When I was appointed as the Worship Coordinator for our church, I actually laughed out loud. Not really in a 'ha ha' way, or even in a joyful way (as much as serving the church does bring me a lot of joy.) I was probably more comfortable in the role of Youth and Young Adults Rep (a role my husband is now doing a great job at), and Worship Coordinator was a title I believed fell about as far from my skill set and abilities as possible. I would almost feel more qualified to be the Men's Rep than the Worship Coordinator (I'm joking - mostly).
If you can picture the laugh of Sarai when she was told she would be a mother: that's the kind of laugh that escaped from my mouth. It was a you-don't-realise-how-impossible-that-is laugh.
But a little while before this, I had seen a post from Lisa Bevere on Facebook (around the time we were starting up EMPIRE Youth) that resonated with me so loudly that I saved it on my computer and have gone back to it routinely since then.
So, with a bit of prayer (and a lot of encouragement), I set out to see how I could bring something different to this role. How I could do it from the abilities and gifts God had given me, and how my perspective of being completely untrained in music could be of benefit to serving the church, not only as part of the worship band, but also in leading the various bands and the church in the administration of worship.
We are in the process of exploring as a church who we are, and what we believe. For me, in this role I'm still learning to do well, a big part of this is how do we worship?
I have a bit of a series of blogs brewing in my heart about the different ways we worship (because one benefit of having a non-musical Worship Coordinator is that they might also worship God in very non-musical ways) but to start with, let's look at music.
One of the practical things we have been doing is to find out the music people love to worship to. This comes as part of a balancing act: the focus should not be on us and what we 'like' or creating a culture where people are only happy to worship if they know (and enjoy) the songs, or the way they are being sung. But for most people, I believe there are certain songs that speak their heart, their love of God, and release an ability to worship in a way that is personally more powerful than others. Seeking out these songs has been a process of joy and I'm hopeful and prayerful that it will lead us into a place where we, as a church, can worship wholeheartedly throughout the entire worship portion of the service. Why? Because as we begin to consciously realise that through certain songs we are able to express our worship in a deeper way, we might also realise more profoundly that this is also the case for others. Through this, I really believe, we can find joy in, and worship along with, the heart cry of others even through a song we don't know or particularly find inspiring or relevant to our personal experience with God. I believe that when we see and hear the people we love - our family - worshipping God through words or a melody we aren't familiar with, it stirs up something in us and we want to join together with them.
One of the things I have learnt over the last few years is that I can choose to worship through a song I don't know (or can't sing well) or I can let my heart grow hard against it. But if I choose not to worship in these moments that don't fit my idea of 'worship' then I am basically making worship about my own experience, my own encounter with God, and wanting to bring Him to my level rather than being able to stop and see Him in a new way. I've practiced over time being able to enjoy worship even when I don't know the words. Many years ago, I met a young man who would routinely sit down during the worship session at our big, Pentacostal church in Canberra. I'm sure you can imagine that this was an unusual thing in a church largely made up of young adults to middle aged couples who really liked to worship. I can't remember if I asked him if he was okay, or how the conversation came up, but he told me that he felt free to worship in silence or in song. Sometimes he just needed to sit and listen, or sit and pray.
In those moments, he wasn't an isolated person in a room full of worshippers. He was part of a family who were worshipping God. He just wasn't singing with his mouth. He was playing a different part in our melody to God. His heart might have been praying, or he might have just been sitting back, joining God in admiring the beautiful sound of a group of people lifting up their magnificent God in worship. There is freedom when you realise that a heart focused on God is in worship, even if the outward appearance might not be of joyful song.
Over the last few weeks I've had the secret pleasure of sitting in the service a few times through worship when a song someone has chosen as one they love has been played. I've known who wrote that song down on their list after serious deliberation, and I've been able to quietly watch as their face lights up and they sing a song they may not have heard for many years, or one they've only ever been able to sing along to a recording of, because it was written quite recently and we haven't learned it as a church. In some instances, I have never heard these songs before. I've joined in those moments with a private joy shared with God, where I really feel like I'm partnering with Him in a way I couldn't if I was able to force the production of perfect sounding music, with rules around the quota of Hymns, newly-released songs, and songs that are themed with the bible reading. If I could do this perfectly, I would probably get caught up in it. I like to do things perfectly. Instead, I get to focus on what I can do well: people and relationships.
My role as a worshipper is to worship God. That is fairly simple. My husband's role when he is worship leading is to worship and do everything he can to make it easy for others to enter into worship alongside him, if they choose to. But my role here is different. It's very people-focused at the heart of it, at least until I begin worshipping. It's creating a culture where people are tapping into their ways of worshipping, both at church and in their personal lives.
And I'm excited to see the ways God equips me, the very unequipped.
Skye is our Worship Coordinator, and is exploring the beautiful challenge of how to worship when you can't even play the triangle.