at 5:05 PM

    Wow, Tim. What a great post. I have definitely felt that frustration before in a number of ways. But when you’re really in the midst of true worship… what an awesome thing! Thanks so much for sharing with us.

  8. What are your views on the contemporary worship songs that repeat themselves repeat themselves and focus mainly on the person singing the song instead of Jesus Christ and what He has done?

  9. Sarge,
    Thanks for this great question. As I’m certain you know, it could possibly take an entire book to answer this question. First of all, let me tell you that I sing and lead contemporary worship songs by singers such as Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, Michael W. Smith, Darlene Chzsech, and David Crowder.

    When it comes to “repetition” I see somewhat of a steady move away from that. There is obviously a repetition as in any song called the “chorus.” Even hyms have them (which I love to sing!). We see in the Bible “Holy, Holy, Holy” repeated when speaking of the Lord. Maybe that’s a stretch, but I haven’t seen any clear verses against repeating choruses.

    Now, when it comes to focusing on the singer, I hate those songs with a passion. But you have to have a clear definition of what a “song about the singer” is. If you do not, you can misinterpret some songs, and throw them out the door before you really investigate what they are singing. It is not bad for some songs to talk about us a worshippers and what we are thinking. The songs do not all have to be “about God” in the fact that that is all they speak about. David used first person to describe his feelings to God, and so can we.

    Hopefully that gives you somewhat of a “cliff notes” answer. I’ve been thinking about it for some time and am still coming to a solid conclusion.

    God Bless.

  10. I’d say that that is a very fair and balanced answer, thank you for that. I do agree that many songs refer to the singer and what they are going through in a way that is honoring to God, asking Him to help them, etc., but I’ve heard one too many in Chapel and even church that I think stray over the borderline of what is honoring to God and what is focusing on yourself. And I’m not saying it’s wrong to sing them, I just think we need to find a happy medium, especially in services designed for “worship.”
    As far as repetition goes, I appreciate the repetion used in moderation in the Bible and in hymns, it is a common literary device employed in order to make a point more clear and stress how important it is. It also allows us to better remember what is being said or sung. Once again, however, I think that modern worship songs are overusing this basic and helpful tool and making some worship songs slightly “mindless” for lack of a better word. The chorus’s I have been hearing are four-line stanzas that have no variation, but just the same line four times in a row, which is not bad in and of itself, but when the worship pastor then chooses to sing the chorus of a certain song multiple times in a row when the writer only intended it to be sung once, it can get a little old. This may be helpful for some to better understand what they are singing, but I have to struggle to keep my mind from wandering.
    Sorry, that was far from brief… I hope you’re having a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  11. Tim,

    That was great! I needed to read that. I so often focus only on the song, and not on God.

    Maria

  12. Tim,

    I thoroughly enjoyed your article. I have been thinking a lot about just what you discussed about worship. I have been closing my eyes a lot in worship lately just to focus on the Lord and not what is going on around me. Our “bigger” church has started to have a lot more distractions with people up and down and doors opening. Even when you try your hardest to focus on the Lord it can be difficult. I love to close my eyes and sing to the Lord during worship time. It does help to focus.

    Thanks for sharing a topic that is probably on a lot of people’s minds.

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