“Sing all. See that you join with the congregation as frequently as you can. Let not a slight degree of weakness or weariness hinder you. If it is a cross to you, take it up, and you will find it a blessing.” – John Wesley
If one was to begin a new Sunday morning feature on ones blog, especially a feature called the “Worship Quote of the Week,” a quote from John Wesley would be a good place to start.
This quote – number three from Wesley’s well-known “Directions for Singing” – has always been the most interesting to me. Not number four, “Sing lustily and with a good courage.” Not the one perhaps most often cited, number seven, “Above all sing spiritually.” With our modern concept of gathered worship being dominated by language of taste, preference, personality, I return to these words in my preparation, in my writing, and in my own approach to Sunday worship.
We all sing. We all pray. We all work.
A mainline congregation I was once associated with recently posted a photo of a rock band on its Facebook page. The caption says, essentially, “Do you like contemporary praise music? Our more relaxed contemporary service has some of the best around.”
As a musician, the goal of excellence is implicit in any mention of music-making. That’s not the issue for me. The problem is this underlying tone of enjoying music in worship. To me, enjoyment is never the supreme objective. I want to facilitate music that preaches, challenges, afflicts, inspires. Music that puts God’s story on people’s lips. Music that conveys a sense of urgency to the Christian life and worship. Music that gives the congregation a job.
If they enjoy it, splendid. But if that’s the goal, why bother with any of it?
Sometimes work is fun. Often, it isn’t. The reason we worship isn’t to have jesusy fun. This is serious business, and though measures of joy, peace, exuberance, elation, humor all certainly have a place, we don’t participate because we feel like it. Worship is work, and sometimes it isn’t enjoyable, emotionally positive, or imminently fulfilling.
I’m not pontificating here. Not at all. I’m saying this humbly, repentantly. I’m saying this because of the challenge, the constraint it places on me to remember this truth myself.
When I like the hymn, I sing. When my voice is sharp and clear, I sing. When I feel confident, I sing. When my faith is strong, I sing.
Not because I want to, but because I need to.