Art in Worship

By | Categories: Featured, Magazine

1-artinworship By Leslie Jordan

I once heard a poignant definition for worship, and it has never left my heart or mind: “worship is extravagant love and extreme submission.” It is hard to think that we sometimes place this word in a box, defining it only as “church music.” My heart sinks when I realize the creative state of the church has been reduced to choral arrangements and chord charts on Sunday mornings. This is definitely not extravagant or extreme. It has simply become our routine.

I have been on staff at The Journey Church in Franklin, TN since January 2008. We have experienced major changes in the past four years causing us to dig deeper into the meaning of worship—to move beyond our natural inclination to call it “music.” We believe each person is designed uniquely in the image of God, and, in our uniqueness, we have come to anticipate everyone’s response in worship to be just as original. Our stories beg us to love extravagantly and submit to the awesome authority of the Lord. The Bible calls us to come humbly before him, offering him our best, our finest, our worship. And sometimes, this means offering him more than a song.

Expansive Worship
In the fall of 2010, we formed a creative team comprised of a corporate graphic designer, a producer, a visual worship designer, musicians, painters, and pastors. We called it “Cartography” because, simply put, we were mapping the creative path of worship for our community at Journey.  It became our goal to move beyond music and prose and dive into other expressions of worship: painting, prayer, communion, writing, giving, silence, and Scripture. We found ourselves asking the question; “Would people experience a greater freedom in worship if they were given more ways in which to express their worship?”

And that question led us to more: What if the communion table was always available? What if we created a space in the room where people could go and pray? What if we made offering “baskets” a part of the response time so that the worshiper could give at the moment he/she felt God compelling them to give? What if worship was actually left up to the worshiper and not the worship leader? Would we finally experience true freedom in worship? The answer to this final question is a resounding, “Yes!”

Music as Piece
Over the last year and a half, we have seen our community grow out of a place of discomfort and into a space of freedom. Music has become only one of the ways we worship at Journey. During our response time, people scatter around the room. They stand in lines to take the Lord’s Supper. They bring their families forward and give offering. They kneel on pillows to pray, surrounded by friends and family. They journal and cry together. And some stand and sing.

In stating all of these things, I understand this may not be the solution for every church struggling to define worship. But as a church leader, I believe it is important to at least begin asking the questions. Mark Pierson talks about this in his book, The Art of Curating Worship. He says in order to be most effective in facilitating and planning a worship gathering, we must first answer two questions based on the mission and people of our church:
1. What is church?
2. What is worship?

If you can answer these two questions honestly and specifically for your community, I believe you will begin to see the unique ways in which God is calling you to worship. We have a community full of creative people; therefore our collective worship is creative. If your community is full of investment bankers and corporate CEOs, your collective worship expression will most likely look different. And the beautiful truth is that “the Lord takes delight in His people” (Ps 149:4). He finds joy in our expression. He receives our worship. And he deserves it with our greatest extravagance and humility.

How can you help facilitate a greater freedom in worship at your church? To join the conversation, go to

Leslie Jordan is a worship leader at Journey Church in Franklin, TN and one half of the worship duo, All Sons & Daughters. Their new live album and DVD, Live, will be available April 23.


Be Sociable, Share!

    9 comments on “Art in Worship

    1. Pingback: Art in Worship | Worship Leaders

    2. Even as a composer I don’t believe music can ‘own’ worship. Romans 12:1 defines a ‘spiritual act of worship’ and it’s not just something you sing! Thanks for the reminder, Leslie Jordan.

    3. I applaud Leslie for encouraging us to move past the notion that worship equals singing. i agree that it can become a monochromatic and featureless picture of worship reduced to “choir arrangements and chord charts.” I may have misunderstood, but I find it a little troubling that communion and scripture are a part of a list of “other expressions” of worship. There are many in the church now and throughout her history who would say that word (scripture) and sacrament (communion) are not mere expressions of worship but are central to our worship. Word and sacrament are where the earthly and divine mysteriously come together. And what about baptism? There’s no mention of that. I fully agree that culture figures into the equation when we talk about our particular expressions of worship and how we engage people with good news of Jesus. But the article sounds a little overly ethnocentric; like we are asking worship to surrender to culture and not the other way around.

    4. We are on the wrong path when we confine worship to a ‘sanctuary’. Worship is expression of the worth of Jesus Christ. God’s people are the sanctuary where He dwells. So life is my expression of Christ’s worth as I live it for His pleasure. No rules. No formalities. Simply living by the Spirit who has taken up residence in me. ‘Sacraments’ can make a pecking order out of expressions. The Lord’s Supper is not merely wafers and wine on a Sunday morning. It is the sharing of the Life of Christ around a table with like-minded friends in Christ. His life broken and poured out, as ours should be. Baptism is a table of contents for life, defining all of life as a dying to self into new life and pointing us in that direction. The reading of Scripture is a celebration of God’s faithfulness to past generations, a warning to avoid the traps and stumblingblocks of past followers of the Way, and instruction to help us live by the life of God – namely the Holy Spirit. Worship is a life lived as an expression of gratitude of all God has done for us in Christ. Let’s encourage simple and profound worship expressions that promote living in Christ. Nothing else is extravagant enough, and nothing else is so humbling.

    5. Pingback: Leslie Jordan On Art In Worship | Worship Links

    6. Leslie, keep pushing you are about to birth something! I love the ‘sound’ of what the Lord is doing in your hearts and lives and He continue to blow on the embers that He has chosen to kindle among you.

      I agree with you entirely that ‘worship’ has been side tracked into a dead end of singing on a Sunday where so often it is more about consuming than corporate participation in surrendering our hearts and live to Him. There are so many religious stereotypes that need to die before the Lord can raise something in its place. All of these are accompanied by approaching scripture like a lucky dip finding spurious verses to back up our religious conventions.I would encourage you to be bold and continue the great path you have embarked on. I’d love to hear more.

      Worship for all time has been about the where we have placed the affections of our heart, nothing changes, nothing is ‘new’! My we find more ways of expressing this affection in every moment of our lives.

    7. Pingback: All Sons & Daughters Release First CD/DVD, "Live". | Jam the City

    8. Pingback: All Sons & Daughters Release First Ever Live CD/DVD Project | Soul-Audio

    9. Pingback: All Sons & Daughters Release First CD/DVD, LIVE

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>