Worship Is Our Response
by John Woods

My children are not impressed with me. Not even a little. When they were younger I stood a chance, but no more. Back then, I could do the most mundane things and I would be a hero. Blow up a balloon? They would celebrate. Dab some glue on a slightly broken toy? A small parade would ensue. Rescue a frisbee from the gigantic magnolia tree in our front yard? I’d be on the front page of the newspaper.

But now things are different.

Candlelight is one of the most significant events I contribute to at Dawson, and it’s one of my favorites. Seeing all the people work together week after week to prepare something worth giving a King is both inspiring and humbling. The three nights of worship, ministry, and gift-giving to our community is an annual high watermark for me for sure.

This year, I asked my kids what they thought of Candlelight. Their answers were less than encouraging. “It was pretty good,” one remarked, likely distracted by the much more impactful YouTuber on the screen. “Your face looked weird on that song you sang,” another commented. My wife, Lindsay, sensing my discomfort, chimed in but failed to help. “You guys stop. That’s just the way he looks when he sings.” Needless to say, these were not the responses for which I had hoped.

When we come together for worship, we, too, are responding. Worship doesn’t happen to us, it’s given by us. We are responding to what God has already done. It’s our action in response to God’s action. Through Christ, the gates of Heaven have been opened to us, and we have access, unrestricted access, to the Creator of the universe. We have forgiveness from our deepest regrets, biggest mistakes, secret failures, and guilty past. Through the cross, we have an abundant life that invites us to celebrate all the good things God has given us, all the peace that abides so deep, and all of the joy we can handle.

It's out of a deep place of gratitude that we come together for worship and respond to the hope offered through the Gospel of Jesus. Our time together serves as a bookend for the beginning and end of our week, reorienting our priorities, challenging our perpetual preoccupation with self, and sending us out to be ambassadors for the Kingdom of which we are citizens. We seek to live lifestyles of worship and faithful discipleship because we have practiced what we preach in worship. When a child is learning to swim, we help them practice in the shallow end before we send them out into the open ocean. In the same way, we practice responding together to what God has done in the midst of the safety of Christian community before we are sent out into the open ocean of the world. Without the weekly rhythm of worship, we are sure to be pulled under.

I'm not sure if you remember yourself in high school, but you were weird. We all were. Not much has changed in that regard. I love working with high school students because they embrace the weird, trying on for size all sorts of values and responsibilities in their formative days here at Dawson. Like a sweater that was handed down from the previous generation, they're standing in front of a spiritual mirror asking themselves if they like the way they look in it. "Do I actually want this? Does this fit me or can I grow into it?"

One of the more interesting events that our Student Ministry has previously held was a silent disco. You might be confused at this moment, and you will not be alone. Imagine a big dance party, with hundreds of high school and middle school students gathered in the FRC. They are smiling and singing and enjoying one another's company. The DJ is over in the corner playing the radio edits to some of their favorite songs. However, one thing is different and unexpected. When you walk into the room, you hear no music. Each student has on a special set of headphones that can be tuned to one of three different channels. At any given time, three different songs are playing. On one side of the room is a group jamming out to the latest Taylor Swift song. Miley Cyrus is coming in like a wrecking ball on another channel. And while all that is happening, the rest of the students are singing throwbacks along with Journey. It’s a lot of fun, but the best part is when, in a moment of serendipity, everyone finds the same channel, and they start singing together at the top of their lungs. What was just moments before a fractured cacophony of sound instantly becomes a roof-raising celebration.

We are tempted at times in worship to wish for a silent disco, aren’t we? I’ll switch over to my station, and you switch over to yours. I’m tired of this channel, so I’ll find another. But the beauty of worship on Sunday mornings is that it’s more than just me-and-God time. It’s us-and-God time.

We respond to God’s revelation because He has displayed His greatness and love for us in Jesus and by His Holy Spirit through the Bible. We proclaim the Gospel through active participation in historically rich, culturally relevant, and biblically diverse expressions of worship and prayer to the glory of God. We tune our hearts together to the same lyrics and music, trading and enjoying them with one another before the Receiver of our gifts. We respond together, singing with other people because we love them more than our preferences. And when the guy down the pew, facing the weight of his circumstances, just can’t bring himself to sing, we turn up our own voice just a little louder to encourage him not to give up. What results is a roof-raising celebration of the Giver of Life.

So this week as you worship, join in the song that is already in progress, a tune that all of creation is singing. Take off the headphones, link arms with the fellow travelers who surround you, and turn up your voice. Don’t seek to be impressive; seek to be obedient. Risk experiencing the joy of a response to God’s goodness that compels you to plant your feet, fill your lungs, lift your head, and declare the praise of the only One worthy to receive it.

John Woods is Dawson’s Music & Worship Pastor. John attended Baylor University, receiving a Master of Music in Church Music and a Master of Divinity in Theology from George W. Truett Theological Seminary. When there’s time, John likes searching for hole-in-the-wall restaurants with his wife, Lindsay, and their children Hudson, Emma, and Mason.



To learn more about Music & Worship at Dawson, please click here.