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I Am Free

I just finished dancing and singing with my daughter Abby.  We were enjoying the song I Am Free by the Newsboys.  It’s quite a joyful song, and if you can imagine a 240 pound 43 year old and my seven year old singing as loud as possible and me trying some cool 80’s dance moves in our kitchen, well then you get the picture.  It was unbridled joy, and if you know me, you would not be surprised by a couple tears of joy.

For me it was pure worship, for Abby it was fun.  It brought back memories of when I was on renewal in Florida a couple years back.  I wanted to step outside my comfort zone and go to a church that was a bit more free in worship so we found a theologically sound church that knew how to rock the flock.  It was a great group of believers, and the Pastor preached a fine and biblical sermon.  We sang a fulljoy version of I Am Free (with various levels of intensity).  My memory of that Sunday was mixed.  On one hand, I wanted to join the joyful and passionate singing (and I did), but I felt so self conscious, and even uncomfortable at times.

So what’s the difference?  Why can I express joy through singing and dancing in my home and feel uncomfortable in a public worship setting where I was not pinned down by the gazes of many who know me?  And why is it that worship in my church setting is so reserved – completely reserved – even to the point where few even smile.  If we sang I Am Free, I am quite confident that it would not go well – our joy is much to reserved – it would overwhelm us.  We do sing many joyful songs, and I’m confident that some joy, and awe, and thankfulness for Jesus is brewing beneath the surface, but it only surfaces in limited ways.

So what is it that determines our comfort levels?  What is it that restricts us emotionally?  What holds a church and an individual in a particular way of worship?

  • Worship is learned.  We are what we have been and this governs who we will be.
  • We are white and middle class.  We appreciate predictability.  We like comfortable.  We like to be dignified.  We don’t even express joy in other settings – except maybe a football game.
  • We have an order of worship.  When its on the agenda, the agenda takes priority even to the point of quenching the Holy Spirit.
  • We participate in a rote manner.  I think too often we are interacting with the most incredible truths of God and His love and His Son Jesus, and we are too familiar with it.  We sing songs like How Great is our God or Amazing Grace, or we read Scripture and the deep truth and redemptive reality just passes by.
  • We come unprepared.  We come late.  We do not come ready and filled with the Holy Spirit.  We do not anticipate hearing from God.
  • We are too consumeristic.   We are critical of the volume, or the songs, or the organ, or the drums, or whatever makes us focus on the method and not the message.
  • We place an emphasis on truth more than experience or emotion.  And we should have a strong emphasis on truth, but theology must move our hearts.  Truth must move us to quiet awe, broken humility, reverence, and unbridled joy.

Joy is just one expression of worship.  How about fear, awe, humility, brokenness, or thankfulness?

What keeps you from expressing fuller joy in congregational worship?  What keeps you from expressing fear, and awe, and other emotions in worship?

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Categories: Andrew's Blogs, worship
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