Awakening Possibility


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Free to Worship

I have to get this off my mind…

I grew up in a – somewhat – traditional black church where praise and worship was literally the highlight of the worship experience. Imagine a worship experience filled with a lot of singing, dancing, shouting, loud music, crying, people falling out, speaking in tongues, etc… totally different from your contemporary church worship experience, right? But what I found in that type of environment is that it was filled with so much emotionalism that you’d almost forget who you were singing to and what you were singing about. At least that’s how I felt.

Since then, I’ve moved to Atlanta and now I attend a contemporary church – talk about doing a complete 180 (lol). I currently attend Buckhead Church in Atlanta, GA (shout out to Buckhead! – whoot!). Attending an awesome church like Buckhead is totally different. Now I can say that I’ve experienced both extremes… “a church with too much emotion” vs. “a church with not enough emotion”. What I find most interesting is that one of the most obvious differences between these two environments is that one is a predominately black church and the other is a predominately white church. Now I can rant about this issue all day because I personally hate the non-diverse world of the church today… it sickens me!

But I won’t rant today… So,

Here’s my perspective:

I personally wish that there was some sort of middle ground…

  • An environment where we aren’t forcing people to lift their hands or behave a certain way, but also an environment where we aren’t leaving people to just stand there and look at us while we sing songs on a stage.
  • An environment where different races of people can worship together without feeling like the environment praises one race over the other.
  • An environment where the music isn’t primarily Gospel or Contemporary, but a mixture of both.
  • An environment where the worship experience is on God and not on us.

…I know what it feels like to be screamed at from the pulpit of a predominately black church for not lifting my hands or responding to the preacher’s message with an “Amen!” I also know what it feels like to stand and sing words off a screen of a predominately white church.

Since it’s hard to find churches that are diverse and embrace different cultures, then I guess you have to choose. And since I had to choose, I personally prefer the contemporary church worship experience. It allows me to think about the words. It allows me to be myself in a way that is authentic to me. It allows me to love on God the way I like to love on Him without being forced to do otherwise. It allows me to freely lift my hands to Him or sing as loud as I want to, or just stand there and look. Nobody’s forcing me; nobody’s interrupting me and God. As far as the black church worship experience that I grew up in – I rarely ever got to think and I felt odd for NOT lifting my hands or behaving a certain way. And I hated that! Growing up, I figured that was how you were supposed to worship, but as I got older I realized that I can engage God in a more intimate way without all the emotionalism. I think that’s what drove me away from the typical traditional black church. I would rather experience God authentically rather than emotionally.

What are your thoughts?

9 Comments

  • June 19, 2008Reply

    Anonymous

    Hey Twon it's Keyunda. Now you know I absolutely agree with you. I have not been able to experienc what you have in ATL yet, but I would love to get a chance to experience something different. We've had this conversation many a times about how it feels like they are screaming about you to lift your hands and whatnot. I used to feel out of place when I didn't do so, but now I'm like screw this! I don't have time 'cause "you're" mad that I'm not yelling back!

    I feel isolated by it at times I do admit, and I know I stick out like a sore thumb, but I'm not falling back in the mode of that foolishness. I enjoy the word, get what I have to get and split!
    -Key

  • June 21, 2008Reply

    Shirley

    WOW, Antwon, I think that you are right. So many people think the same way that you think. We are all different and we have our own relationship with God, through difference experiences. We all come to church with different hurts and different needs, to me that dictates the way you worship. We may not need to say amen, in fear we will miss the next sentence that will heal our pain.
    Me, myself when I attend,sometimes I just want to hear the word of God. Sometimes I want to dance or praise Him with my dance or just sit and meditate on the music. We as ministers need to be sensitve to the move of God. It is not our job to tell people how to praise or how to worship HIm, but to show them. When we preach, it is God that should be speaking through us, the agenda should be His and not ours. In that we should not expect people to react when we think they should. Remember our undestanding is not what God understands.
    It just maybe the time I need to listen to God. I understand that when prasises go up blessing come down. But who determine that shouting out loud means that your praises are heard. The Bible says, God knows the heart of man.

    You are so on it. I always knew that you are a man of God and can see the real thing.

    Elder Shirley J. Roberts

  • June 23, 2008Reply

    Anonymous

    I have read this email about twice. There are some parts I agree with and some that I don't. Coming from a traditional church myself, I believe you used some harsh words when you say "I know what it feels like to be screamed at from the pulpit of a predominately black church for not lifting my hands or responding to the preacher’s message with an “Amen!” " Being a minister one of the hardest jobs is to help usher the people into the presence of God. In the "Black Church" experience we take the word literally when it says "be a witness to the truth" or "make a joyful noise." I don't think harm is intended when the pastor or worship leader ask people to "lift their hands" or even to witness an amen. When we are talking to people (just in a general conversation) we want to know that they are listening. Even if it's on the telephone and there is a silence the first thing we say is "are you there?" So naturally, in our churches we have what I have been taught in seminary is "call and response." So, I think that you should embrace what you embrace and that you don't, don't down it. It sounds as if though the other anonymous person who I identified him or herself as key is harsh on the church as well. They said "I used to feel out of place when I didn't do so, but now I'm like screw this! I don't have time 'cause "you're" mad that I'm not yelling back!" Now are those Godly thoughts going through their head? NO, so my suggestion is worship God in your own way, or a way that you are accustomed too, but don't down any religion or church. If we look at our world we can go to baseball or basketball games and get excited about them, but then we can come into the Lord's house and become "emotionless." So this blog is surely something to think about, however, you all should be a little more open minded. I have been in both extremes and I got something out of all of them. If the music was loud or if there was a lot of singing and celebration, I was able to get what I needed and that I didn't..I didn't, and the same way in the contemporary church, sometimes they just sit there and look, and I feel like Jeremiah..."fire shut up in my bones." So I think we have to learn how to celebrate the difference. Jesus is not in heaven saying "traditional black church" or contemporary white church. There's one Lord, one faith and one baptism.

    I said it....

  • June 24, 2008Reply

    ZACK

    This is excellent Brother 'Twon! I always felt like the only one who didn't like forced worship.

    Mind you, I go to a dead church so there ain't much worship going on in the first place. (That's a long story in itself). But when I go to livelier churches, I do see the dichotomy of facilitated worship versus forced worship. I prefer the nice mixture that you wrote about in this post.

    Stay on the wall my brother!

  • June 25, 2008Reply

    Vincent A. Hunt

    Let's talk about righteousness.

    Righteousness, in fact meaning, having a right relationship with God. And it's from THIS relationship - this PERSONAL "relationship experience" or call it Praise & Worship- is born. It is indeed, here that we find our "channel" with God - and it is here that we mature onto our own mode of Praise and Worship.

    In the book of 2 Samuel we get a glimpse of how David worshipped his God - dancing out of his garments and being despised by Michal daughter of Saul... This is a model of what happens today in some Church experiences - as people we have an internal belief system that sometimes clouds our understanding - and IF we can not understand why one would be screaming, crying, speaking in tongues during their personal worship experience we - also know not to judge OR try to "decipher" WHY one would praise or worship in this way...

    However; what I also understand is that sometimes there is the war of flesh and spirit in within the worship/praise environment. And at times there can be - or what appears to be "practiced behavior" or "coached" reactions... AND THIS can happen in BOTH Church structures, both black "traditional" & modern, I have seen evidence in both. The only thing that we can do to guard ourselves from feeling "alienated" is to be mindful that we are not designed to be Judges...

    AND about the Ministers... I agree that Ministers should not force worship - I say this because in 2 Samuel we see what happens when man puts his hand on Praise & Worship. in 2 Samuel 6 - we see that when Uzzah reached out and touched The Ark of the Covenant - the most holy, symbolic of praise and worship- he was instantly struck dead. This is MY theory and one to ponder about - BUT if the Ark is symbolic of Praise and worship could it be that mans hand is not to touch the Glory of God because He holds it so dear? ANd when Ministers poke and prod the congregation to enhance the flow of teh Prasie and Worship COULD THIS be man touching something he is not supposed to - and the result "death"...

    I say this because even now - you have a "death like" effect on people who witness "coached praise & worship". They discern it (a gift of God discernment) as being staged and "fake" - THUS causing confusion of the mind.

    So in conclusion. My faith in ALL of this is - "God" and will always be "God". I truly believe that He is taking us into a time, and season that He will get His praise and Worship and it will be an authentic Praise and Worship. Born out of the spirit of God and through the God within us. He is already doing this by sending the world through a "Job Experience" - so as gas prices rise, and people loose homes, and we lose control of the lives we felt like we had so much control over - we will see AUTHENTIC Praise & Worship. This is the mind of God, we see it numerous times in scripture. FIND THE CHURCH INSIDE OF YOU... FIND THE CHRIST INSIDE OF YOU, and go there... That is where your true praise and worship is. Stop looking to buildings and "types of Churches" to define YOUR praise and worship.

  • June 25, 2008Reply

    jessephillips

    Hey Antwon,

    awesome thoughts, bro. I think the differences between the traditional black church and contemporary white church are VERY interesting.

    Personally, it feels to me like the differences between our races is more cultural than skin color - as evidenced by the different styles of worship. I wrote a little about that on my blog here: The Most Segregated Day of the Week

    Love what you're talking about Antwon!

  • June 26, 2008Reply

    Rod

    My... what an interesting topic of discussion as well as interesting comments. Of course I've pondered over this post for about a week now and agreed to some exent as well as disagreed so I decided to comment and share my views on this particular post. I want to first of all say that I believe our worship to God is based directly on our relationship with Him. I too have been in several church enviornments other than my own and in each enviornment the worship experience was very different. And although many of those expereinces was some I was not used to, I learned to make the best of the situation at that moment and I learned to celebrate the differences and uniqueness of how others outwardly expressed their worship to God. As I grew and matured in Christ, He allowed me to understand that there was a world outside of the 4 walled church I attended on a regular basis and He allowed me to embrace the differences and uniqueness of it. Now I agree that worship shouldnt be forced by anyone, but let's be real its not the job of the worship leader, prayer leader, minister, or pastor to fuss at the people, yell at the people, get out of character with the people, or literally try to make the people do anything in worship... but it is their job to usher the people into worship, esp. in corporate worship. Sometimes I think we become very selfish in corporate worship and we focus more on what we want, how we feel, what we like and dont like and we forget that the worship experience is not even about us anyway, its all about HIM! As a leader who has been assigned to lead and usher others into the presence of God, sometimes you have to lead people to where they wouldnt normally go on their own, not make them, but lead them. Because everyone is not mature in the spirit, everyone is not in personal place and have a personal relationship with God to whereas they can go in and experience Him for themselves in the corporate worship setting. I believe that once we've matured in Christ then there will be a place in us where we can go into any enviornment and gain something from it and not be totally distracted even if the flow of worship is not one that we're used to and furthermore not one that we dont particularly like. There are times when I like to sit quietly and soak in the presence of God, but then there are other times when I feel like David and we all know David was far from contemporary, David was radical!!! lol. But find ways to embrace the differences rather than talk down or criticize another culture or experience just because its one you dont prefer. I think this is what separates the cultures from ultimatley coming together as one, because instead of embracing the differences of each other, we often criticize. So this is my view, I could say so much more, but I need to get back to work. I just couldnt go a moment longer without responding. I await the other comments to this post as I would love to read what others have to say about this topic! GOD BLESS MY LIL BRUH!

  • June 26, 2008Reply

    Antwon Davis

    I'm glad you all thought it enough to comment.

    Please read the follow-up posts that I wrote on this topic.

  • November 25, 2010Reply

    Free to Worship: Part 2 « AntwonDavisDotCom™

    [...] s1); })(); TweetShareWow, I’m quite excited to see the comments that I got from “Free to Worship”. At least I know people are paying attention. So, I decided to [...]

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