We should be honest. Nowadays, when someone mentions worship, most people think of music. You know, that time in the church service when everyone sings. Lots of Christian recording artists make “worship projects” with hit singles on them.
However, if we search God’s Word faithfully and look to mature Christians who possess wise insight, we will quickly see that worship is much more than songs. Worship is what we were created for, it’s what we’ll spend eternity doing, and it encompasses our hearts as well as our actions.
“Worship – whether an inner act of the heart, or an outward act of the body, or of the congregation collectively – is a magnifying of God. That is, it is an act that shows how magnificent He is. It is an act that reveals or expresses how great and glorious He is. Worship is all about consciously reflecting the worth or value of God.” – John Piper, Desiring God Ministries
From the beginning, worship has been an important aspect of the Rebelution. In the broadest sense, since everything we do as Christians is worship, all the hard things, both big and small, should be attempted for God’s glory. “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)
But in the more narrow sense, Rebelutionaries, including the Harris family, have always been passionate about singing God’s praise. We love worship as it’s defined by the Psalmist, “Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!” (Psalm 96:2-3)
Before The Rebelution, There Was Worship
In the summer of 2000, long before blogs, books and conference tours, Alex and Brett played keyboard and congas for a worship band that I formed in high school. They’ve been active members of the worship team at our church, and now as they head off to college on the East Coast, younger sister Sarah and younger brothers Isaac and James are stepping up to take their place.
Worship has always played a key role at the Rebelution conferences. From our very first conference in 2006, in Sacramento, CA, I‘ve led worship on my own or with a band accompanying me. We don’t include worship because teens like music. We don’t make room for it merely to bring variety to the day. We do it because it just wouldn’t seem right without it.
The reason Alex and Brett write blog posts and books, the reason our family travels across the country holding conferences, the reason the Rebelution even exists, is for the praise and glory of our Savior, Jesus Christ. But here’s the problem… because we are all prideful, sinful human beings, it’s very easy to lose sight of that.
We are far too quick to become focused on ourselves, focused on our accomplishments, focused on the task at hand, but forgetting the very reason for it all. That’s why it’s so important to open the day, and each session throughout the day, with singing. And that’s why it’s important for Rebelutionaries to be constant worshipers. It helps us keep the focus where it belongs.
Low Expectations in Worship
It also matters what we sing. It’s been established that our ungodly culture has low expectations for young people. But when it comes to worship, even the Christian community has low expectations for us. Worship songs targeted for kids, tweens, teens and young adults, have dumbed down the lyrical content because they think we’re too dumb to understand anything harder.
Sadly, in far too many cases this assumption is correct. Young people who don’t study their Bibles faithfully, who don’t read hard books, and who can’t sit through “grown-up” sermons, probably can’t comprehend the profound truths found in timeless hymns like And Can It Be That I Should Gain, or Rock of Ages.
Rebelutionaries, on the other hand, must not allow their worship to be dictated by low expectations, even if those expectations come from within the church. We should embrace songs that unpack rich doctrines like justification, atonement, sanctification, and assurance. We should love the old hymns, not for their cutting edge musical style, but for the wisdom and insight of godly Christians who penned those words centuries ago but were sinners who loved their Savior, just like us.
Why Not Just, Jesus Loves Me?
I realize this can seem counterintuitive. Wouldn’t the easiest and most efficient approach be to use simple songs which express love for God, or celebrate His love for us? Remember our motto, “do hard things”? It applies to this area as well.
When we exert ourselves, when we do the hard work of wrapping our mind around the glorious, profound, life-transforming truths of the Gospel, then the things we comprehend with our minds can spark deep affections in our hearts. We can tap into a joy in God, an amazement at sovereign grace, and a passion for His glory that would never have been possible under a diet of “worship lite”.
In the book Worship Matters, Bob Kauflin writes that “each of us has a battle raging within us over what we love most — God or something else.” He’s right. Worship is crucial, because every day there is a battle raging for our hearts. The enemy wants us to find our joy in the pleasures of sin and the distractions of this world. It’s vital that we fight back, for God makes it clear in His Word that if He doesn’t have our hearts, our outward service is wasted energy (Matthew 15:8-9).
We must fight for joy in God using the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. One way we do that is through songs which drive biblical truth deep into our hearts, so we can draw upon it in the midst of the fray. If the words are faithful and God-centered, they will provide fuel for our faith. And if the music is skillfully crafted, it will move our souls and ignite new passion for the cause.
Worship Challenges for Rebelutionaries
So, here are a few challenges for you Rebelutionary worshipers:
1. Sing. Start each day out with a song. Don’t be so dependent on CDs or data projectors. Learn the lyrics of songs by heart so you can sing as you get dressed, sing in the shower, sing in the car.
2. Expand your music-listening horizons. Most of you are probably familiar with artists like Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, Tim Hughes, and Passion. They have put out a lot of great stuff, but I encourage you to branch out. A lot of songwriters are writing theologically sound, doctrinally rich modern-day hymns, or giving old forgotten hymns another lease on life by composing new music.
3. Engage in your local church. If you don’t play an instrument, learn to play guitar, piano or something else useful. If you can carry a tune, volunteer to sing. Be a positive influence in the place God has you right now. Get a copy of Bob Kauflin’s outstanding book, Worship Matters, and after you’ve finished reading it, loan it to your pastor or worship leader (or both)!
4. Do the hard work of writing excellent worship songs. We need more of what my dad calls “poet-theologians” — like Isaac Watts, Fanny Crosby, and Charles Wesley. If you need help, consult Paul Baloche’s comprehensive worship songwriting handbook, God Songs. If you can’t come up with any ideas, use the lyrics to some old public domain hymn. Don’t have access to a hymnal? Check out Cyber Hymnal.
. . . do all to the glory of God.