PraiseA friend recently stated that music is one of the most divisive elements in the church today. We have become so narrow minded that we will reject the opportunity to worship the one true God if the music style doesn’t fit our agenda. Who says what you sing for God has to match your preferred radio station?

I’m guilty of this constantly – although usually my distraction in worship has nothing to do with style and everything to do with quality, but that’s another article. The suggestion was made that if a congregation can’t joyfully worship in unity because of musical differences, maybe they should forget music altogether. Does that seem extreme? It’s really not. What’s extreme is the fact that most congregations define worship as entirely music and nothing else. What a terrible shame.

Think about it: what percentage of people actually enjoy singing in public? I don’t know, but I’m guessing it’s not high. And it’s probably considerably lower among men than women. I don’t see a lot of Minnesota guys walking down the street singing at the top of their lungs.

For most of us, our singing voice is great source of self-consciousness. This is actually why it’s such an honor to God to use it, but also a huge leap forward for a baby Christian who isn’t accustomed to a choral environment. Based on all of this, singing is a deep and personal expression of love for God, not a staple.

Many churches utilize singing because it seems easy to lead a congregation in doing it all at once. But there are certainly other possibilities.

Congregational Prayers – there are vast numbers of beautiful prayers written by great Christian thinkers, psalmists, and writers. It’s infinitely easier for all congregation members to participate in saying a prayer together than to inspire everyone to share one of their greatest insecurities (their singing voice). Some might argue that if you read prayers as a congregation people will just go through the motions and ignore what they’re saying. Really? What do you think is happening when they’re singing!? (or choosing not to!) If you can’t motivate your church to speak earnestly in prayer, you certainly won’t be able to achieve genuine worship from a song.

Well chosen poetic texts are simply songs without music – start incorporating them as soon as possible! Creeds can also be very powerful when the words are spoken with authenticity. If your church is accustomed to only worshipping through music, you will definitely need to explain the purpose and meaning behind congregational prayers and creeds. As a worship leader, you should be reaffirming the vision for worship weekly anyway.

Worship Writing – right away, you’re probably thinking there’s no way to lead an entire congregation in journaling worship to God. If this is true you may need to adjust your perspective on your worship service. Worship is participatory – it’s not a spectator sport.

Yes, asking someone to write to God may feel unusual, but also totally accessible. Just about anyone in today’s American culture feels comfortable writing. Put a blank sheet in your bulletin, set aside a short amount of time during the service (5min or less), and have people write what they’re thankful for, what burdens they need to surrender, etc – you don’t have to be a poet to be honest with God. Play some soft music, put some spiritual images on the screen if you have one.

It may seem awkward to you, but quite comfortable to your average person on the street. People in your congregation who’ve been avoiding singing their whole lives may suddenly participate fully in a worship service. Think about it.

Silence – taking a well-introduced moment of silence to speak to God can be a powerful thing. Not much more to say here.

Offering – yes, offering. We do everything we can to avoid the blatant reality that offering is going on – distract me! I might realize I’m giving! How about leaning toward the other extreme and focusing on offering as an act of worship. Have people pray over the use of their offering as they put it in the plate, or better yet, invite them to come forward and give (don’t expect much the first time!)

Alternative Environment Options – should you choose to break away from the standard room set up (rows of chairs), this opens up a whole range of possilbilities for worship expression. Spiritus, our young adult worship experience at Grace Fellowship, has totally abandoned the “normal” worship room setup. Often we don’t have any chairs just to encourage freedom to dance, or kneel, or prostrate during the musical worship element (actually, I should say we have some chairs for those that truly need them, but they are optional). We set aside a portion of the service for “worship stations” where people can join in a drum circle or paint, or pray out loud or…etc. It might sound weird or “emergent,” but it really truly has helped our participants give worth to God. It’s not seeker-sensitive by any means, but the purpose of our particular service is strictly worship and not evangelism.

Liturgy, kneeling, meditation…there are many wonderful expressions of worship that can be found in a variety of services. Music is just one of hundreds. I could go on and on, but I encourage you to submit other ways in which to express love for God without music – what ideas to you have? What experiences have been meaningful for you? Discuss.

5 Comments on “Worship Without Music

  1. avatar Chad Woehnker | :

    I recently went to a district meeting. While there I am always amazed at the talent of the musicians, lights, vocals and seamless transitions. As I was worshiping I felt God telling me “yes these things are nice and well put together, but one of the most important things in worship and praise is exhortation, you can play the song perfectly and have all of the technology in the world, but if you cant connect the people to Him, why bother?”
    so I have been working to spend more time between songs to connect them to God in that moment so that the song can just be a background or ambiance for their prayer/connection time with God.

    I very much enjoyed your views on different types of worship and the benefits of creativity and openness.

  2. avatar Kari Carter | :

    Im a writer so I definitely enjoyed the idea of worship writing. My daughter is a songwriter so I would like to pursue that.

  3. avatar Pastor Gill | :

    Hey Josiah have you thought of having a Forum on here? I would love to meet others who use your site and share ideas and thoughts on worship, as well as ways people have used your clips and backgrounds in creative ways for services etc.

  4. avatar Hoss Ridgeway | :

    How about a time of Singing without instruments? Here is a link to youtube to hear 1000 teens sing a cappella and it is powerful, if you had an area in your church that has great acoustics you could assemble there and let it ring, what a powerful thing when you hear the harmony.



  5. avatar Susan Robson | :

    Excellent observations. I’m searching for ways to expand worship for an evening service that I will be coordinating in May. We have this service every 2 months, and a different person coordinates each one. This way it isn’t too burdensome on any one individual, and we can have fresh perspectives for each event.

    I love your suggestions, and look forward to others commenting with their thoughts – come on folks, what’s going on in your neck of the woods?

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