C.S. Lewis is one of my favorite authors. One of the most impactful things he has written in regards to worship isn’t about the subject of worship in particular, but it definitely helps my heart to feel and my mind to know what is true. He says this in “Reflections on the Psalms” :
“I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed. It is frustrating to have discovered a new author and not to be able to tell anyone how good he is; to come suddenly, at the turn of the road, upon some mountain valley of unexpected grandeur and then to have to keep silent because the people with you care for it no more than for a tin can in the ditch; to hear a good joke and find no one to share it with. . . . The Scotch catechism says that man’s chief end is ‘to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.’ But we shall then know that these are the same thing. Fully to enjoy is to glorify. In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him.”
Lewis helps crystallize in this short paragraph what I feel immensely when I am leading worship. It’s what I want my church to understand. It’s what I aim for as I am leading. Lewis helps us understand that our affection and our delight is incomplete until it is expressed. Imagine if you never told, showed, or acted upon your affection for your spouse. They would feel dejected, unloved, and unimportant. If we have affections… we act on them. This is true in all of life as we worship and in the corporate gatherings as we sing, feast on the Word, and partake of communion together. If we have affections for the Lord and His gospel, then we will worship Him with all of our lives as we obey His commandments, serve Him in gospel ministry, and join Him on mission. Our affections will be completed as we act upon them.
This is also true when we gather as the church to worship Him corporately. Our affections well up within our souls and we complete the delight by expressing our worship with hands lifted, songs raised, as well as hearts and minds reveling in the glory of our Savior together. I truly believe we are missing out when we stand with arms crossed, sipping coffee, and half-way singing out. Our affections are either dim in our hearts, or we are missing out on completing the cycle by expressing them to the Lord. We don’t do this because the worship leader is singing our favorite song or because all of our preference boxes are being checked. We complete our affection by acting on them because God is worthy… so, so very worthy.
If there are two things I want you to take away from this very short treatise on affections and worship, it is this:
- As a worship leader: a major part of our job is to stir people’s affections towards Christ. No, you cannot make them worship… that isn’t your job… but you can (over and over) point people’s affections to the Son of God who came, died, and rose again. Then you can encourage them to complete that affection by expressing their delight in Christ alone. They are missing out if the affection stays hidden in the depths of their heart.
- As a worshiper: what if this Sunday you made the worship leader’s job easy? What if you came with your affections having been freshly stirred by your own heart prep in the Word of God, on your knees in prayer, and in just daily delighting in the God of the Bible? What if your affections were bursting in your heart… ready to be completed in their being acted upon through engagement in song, prayer, and the Word? Let your affections lead you to smiling, lifting your hands in victory or surrender, singing with all you have, and delighting in the beauty of your Savior.
There is nothing better than on a Sunday morning standing next to brothers and sisters in Christ and (metaphorically) “to come suddenly, at the turn of the road, upon some mountain valley of unexpected grandeur”. And instead of having no one to share in the beauty of the Savior with,… to look around with delight in your heart and point to the glory of Jesus in song with others and say, “look at how great He is!” May we find this to be more and more true in our lives: “… we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment.”