Worship & Memory (The Distracted Worshipper #7)


Part Seven of Series: The Distracted Worshipper: A View from the Pew

Every time I sing ”Great is Thy Faithfulness” I hear my father-in-law, Clem Bilhorn, leading our wedding guests in worship over 30 years ago.

I can’t sing “And Can It Be” without seeing the rapturous face of my now-in-glory pastor, Bill Johnson, belting it out with everything he possessed.

I grow melancholy whenever I sing Matt Redman’s, Blessed be the Name. It draws me back to the memorial service of my young friend Doug Becker, for whom our small group had prayed fervently for six agonizing weeks.

Blessed be Your name

On the road marked with suffering

Though there’s pain in the offering

Blessed be Your name

My eyes still tear up on the bridge as I worship our inscrutable God…

You give and take away

You give and take away

My heart will choose to say, Lord

Blessed be Your name

The old songs are imbedded with history…church history to be sure, but also with our own deeply personal histories. We remember…we imagine…we feel…we worship. The old hymns and worship songs stir us and awaken parts of our soul that had lain dormant. Our past fuels our present worship. As one of William Faulkner’s characters once said, “The past is not dead, it’s not even past.”

My past re-enters my present as I sing about Christ saving a wretch like me, a man who once was lost, but now is found, who was blind, but now sees. As I sing Amazing Grace, I feel shame, remembering snippets of my life before Christ, and I feel renewed gratitude for the life I now have in Christ. I worship again this great and gracious Savior.

For the distracted worshipper, new songs often feel thin and lightweight. Sometimes, because they lack depth and theological richness, but always because they lack the robust reality of our past.

Some questions to ponder:

  • Which particular hymns and worship songs evoke powerful emotions and memories in you?
  • In what ways do those emotions and memories fuel your worship?
  • Can there be a downside to this nostalgia? If so, how so?

Craig Parro

Since joining Leadership Resources International in 1989, Craig directed its international ministry, and as of January 2010, he now serves as President. A graduate of TEDS (M.A., Mission), Craig is a stimulating teacher and has equipped and encouraged pastors and churches throughout the U.S., Latin America and Asia. Craig also serves on the Board of Directors of TOPIC (Trainers of Pastors International Coalition), an association of pastoral training organizations focused on accelerating pastoral training worldwide. Craig has authored articles appearing in several magazines. His first book, Unlikely Warriors, was published in 1992. He is also co-author of Finishing Well in Life and Ministry: God’s Protection from Burnout.