The Art of Self-Worship in Church Music

As the Music Director for our worship services at CrossPointe Church Westerville, I am tasked with the responsibility of selecting songs and presenting them to our church each week. The goal is to do this in a way that draws and leads the congregation in lifting their voices in praise and adoration to God. Being in the position that I am in, I receive feedback from various people in the congregation, which I appreciate. I am given feedback on what people like about the worship music and what they don’t like about it. This helps me to better understand the culture God has given my team to serve. The feedback also helps me to know where and how I need to teach and admonish others in worshiping God through song. It is one thing to have a preference but it’s another thing to have a complaint. More often than not when someone in the church doesn’t sing due to a difference in preference or complaint it points to a heart of self-worship. 

To worship, by definition means, reverent honor and homage paid to God or a sacred personage, or any object regarded as sacred. In the New Testament, the Greek word proskuneo means to prostrate oneself. It means to lay oneself down flat on the ground or bow so low that your entire body is laying flat on the ground. It was a posture of humility and service towards someone of greater importance. 

We as humans exhibit this posture every day.  We must understand the unsaved are enslaved and cannot posture themselves before God because they do not have access to the Father. They are slaves to sin, held in bondage, and only have the capacity and ability to bow themselves to sin and darkness. As believers, as those chosen by God, freed from the bondage of sin, we have a choice, every moment of the day we choose whom we will bow in service to and worship. 

As Christians, we are called to die to ourselves daily and to bow before our Creator God in worship.  Unfortunately the old man “self” creeps into our personal and even corporate worship. When this happens there is not a posture of worship towards God but instead a posture of worshiping ourselves. This is most often revealed when we blame something or someone else for ruining our worship experience. It is easier to blame others for our rebellious hearts than to look inwardly and allow the Holy Spirit to change our hearts. 

Here are several things I believe many people use to excuse themselves from worship. 

The Look - This would be the visual atmosphere where the music is being played and sung. This could be, but is not limited to, lighting and/or fog, chairs vs pews, suits vs jeans, clapping vs no clapping, engaging worship leader vs stagnant leader. - Paul and Silas while in prison did not let their environment become an excuse for worship through song. 

The Sound - They think it is too loud or not loud enough. They don't like the drums and some of the other instruments. - Take a minute and read through Psalm 150; explore how musical instruments were used in worship and see if the volume was an excuse to not worship. 

The Style - “Sounds like a rock concert”, “sounds like a funeral”, “sounds too liturgical”, “it sounds too southern gospel or bluegrass”, “it sounds like my grandparent’s church”, “it sounds like rap music” - Again, in Psalm 150 we see a myriad of different instrumentation and a call for everything that hath breath to praise the Lord. This world and everything in it was created to bring glory to God and if we can take what God has given to us and turn it into praise then how can we use it as an excuse to not worship? 

The Song - “I don’t know these songs”, “they are too old”, “too new”, “too repetitive”, “too simple”, “not deep enough” - We are called to sing unto the Lord a new song and let everything that has breath praise the Lord.  In Psalm 136 the phrase “His steadfast love endures forever” repeats over and over again. A disclaimer about lyrics- Doctrine Matters. The church should not be singing songs that teach false doctrine. This does not mean that every song has to include every teaching or nuance about the particular doctrine it is communicating but every song should communicate accurately what it is teaching.

The Quality - “The singers are off the pitch”, “the audio mix could be better”,” too many vocals” or “not enough vocals”, and “too much drum or electric guitar”. - We all may have a different idea of what is good and acceptable to offer to God in corporate worship. We must keep in mind the example of the widow’s mite (Mark 12) and how she gave everything she had. There are those with a lot of talent and God has blessed some churches with more talent than others but God isn’t comparing the quantity or perhaps the quality of our worship. God desires that we offer all that we have. All our gifts and talents. That is going to look different from person to person. He also wants authenticity. In Luke 18 we see a parable about a pharisee’s prayer and that of a tax collector. One prayer sounded amazing and the other was simple. The acceptable prayer was the one that was authentic and came from a true perspective of their brokenness and need for a Savior. When we are worried about the quality of worship being a certain way more than focusing on the content, the heart, and having a posture of worship we are worshiping ourselves and our preferences rather than humbling ourselves to a posture of surrender. 

Unfortunately, these are not the reason people do not worship. The simple fact is there is a posture that worships self. When we demand that our criteria for singing must be met to worship the posture is focused on pleasing ourselves rather than following, submitting, and ultimately worshiping God. 

All of these areas ought to be considered but I would only consider them for two reasons. 

  1. Cultural Excellence - we desire to draw our focus to God. Some things culturally can distract us from what we are trying to accomplish. This doesn’t mean that a church is doing it wrong but perhaps could work towards doing it better. I always say God only requires us to give our best whatever that may be.  But God deserves the best and we should always be striving to improve and become more excellent in our gifts and talents because He is worthy of it. 

  1. To Help the Immature Believer - The mature believer may notice the imperfections in a worship service and may even have a different preference but can move beyond the observations and preferences and submit themselves to a posture of worshiping God. As leaders, we try hard to consider the overall demographics and preferences of our church. We understand that not everyone is mature in their faith and able to move past their own desires. We try to help those God has entrusted to CrossPointe Church, whether mature or immature in their faith, to be able to easily focus, and freely worship our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The larger God grows a church the harder it becomes to cater to everyone's preferences in that church. This means it is critically important to teach the church as it grows to put other's interests ahead of their own and grow in this area of spiritual maturity. To understand that these are not reasons to abandon worship but to inwardly humble themselves and outward join in corporate worship. 

In summary, God doesn’t need your worship. We worship because He demands it and deserves it. When we refuse to sing we choose in those moments to worship ourselves, our comforts, our emotions, and our desires, rather than lay prostrate before God. It’s a posture of the heart. All of us must determine to sing because God is worthy of worship(1), He tells me to sing a new song(2), He tells me to sing with my church(3), and He tells me to worship him with all that is within me(4), He tells me to die to myself(5), and we sing because He loves music and because He designed all kinds of music to be used to praise Him.(6) 

We must lose the art of worshiping ourselves and learn the art of worshipping God no matter the circumstance or environment we may find ourselves in. 

Let us together praise the Lord!

  1. Revelation. 4:11
  2. Psalm 96:1-3
  3. Ephesians 5:19
  4. Psalm 103
  5. Luke 9:23
  6. Psalm 150

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