If Worship Is A Conversation…When Do We Shut Up and Listen?

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listenOur worship actions in any audible form can often mute one of the distinct voices of God discernable only in the silence.  In doing so, we can miss His healing, comforting, and encouraging words of hope such as “I am with you; well done; you are forgiven; and I am weeping with you.”

Worship is a conversation that requires not only speaking and singing but also listening and hearing.  The noise of our worship actions often creates worship that is monological.  In other words, our offering of one-sided worship sound can often monopolize the conversation, potentially causing us to miss hearing the voice of God.

The foundation of a meaningful worship conversation is instead dialogical, an interactive exchange of two or more participants.  A healthy conversation includes a balance of discussion and response, listening as well as speaking.  Gary Furr and Milburn Price wrote, “In the drama of the Christian life, worship may be thought of as the script through which the Author of us all calls forth and responds to the deepest and most important longings in us.”[1] Until we occasionally shut up and listen, how will we hear that call?

God’s revelation occurs when He offers us a glimpse of His activity, His will, or His attributes.  Our response is the sometimes spontaneous and sometimes premeditated reply that we call…worship.  We can miss His activity, will, and attributes, however, when we monopolize the conversation by filling our worship with responsive noise only.

Richard Foster wrote, “Silence frees us from the need to control others.  One reason we can hardly bear to remain silent is that it makes us feel so helpless.  We are accustomed to relying on words to manage and control others.  A frantic stream of words flows from us in an attempt to straighten others out.  We want so desperately for them to agree with us, to see things our way.  We evaluate people, judge people, condemn people.  We devour people with our words.  Silence is one of the deepest Spiritual Disciplines simply because it puts the stopper on that.”[2]

Since God began the dialogue and graciously invited us to join Him in it, our worship then could be enhanced when we stop making so much noise.  In order to again listen to and hear His side of the conversation, maybe we should concur with Samuel when he said, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:8).


[1]Gary A. Furr and Milburn Price, The Dialogue of Worship: Creating Space for Revelation and Response (Macon: Smyth & Helwys, 1998), 90.

[2] Richard J. Foster, Freedom of Simplicity: Finding Harmony in a Complex World (New York: HarperOne, 2005), 68.

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4 Responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Andy Titus on 21.10.12 at 2:54 pm

    I agree David. Joel and I have been talking about that some lately, and pastor encouraged the congregation to engage in silence a few weeks ago. Yesterday we had a short time of “silent worship” in our service. We started with only 2 minutes since we knew it would be rather uncomfortable for some of our people and we put a verse from Ephesians on the screens and encouraged our people to focus on that and listen for God. Our thought with the scripture was that it would help to keep our minds from wandering. I would like to say that it was an overwhelmingly spiritual moment where all were moved as they heard from God, but it was a starting point and a good one at that. I look forward to having silence (that isn’t because the sound man forgot to turn the mics on) in our service more often!

  2. Posted by David Manner on 21.10.12 at 2:54 pm

    Andy,

    I am glad you guys are moving toward an intentional time of silence in your worship services. I think you are wise to start with only a couple of minutes…for some this will seem like a life time. Introducing it to the congregation with intentionality also helps them realize that the silence is not because of a technical gaffe as you indicated. I would love to hear in the future what kind of responses you get from your congregation.

  3. Posted by Dr. Abby Burke on 21.10.12 at 2:54 pm

    I appreciate and remain humbled by the “wisdom bombs” you drop David! Keep them coming! Reading this today made me feel better about the last 4 years I spent researching the psychology of praise and worship- and the human soul. Since the beginning of researching my dissertationn, I find myself often having to expereince “Pablum” worship…loud and seemingly empty. Or as my mom would say “7 words 11 times.” I personally find that when the music is loud, unyeilding and or empty, that space and time becomes a playground for the enemy. Recently I had a discussion with a dear friend about how hard it can be sometimes to stay at high octane worship. I think it is at this time we should take a step back, recalibrate, ask God for a revelatory word and change the “SOUND” of our worship. It is when I follow this prescriptive process, I am able to calm my spirt and heart enough to HEAR the Holy Spirit speak into my spirit.

    In Christ Alone,

    Dr. Abby Burke, Artist Revival MInistries, Inc.

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