Unity and Worship

I don’t want to write this, I’ve tried to avoid writing this and coming up with a post on any other topic except for this, but that is not working for me. Over the past thirteen weeks, I have worked on an in-depth research paper for my undergraduate degree about worship and communication technologies. In the process, I learned a lot about worship and I’d like to think that I perhaps now know a little more than the average person does about the subject. Also during this time my church was undertaking a creative project, an act of worship, in the form of a complete new stage design. I say all this to say that both these projects taught me a lot about worship. Helping in the small way that I did with the project at the church, I learned about how important unity is.

It’s the subject of unity that I want to talk about, something that is discouraged in fundamentalism unless the person or organization believes exactly the same way you do on every single point of doctrine. It’s taken me a long time to realize that I should be making peace rather than strife, that it doesn’t matter if people believe differently than I do on any subject, that I should be pursuing peace with everyone. During both these projects relating to worship, God brought some things to my attention.

One thing that I really have trouble with is forgiveness. I want grace for myself but am often hesitant to give it. I want people to judge my motives as good when I do not judge other people’s motives as good. So I was mad at a few of the precious people that I go to church with. For me, God used something that Jesus himself preached in the Sermon on the Mount. “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave you gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift”. Matthew 5:23-24 (NIV).

Most Sundays you will find me working at the church doing visual media for worship, and I really was convicted about using my talents in media and offering them to God for an offering of worship, when I was holding onto hurt feelings and grudges towards my own brothers and sisters in Christ. I knew that God wanted me to be reconciled before I continued to worship him in this way.

Over the past two weeks I began going to people that I had harbored hard feelings against, for whatever reason, and told them I was wrong and asked them to forgive me. On Sunday, during the service, I left from my seat in front of the video mixer for a few minutes while I quietly spoke to my pastor, telling him what I had learned, and asking him as the pastor of the church to forgive me for using my talents in worship while not being reconciled, and for affecting the unity of the church, because even if most people were oblivious, this stuff does affect the unity of the church. I said much the same thing to the worship pastor. For me I felt like this was a necessary step in the process, and while I felt like an idiot, I also felt like a weight had been lifted from me.

So with both the worship projects, God really taught me a lot about unity and living at peace, and it’s something I’m still working through because I know where this is ultimately going. God wants me to totally forgive everyone who has ever hurt me, even those that did the unspeakable. I’m learning as I go along that bitterness and unforgiveness hurts me more than it hurts anyone else, in fact this is a huge lesson that I am taking away from this whole series of events. I’m trying to clean up and take out my trash, as it were, as we approach lent so that I can go into lent focusing on Jesus and I’m sure he’ll have a lot for me to learn during lent.

If we have something against a brother or sister in Christ, it will affect the unity of the church whether we think so or not. It hurts the entire church if two people are mad at each other, and it should not be like this among the church. Part of my responsibility in corporate worship is to be reconciled with everyone I am worshipping with, because if not, it will affect the corporate worship.
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The Importance of Community

While studying for my dissertation about worship experiences and the technology involved in producing worship, I have learned a lot about worship that has been beneficial to me personally.

‘In matters of worship, community is no less important. In combining of our collective voices in song and prayer, we assure one another that God is present among us and that God is about God’s work in the world. When we sing, we are often singing ourselves into belief. As we repeat words and hear them repeated by the community, our faith is strengthened. However, when our voice has been taken away by the shock of grief, the disappointment of promises not kept, or the anger that still rises in our throats, the community sings for us and offers to God the words that we are unable to utter. When we are too bitter to pray, the community prays for us and lifts us up to God. In community we intercede for those around us and carry them to God when they cannot carry themselves.’ (Segler & Bradley, 2006, p. 87).

I have had worship experiences like this, experiences where I sang myself into belief, I remember doing so with ‘Like a Lion’ by David Crowder Band and ‘We Crown You’ by Fee, around this time last year right after I tried to become agnostic, but the fact is that Jesus wouldn’t let me because I kept being reminded of what he had done for me. Before that time, I had never before heard either of those two songs, and I sang myself into belief and declared the truth in those songs with tears running down my face.

My faith has been strengthened many times by singing worship songs in church. It’s also true that many times I have been hurt and upset and have relied on the faith of others to get me through. It’s why I gather with my church family in family in worship every week. Sometimes my faith is a little stronger and I can declare my faith, or sing myself into belief, but there are some times when I have been hurt or whatever when I have to rely on others.

We are relational creatures; we were created to be relational, that’s why worshiping with other believers is so important. Going to church is important so that we have a group of believers that we get to know. I need to remember that sometimes people are hurting and they are relying on me to declare and praise God for them while they feel like they are drowning in their hurt. When tears well up in my friends eyes I can put my arm around her and pray with her, right in the middle of church. People have done it for me, even people that I didn’t even know. They saw me break down in tears during the service and they put their arms around me and prayed for me. We share our faith with each other, not just with unbelievers in hopes that they will come to Christ, but we share it with believers for when their faith is weak.

Community is vital to my faith, and I believe it is vital to everybody’s faith. Community is why I drag myself to church on the days when I just simply don’t want to be there. Community is why I go to church happily on the days that I do want to be there. Feeling God’s presence as a community is a totally amazing thing, experiencing him together, it’s awesome. It’s one of those things that has to be experienced as it’s indescribable.

We need each other, despite our differing beliefs, despite our different circumstances, despite our different issues. We need to confess our sins to each other, to pray for each other and with each other, to declare our faith with each other, to share our story with each other, to serve each other, to be strong when the other is weak, we need to praise with each other. We don’t exist in a vacuum, and we were never designed to. We need community.

Reference:

Segler, FM & Bradley R, 2006, Christian Worship: It’s Theology and Practice, B&H Academic, Nashville.