If you’re the type of person who doesn’t like the current racket of Christian radio, or is embarrassed to invite your friends to church because they make fun of the music, I can relate. If you stand with your hand in your pockets during worship sets, or cross your arms, or pretend like you’re singing so that no one thinks you actually hate the music, or spend the entire worship set in the prayer room so that you don’t have to sing…I can relate. I’ve done all that since I was old enough to sing in church.
But about a year ago, something changed: I started jogging every morning.
Anyone who has ever made the resolution to work out in the morning knows that for the first 10-15 minutes of being awake, you want to stab yourself in the face for ever having the idea to wake up before the sun does, let alone work out.
But five or ten minutes into my first run, something strange happened. My body adjusted to the shock, and the fresh air felt good on my lungs. The silence of the early morning brought a calming serenity, and my head cleared. Pretty quickly I realized that a morning workout was better than a strong cup of coffee. My energy levels drastically increased. I started eating healthier to supplement my work-out habit. Prayers and creative ideas would come to me during morning workouts. I became one of those crazy people who really like working out early in the morning. (For the record, I never started jogging in place or wearing bright spandex shorts.)
I realized that I had become pretty physically disciplined through exercise, but I was totally neglecting spiritual discipline in regards to corporate worship. “What would happen,” I thought, “if I treated corporate worship like I do my jogging routine. What if I was consistent whether I felt like it or not. What if every time I went to church, I made conscious decision that I was going to worship God, no matter what?”
The results were immediate. I started singing in church, every Sunday. No matter who was watching or listening, no matter how much I didn’t like the music. I reflected on the truth of the lyrics, and sang along. The first few times I did this, I noticed something strangely familiar. After about 10 minutes of singing my reservations wore off. My critical spirit disappeared, and I began to really open up and worship. I began to connect with God. My pretense slowly melted away, and I was left with gratitude and a sense of fulfillment. Just for having showed up and worshiped.
I also started leading worship more consistently for various church functions. No matter how I felt or what songs we were playing, I’ve committed to showing up, giving my best effort, and focusing my attention on God. Some of the times when I was most reluctant to show up and lead worship music have been the most engaging corporate worship experiences I’ve ever had.
I learned a solid principle when it comes to spiritual discipline: we should worship God because it is good for us, not because it makes us feel a certain way. We can’t wait around until we “feel” like worshiping. That may never happen. Worship is a spiritual discipline. We shouldn’t wait for a “reason to sing” any more than we should wait on a reason to pray or to love our neighbor. Like love within marriage, “worship” is a choice and an action, not a feeling. Sentimental emotions toward God will come and go, but the best weapon in the arsenal of Christian worship is resolution: a firm dedication to giving God the glory He is due, as often as possible.
So next time you show up to a worship service and don’t feel like it, start with discipline. Force yourself to sing the gospel, and let me know how that goes for you…