One of the most inspirational writers on worship is Charles H. Spurgeon, a spiritual giant of the nineteenth century. His sermons were printed in newspapers, and his writings were widely published in books and pamphlets. Although perhaps somewhat dated for most readers today (he died in 1892), here he takes us close to the heart of what true worship is:
True praise is heart work. Like smoking incense,
it rises from the glowing coals of devout affection.
Essentially, it is not a thing of sound:
sound is associated with it very properly for most weighty reasons,
but still the essence and life of praise lie not in the voice, but in the soul.
Charles Spurgeon, Volume 81
Your business in the congregation is to give to spiritual praise
a suitable embodiment in harmonious notes.
He makes three very effective points here, firstly and perhaps most obviously that worship has to come from our hearts. We can point out the Pharisees’ errors, as Jesus did, in making their worship external. For them it was all about being seen to be worshipping in the right way. But we can easily fall into similar error, making our worship more about being seen at church or knowing the latest songs.
Spurgeon’s second point follows on, and he isn’t knocking sung worship in any way. He is just making it clear that sung worship is secondary, it is sequential, it is subsequent, it comes out of a heart that is full of admiration and adoration for our wonderful Saviour. When our heart is touched and changed by Jesus, then we will make sounds, we will make music, we will shout and we will sing.
And finally he gives a brief tip to the worship leader: your job, your business in church, is to take the true worship of the hearts and souls of the worshippers, take it and give it “embodiment”, give it a body! Give it some suitable, harmonious, sweet-sounding, God-honouring songs that are worthy to express this worship in words and music.