Our worship leaders often remind us that worship is more than music. And rightly so. Our worship ought to extend far beyond the five songs we sing on Sunday mornings, and what we do during that time often falls far short of the worship mark.
But we should be careful not to underestimate what happens during a Sunday morning worship service. When God’s people gather and combine their voices to express the praise that fills their hearts, that’s a beautiful expression of worship.
But the congregation does not praise alone. In most of our churches, our corporate singing is set to guitars, pianos, drums, and a variety of other instruments. Have you ever considered that those instruments as instruments are praising God?
Here’s what I mean. A guitar is not an instrument of praise only in those moments when its reverberations are accompanied by praise lyrics. Every time a guitar is strummed, its metal strings and wooden body reverberate in exactly the way that God designed them to. God decided what a piece of bronze wire .012 inches thick, stretched across the length of a guitar neck and body, tightened to vibrate at 329.6 hertz, would sound like when struck. God decided that certain woods would resonate in certain ways when hollowed into certain shapes.
In other words, when I strum my guitar, the materials do what God made them to do, and this brings glory to the God who created these materials. This is true for every instrument ever played.
And then the human creativity involved in these instruments praises God as well. First, take the formation of the instruments. The Creator put man, the mini-creator, into this world so that he would “work it and keep it” (Gen. 2:15). And that’s exactly what human beings have done throughout history. We use our God-given creativity for great and awful purposes. Instruments are often put to deplorable use, but in themselves they are wonderful creations that exhibit the best in human creativity (with the possible exception of the kazoo). So the existence of a Fender Telecaster praises the God who made Leo Fender and endowed him with the creativity and ingenuity to craft that unique and wonderful instrument.
Finally, there’s the human creativity involved in the crafting of each musical moment in each song. I have been involved in leading worship for 15 years now, and I have gone through a few phases in which I intentionally avoided prolonged song intros, interludes, and endings. When these moments seemed inevitable, I would hide them with a verse on the screen. I didn’t want any attention on the music itself or on the band. This isn’t all bad, and it’s true that we can go crazy with the music we create for corporate worship in order to draw the attention to ourselves. I don’t advocate this.
But I have come to realize that the music is not irrelevant to our worship as we sing together. It’s more than a convenient way to keep our singing in time and on pitch. It’s more than a manipulative tactic to boost our emotions so that our words mean a bit more. The music glorifies God. It resonates according to his design. The dynamics and interplay of the instruments reveal the creativity of God’s mini-creators, and thereby praise the True Creator.
Next week, as you stand amongst God’s people and voice your praise to God, think about all the other elements at work to bring God glory. Your own worship should be all the richer with these things in mind.