Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Speaking in Tongues: Worship

There's this interesting passage in Acts about the churches speaking in tongues, and there's a great debate today over whether these tongues are real or not and whether we should be speaking in them. The truth is, however, that we're all speaking in them. We all have our own tongue in which we understand and express God. We each have our own God-language, and where we do not understand the many tongues in which we speak God, we really have the power to wound each other. 

I'm not speaking here of traditional languages, of the formation of words by syllable. I'm speaking of the spiritual disciplines and the engagement of man with God, which manifests differently in each of our lives.

One of these God-languages is worship.

People who speak the language of worship find incredible meaning in the words and the rhythms of our praise. All of the words and the rhythms of our praise. (Well, almost all.) These are the people you repeatedly hear say, 'I love this song!' These are the people who raise their hands without worry. These are the people who worship in their car on the way to work and actually look like they're worshiping. (I just look like I'm in need of medical attention or other serious help.)

They hear a new song on the radio and it speaks to them. Instantly. It's so beautiful! and so incredible! and OMG did you hear the new song by _______??? And they can't understand how those powerful words could not mean the same thing to you that they mean to them. Is this not the best worship song ever?

Those of us who do not speak the tongue of worship may still love music. We may still be impacted by the words of praise. They still mean something to us. But we don't get all wrapped up in them. And for most of us who do not speak this language, what we do on Sunday mornings, more than worship, is sing. Yeah, we just sing. And like, clap our hands and stuff.

And we look around at the people worshiping and we wonder why we can't be more like that. Why these words just aren't sinking deeper into our hearts that way.

But it's just not our language. And that's okay.

It doesn't excuse us, of course, from worshiping. Or, from praising. (To draw a distinction, there is much more to worship than music. I'm erroneously using it colloquially here.) God repeatedly asks us to raise our voice to Him, to sing songs to Him, to praise Him. And we must. It's just that for some of us, this worship is one of the many holy things we do and for others, it is oh so much more.

It's important to draw a distinction here, and it's one that I could draw on any day of this series but is perhaps most noticeable in the language of worship. That distinction is this: the God-language you speak is not necessarily the same as your gifting.

You might be reading this and thinking that those with the language of worship are those, well, on the worship team. They are those who are leading us in singing and music every week. In some cases, that's true. In some cases, those with the language of worship are those with the gift of music. But that's not always the case. Some have been given the gift of music, and know it, but come down from the stage to find God in their own language afterward. And some (and I know this from sitting into the pew next to them) speak in the language of worship but clearly have not been given the gift of music.

Or, at least, of singing.

I don't want to create the false impression that the God-language you speak is the service you give because that's just not the case. Your service to God is what you do in honor and glory of Him, and in recognition of the gifts He has given you. Your God-language, though, is how you come to understand Him, how you draw near to Him, how He infuses meaning into your spirit. So I guess you could say that your service is what's meaningful to God, but your God-language is what's meaningful to you.

So back to this: there are those among us who speak the language of worship. The words just get down into them and transform who they are at their core. That's the gift of this God-language. And it's beautiful.

But if this is not your tongue, that's okay, too. God says people of every nation, tribe, and tongue will sing His praises. So sing.

Even if worship is not your tongue.

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