Some of my best friends are drummers. I love drums, drummers, and even having a go at drumming myself. A guy I used to play with, Tim, was a great timekeeper, a creative player and a reliable band-mate. So don’t misunderstand me when I say that some of his best drumming was on occasions when he didn’t play.

We would be a few songs into a gathered worship set. I’d start the next number on guitar, and the mood would be gentle, reflective. The voices of the congregation were audible, the keyboard player might start adding something high and subtle. Tim would sit out the first verse, and I’d think “good choice, Tim”. Most drummers would begin to play something in verse two, even just brushed cymbals, but Tim would continue to sit out. Then we’d reach a repeat chorus, or bridge, and Tim would continue to not play. And I’d think, “good choice, Tim!” The sound stayed hushed. People’s attention was on God. Tim wouldn’t play a beat for the whole song. In my book, he played a blinder. 

Claude Debussy wrote that music was “the space between the notes”,

while Miles Davis said: “It’s not the notes you play; it’s the notes you don’t play.”

That would suggest that in a musical score, more important than the crotchets, quavers and minims are the rests. The rest.









There are plenty of worship resources out there to help you play. Great tutorials to improve your sound, your beats, your licks. There are tracks and videos so that if you have no musicians you can still have music on a Sunday morning.

I’m grateful for all of these resources, we’ve put stuff like this out as Engage Worship. But right now it feels like God might be calling us to focus less on the notes and more on the rests. To learn how to rest. How to pause. How to introduce silence and stillness and simplicity back into our services, our worship, our lives. What would it look like to respond to God’s challenge through Isaiah: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength” (Is 30:15), or Jesus' invitation: 

  • “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matt 11:28-29).

We often think of worship as work. That might be because many of us have jobs which involve leading worship. Or perhaps we’ve thought about the importance of worship forming us, or the work of giving glory and praise to God, or the activity of our worship changing the world as we declare and intercede. I think those are all right and good. But could it be that somewhere along the line worship has become all about work and not at all about rest? 

Theologian Miroslav Volf describes worship as “Adoration and Action”, two very active terms. However, he then goes on to say there is a third aspect to worship, what he calls “reception”:

  • “We can give God only what we have first received from God. Reception is, therefore, a third dimension of Christian life that is even more fundamental than action and adoration… Christians are receivers… The secret of the whole Christian life is passivity in relation to the Spirit of God.” Volf, Worship: Adoration and Action, page 211

To what extent am I prepared to enter into the rest aspect of worship? To pause my adoration and action in order to worship God in an attitude of passive receiving? To believe that I can bring God glory by simply being still and knowing that God is God? (Ps 46:10).

And to what degree will we pull back from trying to cajole and coerce our congregations in worship, and instead leave the kind of space that will allow God to meet with them, in restful stillness? What would that look like in your situation? What might we need to stop? What might we pick up?

Want to go deeper into rest? Join us for our Rhythms of Rest day, 21st June 2022.