Editor's note: Travis Cottrell is a Christian musician and worship leader. This commentary was abridged from his new book, Surprised by Worship (Zondervan).

How old do you have to be to become a Pharisee? Or a legalist? Or an outright religious hypocrite? I think I might have been one of those when I was a kid. Okay, I was one of those when I was a kid.

I was born into a family of Christians who went to church every time the doors opened. I knew Jesus at an early age. So I must have subconsciously taken that as a sign that I could wear the "Christian" badge.

Many of my beliefs were mere opinions at first, but sincere enough to harden into convictions—sincerely legalistic convictions, that is. And they naturally flowed into my music life.

One day when I was a young teenager—a church-music nerd teenager—our church's choir director tried something different. And it caught me off guard. I was sitting on the front row, waiting for church to start, expecting things to proceed as they should: call to worship, hymn of praise, welcome and announcements, children's sermon, offertory hymn, offering, choir special, message, hymn of invitation, benediction, lunch. The bulletin confirmed my expectations: the congregation would sing at three points, all straight from the hymnal.

The choir came in as usual and began to sing the simple strains of the then-new worship song "I Love You, Lord." I liked it. Then the director turned to the congregation and said, "Let's all sing that together."

What? I thought. It's not in the hymnal! It's not in the bulletin! How can we do this? This feels weird.

The congregation began singing; the piano and organ eventually dropped out, leaving just the sound of those voices ringing off the white ...

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