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Art in Worship

 
 
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Author: Leslie Jordan
 
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Posted August 26, 2014 by

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.

Would people experience a greater freedom in worship if they were given more ways in which to express their worship?

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 www.allsonsanddaughters.com/blog

Leslie Jordan is a worship leader at Journey Church in Franklin, TN and one half of the worship duo, All Sons & Daughters. Find out more at allsonsanddaughters.com.

 


4 Comments


  1.  
    Barb Criner
     
     
     
     
     

    Wow I really like this concept, opening up worship to this extent is a fantastic idea. As a worship leader I can tell you the current way, or maybe I should say the popular way doesn’t seem to be working for us. Every week it seems as if I am pulling a 1000 pound weight just to usher them into this realm I absolutely love and am committed to. I so badly want them to experience what I do every day. However, I do it on my own, just the Lord and myself, now I see that’s what they need, to worship Him on their own. This could be the way we break that barrier that we so desperately try to penetrate week after week. Thank you for planting a new seed in my mind!




  2.  
     
     
     
     
     

    Thanks for these words of wisdom. I’ve always believed that worship can be expressed in hundreds of ways. What matters most is that we offer worship to the Lord according to His standards, not ours. And His standard is that we worship Him in spirit and in truth. So whether you write, paint, sing, dance, do it and offer it to the Lord in spirit and in truth.

    God bless!




  3.  
     
     
     
     
     

    I love the questions that are being asked. I’ve been wrestling with a lot of these same questions over the last two years as a worship pastor in New Jersey. As a church full of creative people, I have been asking about and looking for outlets of expression, and wondering what that could look like in a corporate setting. We’ve also been journeying as a church over the past five weeks through a series on worship (“More Than A Song”), and asking the congregation to expand their understanding of worship to be more than the songs we sing on Sunday morning. I’d love to hear more about your process, and how you arrived at your current worship experiences.

    Thanks for posting this!




  4.  
     
     
     
     
     

    Leslie: Thanks for these thoughts and your willingness to not only ask hard philosophical questions, but to experiment with solutions. Our church currently offers communion every service at both of our campuses and we still pass an offering plate, though electronic forms are gaining in popularity. We are always struggling to provide “space” for response (we also call it our Response Time). I appreciate your ideas and would love to read more about the journey in getting there….what to try, how to bring people along.





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