“Joyful, joyful, Lord we adore Thee. . .” This poem written by Henry van Dyke perfectly encapsulates the act of corporate worship. While worship can be a serious, somber, reverent experience, it can also be a joyful one. All too often in our churches we focus on the former and restrict the latter. But I think that joy has just as much of a place in our worship as does reverence.
Here are my top 3 reasons why I would love to see more joy in our contemporary Christian worship.
1) We take ourselves too seriously. Now, I’m not suggesting for a minute that we should not take worship seriously. We should remember that our worship, offered to the Highest King, is not something with which we can be careless or thoughtless.
But often there is an air so serious around our worship that one cannot even make a mistake and laugh it off. Those who are used to being serious can forget that they are dealing with fellow human beings, worshipping in weakness and imperfection.
People who routinely bear responsibility for leading God’s people in worship, week after week, can forget how to relax and enjoy themselves as well. Playing music is, after all, about play. Music is meant to be enjoyed at some point, otherwise we may as well read out the lines of a song in a dull unified monotone.
If we take ourselves too seriously, we run the risk of missing out on enjoying God’s company. Which would be a shame, as it’s kinda the reason for worship in the first place.
2) Christians sometimes need a rest. Worship without joy can become a chore or an intellectual exercise. Worship that is emotive but devoid of joy can feel too melancholy for some. In a world filled with depression and stress, our worship needs to provide God’s people with an opportunity to experience His joy.
Let’s give people a break from hard work and help them to relax into God’s presence, easing rather than pushing them into worship. If they can experience God for themselves, they will likely experience His joy. Which brings me to point number 3.
3) There is joy in His presence. Psalm 16 states “In your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Ps 16:11, NKJV.) This is the place where we need to be. It’s the place that many in the church need to rediscover.
The Lord can and does feel joy. He enjoys our company. In His presence we can experience the joy that the Lord feels in hearing our worship and His pleasure in simply being with us.
Feeling tired? Stressed out? In need of a holiday? Come to His presence. Been down lately? Struggling with sorrow? Burdened by over-responsibility? Come to His presence. Be filled with the fullness of His joy.
As the song says, “Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee.” They unfold with joy, in welcome, not through striving to worship but through simple enjoyment of Him. A flower is a great symbol of the posture of our hearts in worship.
There may be many other good and persuasive reasons to re-connect with the joy of the Lord. I have only named a few here, but I hope they are compelling nonetheless.
May you know the richness of His presence and the fullness of His joy this day.