When Performance Turns to Worship

When she was a teenager, my sister's favorite singing group was a quartet of guys who had mullets and wore sweater vests. This was the early 1990s, when big haired bands of the '80s started trimming their long locks and fashion had some unfortunate trends. Contemporary Christian music was not immune to the styles of the day, but the songs these CCM artists recorded taught us a lot about being "set apart" as children of God.

I don't remember how my sister discovered 4HIM, but her tape deck was soon full of their albums. We would take turns guessing which guy sang lead on each song. We memorized many of the songs from constant listening. The first time they came to Jackson for a concert, we were first in line to buy tickets.

We learned a lot about God from 4HIM. "Where There is Faith" reminded us that  trusting in God in all circumstances was a "wonderful, powerful place" to live. "Through His Eyes" challenged us to "dare to love the way God loves" by seeing people from Jesus' perspective. "A Man You Would Write About" taught us that we had callings like the people of Scripture who were "servants of choice in whom [God] found favor."

Of course, time went by, and our musical interests changed. The four "hims" of 4HIM embarked on new ministries individually.  Recently, they reunited for a special concert titled, We Will Stand: thirty CCM artists celebrating 40 years of song. As I watched 4HIM sing together for the first time in many years, I noticed that something had changed. They were not singing about God. They were singing to God. One of my favorite parts of the concert was when they sang back-up for another group. They lifted their hands and closed their eyes. They sang as if no one were watching. I no longer saw them as performers. I only saw worshippers.

.... be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
— Ephesians 5:18b-20

All of us are performers to some degree--beyond music and the stage. We have a desire to impress people, to put our best self forward. We strive for success and affirmation. One of the beauties of following Jesus Christ is that He calls us just as we are. He wants a relationship with us in all of our "realness": our fractured and frail souls.

I believe that performance turns into worship when we humble ourselves to the point that we don't care what people think. Our only desire is "to be filled with the Spirit." Whether we're singing about God or to God, whether we're listening to the church choir's anthem or adding our hum to their refrain, worship happens when our brokenness bows to his magnificence. Worship happens when we forget about who we are and focus on who he is. Worship happens when we live our lives about him, to him, with him, and for him. 

As Oswald Chambers wrote about St. Paul, "[He] was like a musician who gave no thought to audience approval if he could only catch a look of approval from his Conductor." Let's look away from the crowd and to the One who was, who is, and who is to come for that nod of approval that says, "With you I am well pleased--you just as you are."

all good things to each of you,

Pastor Darian