We’ve all been there. We’re about 2/3rds of the way through the medium paced song. The verses were nice, the chorus was nice, but then BAM! The band is now playing an instrumental (most likely its just the chorus chords with instruments playing the melody instead of the voices singing). It sounds great, but what am I supposed to do out here in the congregation?
Some might cry “heresy!” Instruments are of the devil of course, just like Psalm 150 says. Others, probably musicians like me who are looking to proof text guitar solos into a Sunday morning service, might counter with “Hold on! You see those Psalms with a ‘selah’? Its possible that a ‘selah’ is an instrumental break in the Psalm. Therefore guitar solos are Biblical!” It may or may not be mentioned that the commentators usually end this possible interpretation with “but we really don’t know what ‘selah’ means”.
Still, whether they are heresy or divinely inspired modes of worship, you are going to run into an instrumental break in your worship service sooner or later (or even an entire instrumental song, like this beautiful setting of Psalm 42 by our very own Eden Eskaros). Here are four things you can do to stay engaged even when you’re not singing.
Confession and repentance are crucial to worship. How can we worship a God that we are actively rebelling against? It is possible that your minister has already led a corporate confession but this is a great time to engage in personal confession. While the instruments are playing take time to confess who God is. He is holy, just, righteous, good, loving, and so much more. Then confess your sins knowing that He is both just and faithful to forgive them (1 John 1:9).
At first, confession might seem like a depressing exercise but those who practice confession regularly will find the opposite is true. When we see how holy God is and how fallen we are we gain a greater appreciation for His love and forgiveness. This then leads us to deeper, more heartfelt worship.
Take this time to pray. Pray for anything. Give thanks that you got out of bed and made it to church. Ask God to comfort your friends who are going through a hard time. Plead with God that He would give the worship leader enough wisdom to abstain from instrumentals during worship. Any amount of prayer is a great way to stay engaged during one of those breaks in the singing.
Specifically, reflect on the words you just sang and, if you know them, the words you are about to sing. When you sang “I surrender all” was that a true statement? Or is it something you want to be true? You’re about to sing “then sings my soul my savior God to thee, how great thou art”. Does your soul feel that? Or are you singing it through the pain and the emptiness?
If the Psalms show us anything its that God is not afraid of your self-reflection. He wants you to come to Him with your joys, your victories, your heartbreaks, your longings, and even your pains (see Psalm 22:1). Don’t hide from what’s going on inside. Take this time to reflect so that you can worship from a place of honesty.
Now as much as I like hearing “Oh wow! Dan you’re such an amazing guitar player!” that’s not the type of admiration I’m talking about (nor should it be the praise given during a worship service, but that’s another article). Even admiration of the music itself falls short of holy admiration.
For holy admiration, let the excellence of the creation lead you to admire the creator. God could have created a bland world where all food tastes the same, all notes sound the same, and everything was the same color (I’m sorry if you suffer from any conditions where these are true). Instead He created a world with variety and that variety can bring so much joy and pleasure.
As you experience the joys of creation (assuming this instrumental is a joy to listen to), give praise and admiration to the Creator.
Hopefully these four tips help the next time you find yourself trapped in the middle of an instrumental break. Just please, don’t look at me like this guy…