praise him with strings and flutes!
Worship crankiness. As a pastor, I’ve dealt with it for years. As a worshiper, I struggle with it.
What is worship crankiness? It’s engaging in worship that is meant for God’s glory but getting stuck in grumpiness. It’s when the choir is off-key, the sermon is under par, the praise music is too loud, and you just get grouchy. Rather than focusing on God, you end up worrying about the things that bug you in the worship service. Instead of giving yourself to God in humble worship, you end up preoccupied by yourself and your frustrations.
You know you’re infected with worship crankiness if you continually find yourself bothered by things in worship that, in the end, really aren’t that important. Or you know you’ve got the bug if your comments after a worship service tend to be critical rather than reflective of your relationship with God.
In my experience, worship crankiness often has to do with music. Some folks get bugged when musical quality is low. Many become irritable when the genre of worship music is not to their liking. If you’re a hymn person, you get cranky when you’re supposed to sing praise songs. If you prefer contemporary music, you want to fold your arms and frown if you have to sing hymns led by an organ. And so it goes, week in, week out.
In my own life of worship, I struggle with worship crankiness all the time. I think pastors, who are responsible for the content and quality of worship, are particularly prone to this ailment. The problem is that when I start focusing on what I don’t like in a worship service, I stop worshiping. I end up sitting in the seat of scoffers: criticizing, judging, and doing just about anything other than offering myself to God in worship.
Psalm 150 supplies a powerful antidote to worship crankiness. It calls for worship with everything we’ve got. It mentions a wide variety of instruments to be used in the praise of God. With a little cultural imagination, it wouldn’t be hard to paraphrase Psalm 150 like this:
Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord with organs and pianos;
praise him with guitars and keyboards.
Praise him with hymns and anthems;
praise him with worship songs and chants.
Praise him with drums and cymbals.
praise him with clapping and silence.
Praise the Lord!
The more we seek God’s glory, the less we will be focused on our personal likes and dislikes in worship. The more we focus on giving ourselves to God, the less we will be preoccupied with ourselves and our feelings. The more we remember God’s greatness, the more we will want him to be praised with every instrument, every voice, every genre, and every person. The more we allow Psalm 150 to call us to worship, the less we’ll be weighed down with worship crankiness.
Let everything that breathes sing praises to the Lord!
Praise the Lord!
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: Do you ever struggle with worship crankiness? When? What, if anything, helps you to get out of it? What helps you to focus on glorifying God in worship, rather than on your preferences and feelings?
PRAYER: Gracious Lord, you alone are worthy of worship. You are worthy of praise and thanks, of submission and commitment, of adoration and love. Thank you for the extraordinary privilege and honor of being able to worship you.
Forgive me, Lord, when I get so caught up in my own preferences and desires in worship. You know how easy it is for me to be critical because I don’t like the music, or because it isn’t done with excellence, or because somebody changed a word in a hymn, or . . . Once I become a critic, I stop worshiping. I fail to give you what you deserve and desire from me. My heart grows hard and resistant to your Spirit. Forgive me, Lord.
Give me, I pray, a generous and open heart when I gather with your people in worship. Help me to praise you even if the genre isn’t my preference, even if the songs are so familiar as to be boring or so new that I can hardly sing them. By your grace and through your Spirit, may I focus so much on you that I’m just not impressed with my preferences and judgments.
When I gather with your people for worship, Lord, may I learn to praise you with all that I am, no matter the styles or forms or instruments or setting. May I learn when gathered with your people how to worship you, not just in the gathering, but in every moment of life.