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Published Date: November 7, 2011

Published Date: November 7, 2011

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Worship: Whose Heart?

I wasn’t trying to make a statement on gender or gender roles in the church.  Wasn’t, wasn’t wasn’t.  I just misheard the worship leader’s instructions.

In the middle of corporate worship recently, a tune came along in which one group led and another followed.  You know, one of those echo deals.  About halfway through the song I realized I was belting it out with the “wrong” group.  Apparently men were supposed to lead, women follow.  Oops.

My tuneful gusto drew more than a few dark looks.  The experience got me thinking: What does the “men lead out, women echo” tune paradigm tell us about gender roles in worship?  Should gender roles exist in worship?

While we’re on the subject, what is worship, anyway?  Responses vary.  Yea verily, it would take an entire book to adequately parse that subject.  Briefly, the English word “worship” comes from two Old English words: weorth, which means “worth,” and scipe or ship, which means something like shape or “quality.”   Thus, “worth-ship” is the quality of having worth or of being worthy to declare or attribute worth.  Synonyms include adoration, love, reverence, veneration, respect and adulation.  It can include kneeling, bowing down, a willingness to obey and serve. In biblical terms, worship means honoring and acknowledging God for who He is.  (For more, see What is Worship? A Survey of Scripture.)

Christians are called to worship God: “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9).  Worship shouldn’t be another item to mindlessly mark off a Sunday morning ‘To Do’ list.  It is an immense joy, a privilege beyond words.  Worship should infuse every aspect of my being and daily life.  Declaring that God is worthy and loving Him with my whole being – heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30) – is part of who I am as a Christian.  So why were some trying to shut up my worship because I inadvertently upset their gender apple cart?

I later wondered, why aren’t women asked to “lead out” in an “echo” song?  (Maybe they are elsewhere; I’ve just never seen it in the context in question.)  Is it because they’re not loud enough?  Enthusiastic enough?  Spiritually immature?  Lacking in gifting or calling?  Does Scripture indicate that only men are worship vanguards, or that leading worship is a testosterone-only zone?  Does God prefer tenors or baritones to sopranos or altos?  Are female worship expressions secondary or subservient, dependent upon male initiative?  Is there something inherently amiss with placing gender above worship from the heart, and doesn’t doing so miss the point?