Saturday, 26 July 2014

Jesus might have sung out of tune

Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.’ ~ John 4:23,24

I came to a realisation this morning.  Jesus might have sung out of tune.

Let me clarify.

I remember years ago I attended a gospel concert with my old church, in which the lead act was Cliff Richard (my mum was a fan, LOL).  Various people had invited non-Christian friends and family members.  There was a singing duo on the show who had some dramatic testimony about how they'd escaped persecution in eastern Europe and become Christians.  When they started their testimony the lights dropped, music started to play softly in the background.  As they told their testimony the woman started to cry.  But it was fake.  It was staged. It was rehearsed. She then broke into a heart-rending song.  Immediately the man next to me, a non-Christian, turned to me and said with disgust in his voice, "Crocodile tears".  And I agreed.

That moment has stuck in my memory so clearly.  I remember nothing else from that concert except that.

They might have spoken the truth, but without the Spirit it fell flat.  Their voices were great, the music was perfect, their testimony meaningful.  But it was like a lead balloon and it drove someone further away from Jesus.

Worship is big business in Christianity today.  Worship in big churches has become like a concert; all effort into the performance, all eyes on the technical prowess of the sound desk and lighting engineer, all ears into the 'musicality' of the performer.

But God isn't in the slightest bit interested in whether you are a good singer or a popular musician.  He couldn't care less if you practice for hours, He couldn't care less if angels would be impressed with your harmonies, He couldn't care less if your lighting display flashes in perfect time to the beat of the music.  And, I tell you what, if you raise your arms and look all holy because you want to impress people when you are not truly worshipping in Spirit and in truth - you are a white washed tomb: you are a hypocrite (Matthew 23:7).

I have done this.  At my old church, where image was everything, where the fake smile was plastered on and we were expected to nod and look fascinated by the preaching and full of the Spirit in worship, I have been a white washed tomb. Pretty on the outside, but inside dead men's bones

However, things that actually matter to God: us knowing Jesus, love, people, HUMILITY, Spirit and truth, a transformed person from the inside out.

This is why it is possible that Jesus couldn't hit a right note.  Because to God perfection is not what other people see or hear, it's Spirit and it is truth.

Who believes what we’ve heard and seen?
Who would have thought God’s saving power would look like this?

The servant grew up before God—a scrawny seedling,
a scrubby plant in a parched field.
There was nothing attractive about him,
nothing to cause us to take a second look.
He was looked down on and passed over,
a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand.
One look at him and people turned away.
We looked down on him, thought he was scum.  Isaiah 53: 1-3 (The Message)

So, whilst it is great to play an instrument well and sing nicely...I mean if I led the music group at our church with a guitar it would be very distracting because I can't play guitar...but the successful outcome of worship is not how perfect it was, how technically brilliant, but this: Did the Spirit move? Were people transformed? Was Jesus lifted up on the throne of our praise?  Was God glorified?

A few quotes from an interview with Francis Chan in the most recent Flow magazine issued by The Message, which speaks into this subject a little:

"In our country there seems to be a trend that the fastest growing churches are those who can provide the best worship experience.  We're trying to recruit a whole load of activists who will move into the toughest neighbourhoods of our country, serve Jesus with all their lives, living sacrificially, but I feel like we're competing against the worship experience." ~ Sam Ward

"If I have a great worship band and I can communicate well, I will draw a crowd with or without the Holy Spirit.  That's the world we live in.  That's true of any performance - if it's done with excellence you're more apt to go back...It's very sad though.  I was speaking at an event, maybe a year ago, and it was beautiful.  They had camels and horses and everyone was beautiful, lights, fog machines, incredible music.  But my friend who drove me there is actually from India and he just laughed when we got to the door.  He said, "Wow, you Americans are so funny. No one will show up unless there's a great speaker right? And no one will turn out unless there's a great band?

"In India we love getting together just to pray.  We actually look forward to praying together.  We look forward to taking communion together."  And when he said those words I thought: 'That is so much more honouring to the Lord'. ~ Francis Chan

Next time you worship, just remember: Jesus might have sung out of tune. But He is the most true worshipper who ever walked the earth. God inhabits [lives and is enthroned in] our praises (Psalm 22:3) - when we praise from Spirit and in truth God truly walks among us.  When we perform, we are simply conforming to the ways of the world.

Maybe you sing out of tune, maybe you can't play an instrument, maybe you dance like a hyperactive octopus, maybe when you speak to a group you stumble over your words and mispronounce things in scripture readings - but to God you are precious, He wants you not your performance.


  1. yes, good post. I've often felt at some churches during worship that I'm being lead by their acting/drama rather than true worship. :(

  2. Ouch. This was really convicting to me - in a good way! I'm still mourning the fact that I no longer have access to the stunningly beautiful services at my church in DC. The worship experience hit all of the senses - from the gorgeous icon of Mary and Jesus to the professional-level choir and pipe organ to the Mass settings by Bach to the incense. God gave me a gracious gift with those experiences, and it was exactly what I needed. What's harder to accept is that now I need a tiny church with a choir that sings a bit off key in a church without a shred of stained glass and an organist that misses some notes. But does it please God when the delightful elderly man in the choir lets loose and does the hand motions to "Lord I Lift Your Name on High," by himself, for the fun of it? Hell yes.