Dear Keeper of the Michiagan Scoreboard,
Congratulations, you beat an incredibly inept Notre Dame. I was actually hoping you would lose the game, because I figured if you were 0-3, you would listen to the advice I’m about to give you. But you won, and so you will probably let this nugget of wisdom in one ear and out the other.
I’ve heard a rumor that on certain important moments in the game, your scoreboard and cheerleaders display signs that say “Key Play.” At this point, all 100,000 fans that are crammed into the Big House are supposed to hold up their keys and shake them. Imagine the cacophony of noise that 100,000 jingling pieces of metal can create! In fact, I would guess that the only thing louder than the jingling of keys, could be the screaming of your fans. But you apparently don’t want your spry, young 20-somethings to yell their hearts out, and I don’t know why. Maybe the 98 year old alumni would rather keep the noise down, or maybe it’s just a joke that has spiraled out of control. But whatever the reason, you rob your fans of the chance to really let loose and cheer with every fiber of their being at the exact moment that cheering is needed.
I’m all too familiar with this problem. You see, I not only work at a church, but I have gone to church all of my life. Inevitably, each Sunday, there is some amount of singing that happens at churches across the country. And when the words for whatever Chris Tomlin song we are singing along with that morning hit the screen, we might as well have cheerleaders holding up “Key Play” at the front of the stage. Don’t get me wrong, singing is great. Music can influence our attitudes and receptivity for God’s truth. But just as you have convinced your fans that the only way they can make noise during “Key Plays” is to hold up their keys, so to, we have subtly planted in people’s minds that the only way they can worship is to sing. Instead of remembering that singing is just 1 way to praise our Creator, we have made singing synonymous with worship.
That may not seem dangerous to you, oh Michigan scoreboard keeper, but let me tell you why it is hurting us. There is no way that every Sunday morning song is going to be amazing. Even the best song leaders still write bad songs (i.e. Tomlin’s “America”) If worship=singing and singing=worship, when the singing is not exciting and great, we can mistakenly say “Worship was bad.” What’s funny about that statement is that there is no way worship can be bad. There is no bad worship. There is no good worship. Someone is either worshiping or not worshiping. Worship, in and of itself, is ascribing worth to something, and that’s not something you can do poorly. When you are extolling the amazing-ness of an iPhone to someone else, you are worshiping the iPhone. You could do that with a song, or a poem, or a story, or by simply sitting contently with the iPhone. And if there are that many ways to give value and worth to a phone, how many more ways must there be to attribute worth to the creator of both phones and the creatures that use them. And each one of those ways is good; there is no bad way to worship. There is just worship.
Let’s make a deal. Why don’t you phase out the “Key Play” shtick? Just ask them to cheer. However they do that is up to them. Here’s my end of the bargain: I’ll do my best to remind Jesus followers that worship can mean singing and worship can mean prayer and worship can mean enjoying the rain on a warm, summer day. How does that sound? Good luck next week.