Growing up as a youth group kid, I always craved the “Worship Tinglies.”
You know what I’m talking about, right? The Worship Tinglies are those electric goosebumps that shoot up and down your spine at the perfect worship moment. Moments like the second verse of Matt Redman’s “Blessed Be Your Name.” Or the third verse of “In Christ Alone,” where churchy people all cheer together and sing, “When bursting forth in glorious day . . .” Or one of my favorites, the bridge of Brooke Fraser’s “Hosanna.” I’d sing, “BREAK MY HEART FOR WHAT BREAKS YOURS!!!!” The drummer does a nice fill. The electric guitar has the perfect amount of distortion and reverb. I let out a sniffle, a single tear, and then BAM! Worship Tinglies.
Maybe I’m the only weirdo who gets the Worship Tinglies, but personal pleasure and catharsis derived from musical worship is a universal experience for all believers. We see it in Scripture, like when David uses music to soothe Saul’s tormented spirit (1 Samuel 16:23) and when Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, is freed from a period of God-induced silence and explodes in praise (Luke 1:64).
God designed us this way: to feel pleasure, joy, and release when we are worshiping him.
Perhaps a worship song really connects to your situation. Perhaps a hymn beautifully captures what you know to be true about God. Perhaps a certain worship song reminds you of the moment you first gave your life to Christ. To worship God is to feel joy, because it’s what we’re made to do, right?
Worship Tinglies Addicts
But what happens when we prioritize the pleasure and joy of worshiping God over God himself?
While this is a challenge every generation of believers throughout history has faced, our consumeristic society takes it to another level. We live in an age where we can customize every little thing in our lives, from our morning latte to the number of threads in our bed sheets.
Sadly, worship music preferences are just as subject to the consumer’s choices. Through the magic of Spotify, we pick worship songs we like and ignore the rest. On Pandora, a simple thumbs down banishes all songs of a certain style from our playlist. Our worship of the God of the universe is dictated by our own preferences, like a Venti, No-Foam, Soy, Half-Caf Latte.
Worship Tinglies are now the goal of worship, not God himself.
This is true in our churches and fellowships too, isn’t it? We’re frustrated when a song is a different language, style, or genre than we’re used to. We’re disappointed if our favorite song isn’t sung. We get salty when the caliber of musical worship isn’t at the level we’re used to. We have become not a generation of worshipers but rather a generation of worship consumers.
We have become Worship Tinglies addicts.
And here’s the scary truth: I can sing a song with the most biblical, gospel-oriented lyrics intellectually but just be feeding my emotional addiction to the Worship Tinglies. I can worship God with lyrics about taking risks for the gospel but really be worshiping the god of comfort and preference through my musical genre choices.
This is why it’s important for us to not only sing songs with biblical, gospel-oriented lyrics but also to engage in styles and genres that challenge our consumeristic attitudes and help us practice risk-taking in our worship.
If you’ve been to Urbana or gone on a short-term mission trip, you know how much we are transformed when we go on the mission field: we cross cultures, we feel uncomfortable, we begin to see God in bigger ways.
What if every time you worshiped, whether alone, in large group, or at church, you had a missions-like experience? What if every time you led worship you were preparing others for God’s mission, whether across the street or across the world?
This winter break, why don’t you try changing your worship intake, from your Worship Tinglies–inducing favorites to songs that may be different, challenging, and even uncomfortable? Pay attention to how you experience God when your worship life is less about your preference and convenience.
Here are four Spotify playlists to get you started:
You might also ask a friend from a different background for recommendations. If you lead worship, try out some different styles this break or begin listening to new songs so you can begin to change things up for your community.
Don’t get me wrong, the Worship Tinglies aren’t inherently bad. But “a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks” (John 4:23).
Andy Kim was a member of the Urbana 12 worship team. Currently he is part of InterVarsity’s Multiethnic Ministries Department, developing resources to help students and staff reach people of every ethnicity and culture.