A song from the heart
We’ve all been there…at a worship night, a home group, church…slightly tired, slightly hungry, a to do list racing through our mind, someone in the room that we want to chat to, anticipating getting home to unwind and relax. Present in body, but not so fully present in mind, spirit or heart. The music starts, a song we know begins to play. We half-distracted, not particularly engaged, start to hum the tune, sing the words, tap our foot, sway along.
Or picture this. We’re at an event and the worship is raging. The band has gone all in, the sound is intense and phenomenal. And even though you’re not quite connected you somehow feel an expectation, a pressure to sing along anyway, because…well, everyone else is and you don’t want to be left out, and anyway, surely if you sing it with enough conviction things will start from there?
The word karaoke in Japanese comes from the word kara meaning empty and ōkesutora meaning, orchestra. That definition is a powerful, and sobering thought when it comes to worship. That we could potentially be an empty orchestra just singing words, rather that a family, hungering after God, giving Him the glory that He is worthy of, worshipping in honesty with our hearts fully engaged with a God who loves us, knows everything about us, desires to share His glory with us.
Being totally honest, I know I’ve been in times of worship where it’s been all too easy to just sing along. A bit like karaoke. Slightly absent-mindedly, singing the words on the screen, albeit without the bouncing ball :). Do you ever catch yourself in those moments and think - wait a minute, I’m singing an incredibly powerful, life-changing statement like “I am a child of God” or “I surrender all” and yet I may as well be singing baa baa black sheep because my heart, my will is totally disengaged?!
Now I’m not advocating a feelings-based approach to worship, one where we only sing when we feel like it. In fact quite the opposite. I believe that worship is often a choice to be real and honest with God regardless of what we are feeling. Because I believe that to worship is always a choice. It’s not an action. It’s a wilful, intentional posture of a heart that desires more of God and desires to love Him more.
God has made us with a beating heart, a brilliant mind, he’s put His spirit in us, He’s given us a body that is capable of so many forms of expression. He’s definitely not made us to be an empty orchestra. To just sing along doesn’t only rob Him of the worship that he deserves, it robs us from an opportunity to become more fully alive to the connection that we have with Jesus and to be transformed in His presence. To discover more of who He is, and how we have been made.
I believe that when we stand before God He actually desires honesty from us more than anything because we are His friends (John 15:14-15), His children (1 John 3), and we are one with Him (1 Corinthians 6:17) - we are not his slaves or his performing monkeys! So to try and hide our true self behind a mask of performance in worship just doesn’t work with God - He sees right through it because He made us and knows all about us (Psalm 139). Maybe that’s why David encourages us to sing a new song to the Lord, so that our worship doesn’t just become a second hand version of someone else’s experience rather than something that we are fully present to, a way to connect our own spirit and heart with the heart of our God.
So, in your pursuit of the Lord and in your expression of worship, I really encourage you to ask yourself regularly - is this a song from my heart or just a song from my lips? I don’t think God needs more worship songs sung about Him. But I do believe He loves it when we sing a song to Him - a song that flows from our heart. From the honesty and rawness of who we are.
Lucy is an absolute legend! She’s based at Commonwealth Church in London, and has been leading worship and writing songs for many years now. She is also a part of the worship team at David’s Tent festival, a 72 hour non-stop worship event in the south coast of England. We love Lucy’s heart to see many people meet & encounter Jesus in our times of worship. Her song’s include ‘Created To Worship’, ‘Heartbeats’, & ‘Fountain’.