May seemed to be a month full of discussion about worship music on our Meetup for ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses. I called to mind my 1984 edition of Kingdom Melodies, the songbook Jehovah’s Witnesses use at their meetings.
I mentioned the picture of bearded (gasp!) men singing with mouths wide open giving praise to Jehovah. Their arms outstretched and opened as well. I asked the group sarcastically “did anyone ever praise God that way while at the Kingdom Hall???”
Music and worship is an often overlooked topic. When we leave the Watchtower, it’s not just the difference in doctrinal matters that we notice. It’s startling to see the difference in worship music and styles upon taking that first brave step into a church. In fact, I didn’t even know what worship was when I first began attending. I remember reading the little church bulletin to see the name of the pastor giving the sermon and then seeing another name under the title “pastor of worship.” What the heck is that? I figured there was a speaking pastor to give the sermon, a youth pastor to focus on the needs of the children, but I actually had to look up the word “worship” to figure out what a pastor of worship did. Don’t we just sing songs?
I came to discover that the prayerful selection of music to touch hearts is very important. Music has always been used for worship throughout the Bible and even has the power to release demons according to 1 Samuel 16:23
So it came about whenever the evil spirit from God came to Saul, David would take the harp and play it with his hand; and Saul would be refreshed and be well, and the evil spirit would depart from him.
Music ministers to us.
I’ve been broken by songs in worship services, compelled to kneel and raise my hands. I’ve gotten answers to prayer, been led in the Spirit to write, and overall been uplifted and refreshed.
It’s good to be counseled by the word, but too often we forget that music itself also ministers to us. I was reminded of that when one of our Meetup members attended his first real Christian conference. He explained his experience this way:
“It was a bit of a culture shock to be in some heartfelt, hand raising singing when I went and they did their worship.
Where were my hands? Can you guess? Sweating in my jeans pockets!
It was nice to see though odd at first, when I saw one guy leaning so far forward on the back of the chair in front of him with his hand raised I though he was gonna do a Superman and fly off through the roof. Well I guess that’s how he felt. He didn’t seem to care what others thought. Good for him. But for a newbie I was like ?
But I realised how much I love music to praise God, and these far exceed what I had experienced at the K.Hall.
I can already see the expressions of my JWs thinking, he has lost it! Lol
What felt good was to see that there was scriptural reasoning and depth during the day, and yet deep emotion in worship.”
When I read his words, I was taken back to my early attempts at pushing past my fear of church. The first one I visited was old fashioned and sang boring hymns so I wasn’t too shocked. But the second one I went to had a live band which in itself was a new thing for me as an ex-Jehovah’s Witness. I stood up to sing as did others, then saw some hands raising.
That was new and I was okay with it but kept mine at my side while singing along. But when one woman on the worship team dropped to her knees it was too much of a culture shock and I got jumpy inside. So I really appreciated my friend’s honest explanation of his first exposure to corporate worship. A culture shock, yes, but he did not conclude it was wrong. He’s got the right attitude. This is the point of visiting a variety of churches: to push past your fears and prejudices formed in the Watchtower and ask yourself “okay, am I jumpy because this is against God and what the Scriptures teach me or am I just shocked because it’s new to my senses and not meeting the approval of the Watchtower grid by which I measure it?”
It was a good opportunity to share a YouTube video and lighten up with Christian comedian Tim Hawkins skit on “Hand Raising” churches.
Later in the month, another Meetup member attended her first Christian concert and even brought her skeptical daughter who’s left the Watchtower but uncertain about her mother’s new love for Christ. The granddaughter jumped right into the joy of it however. Yes, music is a wonderful minister when a sermon can’t reach.
Keep yourself in God’s love, Julie