The Wrestle of Worship Part 2: why do we sing TOGETHER?
In the previous post we looked at worship being a wrestle, and the power of our sung praise. But what's the deal with singing together in church? Surely I can just have my own wrestling worship disco at home? Sorry buddy! Our church singing isn't simply the sum total of each individual’s sung worship. As a body of believers Paul instructs us that we are meant to speak to one another with psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18-19). This is because there's more power in wrestling as a pack.
There was a Swedish study done on a group who were singing together. Amazingly, when they all sang in time their heart rates settled to the same tempo. Physically, that is happening as the church sings together. Our hearts start beating in time! I like to think that, just maybe, as we sing together our hearts are spiritually aligning with one another too, as well as aligning with God's heart.
I'm a Brumbies fan (rugby union), and one of their classic moves is called a 'rolling maul'. What happens is someone gets the ball, and while the opposition is trying to tackle the ball carrier, the other Brumbies quickly run to get behind their teammate with the ball. One by one, more of the team members join onto their mate with the ball until there are at least seven guys pushing behind him. The momentum that is gained by this is enough to push back any opposition, and nearly every time they push and push until a try is scored. The one dude would certainly have been stopped yards back, but the power of the pack is unstoppable!
It's the same when we worship!
When we worship as a pack we aren't simply singing to God, but we sing to one another, encouraging the pack and pushing the whole pack forward.
In Acts 16 we have an account of this ‘pack’ worship. Paul and Silas have been on a successful missions trip that has landed them in jail of all places! One of the biggest mistakes the jailer made was that they put Paul and Silas in the same prison cell! At about midnight, the moment when most of us would have probably tried to get some sleep, they were singing. Maybe Silas turned to Paul, gave him a nudge and started singing softly: “I was lost with a broken heart, He picked me up now I'm set apart, from the ash I am born again, forever safe in the Saviour’s hand”. Maybe Paul turned his eyes towards heaven, singing“You are, you are, you are my freedom, we lift you higher, we lift you higher!” (1)
We can imagine Paul and Silas in an uproarious moment of worship, dancing disco shapes and shouting together in unison: “You are alive in us, nothing can take your place, you are all we need, your love has set us FREE!”
Then there was a massive earthquake, the prison doors opened, and their chains fell off. (Acts 16:26)
What happened in that moment? The power of the pack came into play. They encouraged one another with song and God displayed His power and set them free. They sang, having already cultivated hearts of worship in the months leading up to the prison moment. In their darkest hour they were ready to worship wrestle, and they were ready to wrestle as a pack.
After that incident in the jail, God spread the church throughout that entire region of the world. What would have happened if they chose to not engage in the worship wrestle? What would have happened if they hadn't decided to encourage one another in their darkest moment? What if in your darkest moment, on the other side when God comes through, He is about to do His most amazing work through you?
PUTTING IT INTO PRACTICE
How does understanding the ‘power of the pack’ change how I worship with other believers?
Firstly, it makes us more aware of how we affect each other in worship.
You come to sing as part of a 'whole body' of other people. If I am in a struggle or hurting, the body is here to be my pack - that I might leave more whole and encouraged than when I came. If I am feeling apathetic when coming to worship, I need to wake up and realize that my apathy is affecting everyone, and I should let myself be changed! And if you are feeling strong and gung-ho, then go go go! Your faith and strength in that moment will help and bless the entire pack, and God.
We come as we are to church, no pretence, no masks. But that doesn't mean we don't leave unchanged, with our hearts more alive, a little more free, a little more bold, a little more soft to God’s voice. Let the pack affect you!
Secondly, it helps us come to church ready to contribute.
When we remember the power of the pack, our biggest concern is no longer what I can get out of the time of singing. Rather, it's how I can best add my voice to the pack so that God might receive some thanks, and that the others in my pack might be filled with more faith and courage. We stop celebrating whether our favourite worship leader led, or whether our favourite songs were sung, or that the most amazing spontaneous song occurred. Instead we celebrate that God was praised and that our brother or sister from the pack was healed, or made more bold, or set free.
My prayer for us is this:
That we join the pack, singing together, realising that we need each other in order to last for the long haul to see the fullness of Jesus’ victory throughout the earth. In the name that is higher than every other, Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
(1) Song: 'Alive' by Hillsong Young and Free
Deborah Stanley is the Creative Ministries Director at Mosaic Baptist Church. Prior to this, she was part of the Redhill Church worship team.