Is it possible to worship Jesus as a church without music?
This is the question worship leader and song writer, Matt Redman, had to answer when the Lead Pastor at his church made the controversial decision to remove music from church services. The Lead Pastor developed a concern that they were using worship music as a crutch, and he wanted to see if they could truly worship Jesus without the aid of a worship team or sound system. Redman later explained in an interview that, at first, he was hurt by this decision and struggled to find his place as a worship leader during this time. The first few services we strange and awkward. But then things began to slowly change.
Redman explained that church began to find its “voice.” They started praying together. They read Scripture together. Eventually they started singing a cappella. Slowly they reintroduced the sound system and the worship team. But by then they had answered the original question: “Is it possible to worship Jesus as a church without music?” The answer, of course, is yes.
While music is a wonderful gift from God, and we are commanded to worship him through various kinds of singing (Ephesians 5:19), worship must go much deeper than the songs that we sing.
Consider for a moment Jesus’ interaction with the woman at the well, recorded in John chapter 4. During their conversation, they ended up talking about worship. The Samaritan woman is concerned about worshiping God in the right location. She believes it is best to worship God in Samaria. The Jews at the time would have argued that the best location is Jerusalem. But Jesus explains that the location doesn’t matter. Instead, he explains that the Father desires that we worship “in Spirit and in truth” (John 4:21-24).
Worship goes far beyond geographical locations. And it goes beyond the words in our hymnal or on the screen. The worship that God is truly after is worship that is done in Spirit and in truth. He wants worship that is guided by the Holy Spirit. Worship that is filled with Biblical truth. And all of this must be worship that comes from the geographical location of our hearts. Jesus speaks very pointedly about this in Matthew 23:27-28.
When Matt Redman rediscovered this truth during that challenging season in his church, he ended up writing the well-known worship song “The Heart of Worship.” He realized that worship is all about Jesus.
Right now, we have a similar challenge in our church. Alberta Health has requested that churches refrain from certain practices – including congregational singing. As a worship leader, I find this request frustrating. I want to sing with my church family again. But I also know that some churches across North America have had to close their doors because they experienced an outbreak. This is not just on the News. I personally know a church that has had to shut their doors because of an outbreak. They are hurting, and I grieve with them.
For everyone’s safety, and for our testimony as a church, we need to take precautions to prevent the spread of Covid-19. The plan we have in place will help us stay safe, and also allow us to worship together.
But during this season, we will be exploring different ways to worship “in Spirit and in truth.” There will be music, prayer, Scripture reading, testimonies, and other ways to worship together.
Let us explore together the different ways we can glorify Jesus as a gathered body of believers. My hope is that this season will draw us closer to Christ. We can still be a church that has a white-hot passion to bring praise and worship to Jesus.
Eventually we will bring back congregational singing. Eventually we will raise our voices together in worship. And it will be glorious.