You probably have noticed at your church that ladies tend to be more active in times of musical worship than men. At first, I thought it was just because most worship songs sounded like a love ballad from a girl to her boyfriend... But turns out, there's more to the story.
At one particular church, I was feeling the pressure to not engage because no other man was. But after turning my attention toward heaven, I began to notice a phenomenon. Other men followed. And others followed them.
So I started to ask the question, What kind of worship is for men? Is it a particular flavor? Is there some sort of biblical example for how men ought not only to look but how they ought to participate in worship? Let’s go to the Word:
Recently I was standing on the front row of an affluent church in the South as the worship leader began the service. I usually sit on the front row, especially when I am going to be speaking. One contrast to itinerant ministry VS pastoring is the lack of consistency stylistically. Having become accustomed to a particular culture and energy, it can be a bit off-putting at first to stand in an entirely new and different context. This particular Sunday, not only was I standing in a less enthused environment than I might have expected, I had also come through a rather tiring week. All to say, I simply wasn’t “feeling it” that day.
My affinity for the front row has much to do with the ever-present distractions that latecomers and new parents provide combined with my ADD. Knowing this of myself, my habit is to face forward no matter what I hear behind me. But what I was about to see this Lord’s Day would retain my dumbfounded attention for the next 2 worship songs including their 17 bridges. I saw men. Hundreds of men. Standing. Silent. Hands clasped together in their front like they were groomsmen or secret service agents at an auspicious event.
This simple hand gesture that was unanimously embraced by the men of this church revealed so much not only of their church, but of the culture of worship in the United States. Hands clasped together at our front, especially for men, is a subliminal message we do not even realize we are sending. It protects a weak area while signaling that we recognize this isn’t the time or place to cross our arms in a display of aggression or defiance. It reveals a timidity, uncomfortably, and feeling of vulnerability without a word ever being spoken. Some were singing. Most were staring. All were signaling: this praise and worship isn’t for us.
As a man, I love studying the life of David. He was a brilliant military mind. He was not afraid to pick a fight. He was strong. He was brave. Yet even amidst the many monikers of manhood and kingship, the hallmark of his life, my favorite title, he was a “man after God’s own heart.” David was a passionate worshipper and seeker of the face of God. He was a skilled harp player. He is a multi-platinum record, best selling psalm writer. Maybe that’s why he was uniquely qualified and gifted to teach men about worship and demonstrate his teachings in the process.
The life and reign of David is near it’s end in 2 Samuel 24 and David is about to step into some extraordinarily dangerous waters. He has demanded that the people and armies of the nation of Israel be numbered. We take censuses and polls all the time, but David is balking against an Exodus 30:12 principle that basically states that you only number things you own. And since God owns the nation of Israel, you don’t need to count them, you need to count on God. David’s numbering of the people and armies before his death was an act of pride in an attempt to credit his own leadership or possibly discern apart from seeking God whether he had the power to accomplish one last military feat against a neighboring nation. Regardless, David is overtaken in pride. But what I love about this man is just as quick as he succumbed to the temptation of Satan, his heart was broken in sensitivity toward God in his awareness of sin. (Man after God’s own heart. Not perfect. But prayerful.)
Skip toward the end of the chapter when David heads out to the threshing floor of Arauna to offer sacrifices on an altar to God. Though Arauna tries to bless David with free land and free sacrificial animals as a gift. David’s response in what makes the story. “I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord that cost me nothing.”
Today I write to the men, both young and old. I write to those who are raising men. I write to the churches that are hemorrhaging men. A relationship that does not cost you anything is not worth anything. And just like the costly box of spikenard poured on the head of Jesus by the woman, men are likewise compelled to an authentic worship that may cost you something (but will reveal your everything in Christ.) Since real men are wired to “pay.” I want to reveal your opportunity to work on your worship as David reveals what it may cost you:
1. Worship will cost you everything.
2 Samuel 6:14
And David danced before the LORD with all his might. And David was wearing a linen ephod.
No reservation. No hesitation. David gives not some, but all of his might to God in worship. I don’t know about you, but I’m not much of a dancer. I didn’t grow up dancing. I’m not good at dancing. And I’m not saying you necessarily have to do backflips across the room holding your worship flags and balancing the offering plates. But I am suggesting that authentic worship, even for manly men, is going to require some energy.
David’s linen ephod is historically a form-fitting garment. Not much is hidden here. And rather than encourage all men to adopt the painted on skinny jeans accompanied by smedium shirts from the Baby Gap, I’d encourage us to adopt this concept metaphorically. Real worship is not the absence of insecurity and vulnerability, it is preoccupation with the presence of God. For worship or the lack thereof, men will one day pay. You much choose whether you will spend your energy now willingly, or spend eternity wishing you had.
2. Worship will cost you your heart.
With a freewill offering I will sacrifice to you;
I will give thanks to your name, O LORD, for it is good.
Notice David’s offering is “freewill.” Meaning, he brings it to the Lord of his on volition. As a former worship pastor, myself, I remember the struggle of feeling like I had to do 2 or 3 fast songs just to get people’s attention. There were the freewill few on the front row who would have jumped, clapped, and sang were I leading with a kazoo. But my goal was to usher the frozen chosen on the remaining rows into the throne room of an awe and awareness of God’s presence. I’d instruct, “Clap your hands.” “Lift your hands.” “Sing out!” “Focus on these words!” Eventually, you’d get a few of the deacons or front second row leaders who would begrudgingly (at first) participate in musical worship (after a few moments of awkward direct eye contact with me.)
And once you have the men on your team, you have the whole family. Wives, sons, daughters, and other men follow other men’s lead, first. So, what if we had some men who God designed to be family leaders decide to be worship leaders from their place in their row? What if men’s seeking and response to the presence of God was freewill and not forced? The church would be turned upside down. Our families would be turned upside down. Men, I know you’re strong and tough. But by yourself, you’re not strong enough. God would love to help you keep your home, but first He must conquer your heart. The worship account will be filled by something/someone. Without the investment of worship in your family, you open up their future to a gamble with Satan.
3. Worship will cost you the spotlight.
2 Samuel 6:20–22
 And David returned to bless his household. But Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David and said, “How the king of Israel honored himself today, uncovering himself today before the eyes of his servants' female servants, as one of the vulgar fellowsshamelessly uncovers himself!”  And David said to Michal, “It was before the LORD, who chose me above your father and above all his house, to appoint me as prince over Israel, the people of the LORD—and I will celebrate before the LORD.  I will make myself yet morecontemptible than this, and I will be abased in your eyes…
I know this is the one every man was excited about. If you are not a clapper, singer, dancer, or hand-lifter you cringe at the thought of a spotlight. You avoid those things to keep people from looking at you. Well, I have good news and bad news right now. But it really is a matter of perspective.
Bad news: people are going to look at you. In fact, David shows us that when we abandon our pride in pursuit of God’s presence, people may very well misunderstand and mock us. Worshipping God will illuminate others to your presence as a single light in a room of darkness.
Good news: David says we get to grow deeper in this thing…more and more. Because it’s not about us. “It is before the Lord.” And if our worship is real, it may cost us our anonymity in the congregation, but when people look at us, the spotlight will really be on the reason for our worship. Jesus. In our 2 Samuel 24 passage, let us not forget that a threshing floor is a high, visible place. It is where the wind catches the chaff and whisks it away. Much like worship serves as the platform for God to get rid of the flakey stuff in our hearts and lives. Oh, and small little detail. The threshing floor where David now stands is in the neighborhood where Abraham would offer Isaac in worship, where David would provide for his son to build a temple to worship, and where God would offer His Son so that you can worship.
Real worship is a product of the price Jesus paid for our sin. And the more we realize how much we do not deserve to worship, the more passionately we will worship. Men who do not realize that worship is not about them do not participate in it.
The participation and presence of men in worship speaks volumes.
Likewise, the absence of men in worship speaks loudly.
Men, worship is hard work.
But it’s worth it…
Your family is worth it.
Your church is worth it.
JESUS is worth it.