Monday night I went to see Bethel in concert over at the Opry House with several friends. I will be honest and say it wasn’t at all what I expected. There were a couple of times throughout the night where I was uncomfortable. The atmosphere was different and at one point, I am pretty sure a couple of people were speaking in tongues. I grew up in a ultra conservative Southern Baptist Church where we didn’t raise hands, or yell out “Amen.” As I grew up I attended a couple of SBC churches were raising hands is the norm and you might hear the occasional “Amen” from someone. The church where I am currently a member, the raising of hands is the norm on a Sunday morning, but nothing overly charismatic.
We sat behind a group of college students. Given the college they attend is associated with Church of God, I am guessing they are definitely more charismatic in their worship. The one student was talking to the girl next to him and telling her all about how he sees demons and has watched them fly towards him while he is driving. When Bethel was singing these students were shaking their heads and dancing all over the place, while wiggling their fingers. When Lisa Bevere got up to speak, they shouted out, shook their heads and raise their hands. At one point, after the music started again, another guy was curled up on the floor in between the pews. Throughout the evening they were never still. Worship was active and almost interactive for them.
This little SBC girl wasn’t overly sure what to think. I have attended many worship concerts/ events over my lifetime. This one reminded me of the Acquire the Fire conference held in my hometown when I was in high school. That conference was sponsored by the Assembly of God church. These are not worship experiences I am used to at all. After having a little over a day to reflect back on that night, I had to make myself take an honest look at the thoughts that went through my head that night. No, not all of them were positive. Much of that had to do with the fact that it was a different kind of worship experience for me.
Looking through scripture, you see many examples of people dancing before the Lord and in celebration. I, myself, am a part of the dance ministry team here at our church. Just because we don’t dance in every single service doesn’t mean dancing as a response to worship isn’t incorrect. Throughout Monday night, people all over the Opry were dancing.
Speaking in tongues in something I struggle with and I have yet to be comfortable on that front. Our own convention is starting to take a different view. Where it used to be there was zero acceptance of tongues, a group is now looking at whether or not it’s acceptable. The view of this does vary from church to church within in the SBC.
If you look at the denominations across the board, the worship style varies. Even within a denomination you may see a wide variety of worship styles. In the SBC, there are still many churches who hold tight to their hymns and refuse praise and worship music. Others may do more of a blended service, while churches like the one I attend tend to lean more towards a contemporary style of worship.
The guy talking about demons did have me concerned about his theology and that he may lead the girl he was talking to down an incorrect view of theology. Other than that, was there anything really wrong with what I witnessed that night? Just because most of those who were there worship differently than I do, does that make one group of us right and the other wrong? The answer to that has to be “no.” As long as there is a true heart of worship and people are focused on the Lord, there really is no right or wrong way to worship. I have lived my SBC bubble for so long, that sometimes it takes going to an event like this to 1) get me out of my comfort zone and 2) to be reminded there are multiple ways to worship.
Because I was so caught up in looking at those around me and was caught up in being uncomfortable, how much of a worship experience did I miss out on? Would I ever had done what those around me were doing? No. If I had closed my eyes and focused on the Lord and only the Lord, how much more would I have received that night? In the second worship set, Francesca Battistelli came out and started singing songs I actually knew. It was little easier for me to relax and try to worship, but still a challenge with all that was going on around me.
All of this to say, look around you. Explore how your friends worship. I am not saying to change what you do when you worship, but be open to exploring at how others worship. Also, ask the Lord if there is anything holding you back from worshiping Him how He desires you to worship. This may be nothing more than walking into a service with an open heart truly desiring to seek Him. For others it may be time to raise your hands in worship.