What is Worship?
According to Webster, worship is: (Noun) a reverence offered to a divine being or supernatural power; (Verb) an act of expressing such reverence; (Noun) extravagant respect or admiration for or devotion to an object of esteem
So, according to Webster (who is my best friend when looking up definitions because really, 90% of the time we think we know the true definition of a word, and yet, when we look it up, we are wrong), worship is both a NOUN and a VERB. It is a reverence or respect AND it’s an action of expressing reverence…..
Reverence. An act of deep respect (tinged with awe)…..
If you are in awe of something, you are enamored; it is a deep respect or admiration of something….almost a “healthy” fear of it.
When speaking of worship as a noun, I love the word extravagant. It’s not just respect. It’s extravagant….
- exceeding the limits of reason….
- lacking moderation and restraint
- extremely elaborate…..
So, as surprising as it is to some people, worship is NOT defined as:
- A dedicated hour on Sunday mornings (as in I am “going to” worship, as if it is a place)
- A particular type of music (that music is classified as “praise and worship” music)
- A certain amount of songs led by a music minister that we, as church members, just listen to (the 7/11 songs, as my mom calls them)
- Something you pick up and drop off at church each week (as if the bulletin, hymnal, song book, or Bible you hold has some certain power to make you “worship”)
First, look at worship as a verb. An act of expressing reverence. To me worship is more than just a verb. It is a lifestyle…..
Is it just dedicated to a church service, something you put on and take off, as if it were a pair of pants or a dress, only to be worn at certain times of the week?
Your whole LIFE should be about worship.
- It’s not about the songs.
- It’s not about the sermon.
- It’s not about the words.
- It’s not about the minister.
- It’s not about you.
It’s about Him.
It’s about your relationship with your Maker.
The very One who made you.
Who created you.
Who predestined you to be you.
Because of all He has done for you, doesn’t He deserve you….and only you. True worship is a humble act that causes us to forget about ourselves and focus on God.
If you are like me, you learned very little, growing up, about what it meant for people to worship the God. We didn’t call it worship. We just called it church. We learned about music, we learned about hymns, we learned about music theory, and even learned to play a few instruments, but…I never learned how to worship (who knows…all along, maybe I was worshipping, I just didn’t know it because nobody took the time to tell me).
So, can worship be taught? Is it a skill to be taught: like riding a bike or baking a cake?
Fortunately, in our changing times, all over the United States (and even the world) many seminaries (and even colleges) are now teaching worship (the act of worship, as in a church service) and how to prepare your congregation for worship, but for most of us, it (the very idea of worship as a whole) is something that has to be learned over time (through lifestyle changes, choices we make, habits we break, and decisions we cultivate on this so called road of life).
Second, look at worship as an action. A result or a response to the very nature of our relationship with Jesus.
Once we figure out worship, in and of itself, is a lifestyle, not just an hour on Sunday mornings, we can begin to look at that hour that we do worship—the act of responding to Him through song and the typical Sunday morning message—(as a corporate body) and look at how worship (as a church service) is defined and how we respond to it.
Worship as a corporate body should not be ignored. This form of worship is commended and commanded in the Scriptures. “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Heb. 10:25).
The Psalmist also celebrates the privilege of participating in corporate worship: “Praise the LORD.I will extol the LORD with all my heart in the council of the upright and in the assembly. (Ps. 111:1)
Clearly God wants His people to gather as congregations, expressing that they are the body of Christ as they worship Him with one another.
But, as a corporate body of worshippers, you have to ask the question, why do we do the things we do?
- If you’re of the Christian Church, why do you take communion every Sunday?
If you’re of the Methodist denomination, why do you say the Lord’s Prayer and sing the Doxology every Sunday?
- If you’re Baptist, why do you sing ALL the verses of Just As I Am, as the invitation, waiting for the Spirit to lead that one person down the aisle (I’m feeling it….I know there’s still one person in this room that is being pulled on by the Holy Spirit—I feel it!)!! Just keepin’ it real, people….
There’s an old story that goes like this.
A wife is cooking a roast. She cuts the end off of the roast, puts it on a pan and then in the oven. The husband asks her “Why did you cut the end off?” she replies “Because my mom always did.” The next day the wife talks to mom and asks “Why did you cut the end off of the roast before putting it in the oven?”. Mom replies “Because my mom always did.” So the both of them went to Grandma and asked the same question. “Grandma, why do you cut the end of the roast off before cooking it?” Grandma replies “So it would fit in to the pan!”
So many times we do things without knowing why but we do it. (Because we have always done it that way and no one has ever taken the time to find out why themselves. We just go through life doing things that we have no idea why we do what we do).
I see the church is the same way. Many have been raised in good Biblical teaching churches, never missing a Sunday, always striving to live a good Christian life. But sadly many are clueless of some fundamental issues. We go about our business within the church, never asking or really seeking the reasons why we do the things we do. We simply accept certain things because that’s just how things are and we really don’t need to know exactly why. Things have just always been that way and we’re content and comfortable.
This is ignorant and I do not believe ignorance is bliss. God desires each of us to follow Him not blindly but boldly and intelligently.
So, why do we worship the way we do? What’s the motivation behind the songs, either hymns or the more contemporary songs that we sing?
Of all the battles in the worship wars, the battle over music probably has been the most evident and the most emotional. Changes in the style of music have divided, frustrated, and even angered church members. Should we sing old hymns or praise choruses? Should the music be classical, traditional, or more contemporary? Should we use organs and pianos, or guitars and drums?
A change in music — whether to something older or newer — is difficult because most worshipers are not musicians and simply like what is familiar to them. Most people are not motivated by theory or even sound, but by how the music makes them feel. Music, for most people, powerfully engages us and helps us express our emotions, so it’s not surprising that people act a certain way or REact a certain way when certain music is played.
But, just because music makes you feel good, doesn’t mean it’s all good. Just because you have a certain response when you worship (through music) doesn’t make it right or pleasing to God.
We must stand back from our own experiences and preferences and ask again, “What pleases God?” We should recognize that not all music and praise pleases Him. Think of the worship and praise that Israel offered to God in the wilderness at Mount Sinai. They made a golden calf, called it the Lord, and danced around it (Exod. 32:4-6). Such praise was an insult to God and evoked His wrath!
The words we take upon our lips to sing to God must be true and pleasing to Him.
“These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” (Matt. 15:8). True worship occurs when we worship with the heart.
What is the single most important ingredient needed to experience great worship?
- Some people say it’s the music.
- Some say it’s the voices leading you in worship.
What is it that makes for an AWEsome worship experience?
Some worship leaders will tell you that music (as an art form) is actually SECONDARY in worship. “It’s not the art, but the heart”. How true this is. Some churches are famous for trying to be so creative during their worship service (trying to impress man), that they are forgetting about God. Since true worship is about God and not about us, what is it that He desires?
Does He desire a song and dance?
He does desire our best, but what is it that He wants more than anything?
I believe it’s our hearts, our love, our commitment, and our faithfulness to Him. I don’t believe that God is impressed with our big programs that we put together for our people.
I believe that He is moved by one of His children coming before Him with a broken heart as He pours out his heart in thankfulness for what God has done in his life.
I believe God is moved when one of His children sings at the top of his lungs in praise to the only God who is worthy of praise. God is moved by our praise and worship and not by our fancy programs to impress man.
So, that being said, how should we worship (as an act of showing reverence to the One we love and adore, and are in AWE of)…..
It’s a question of frustration for worship leaders all around, as well as pastors and congregation members.
Why do some people jump up and down in worship and some won’t even open their mouths to sing?
What is the problem?
These are supposed to be people who love the Lord. They are supposed to be Christians, right?
Who really knows why people act the way they do? The same person who won’t move a muscle in church will jump up and down at their favorite sports events cheering on their teams, or kids, with all the emotion of a cheerleader.
How are we supposed to get excited about the Lord?
About a month ago, at our Youth Retreat, Paul shared this passage of Scripture with us that I LOVE:
2 Samuel 6:14-22
“And David danced before the Lord with all his might, wearing a priestly garment. So David and all the people of Israel brought up the Ark of the Lord with shouts of joy and the blowing of rams’ horns. But as the Ark of the Lord entered the City of David, Michal, the daughter of Saul, looked down from her window. When she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she was filled with contempt for him….When David returned home to bless his own family, Michal, the daughter of Saul, came out to meet him. She said in disgust, “How distinguished the king of Israel looked today, shamelessly exposing himself to the servant girls like any vulgar person might do!” David retorted to Michal, “I was dancing before the Lord, who chose me above your father and all his family! He appointed me as the leader of Israel, the people of the Lord, so I celebrate before the Lord. Yes, and I am willing to look even more foolish than this, even to be humiliated in my own eyes….”
David danced in the buff (in ALL his glory) before the Lord.
What did God say about David?
- Did He say He was embarrassed?
- Did He tell Him to “pipe down” and be quiet?
The Lord, Himself, said, “He is a man after my own heart.” (Acts 13:22) To have the Lord say that of me would be the greatest joy of my life.
I must admit I do not dance before the Lord on a regular basis. It is my desire to give it all to Him, but I have some of the same problems that people in our churches do………embarrassment. What will people think of me? Inhibitions…..(the blocking or holding back of one psychological process by another, which means you are allowing someone to take hold of your own worship experience, controlling what you do, because you are embarrassed)
We, as humans, are so worried about what the person next to us is thinking that we fail to worry about what God thinks.
After all, He is the one we are worshiping. Right?
What about the Michals (See 2 Samuel 6:14-22) of the world? We are concerned about what they say about us.
How I wish that everyone would let go and worship the Lord the way they really wanted to (myself included). We need to worship the Lord as if we are the only ones there, without caring what other people think. We should be more concerned about our giving, not our constraining.
That’s what worship is…..it’s giving. It’s not about us, or what we receive, but about what God receives.
When you worship what does He receive from you?
However, we must remember….we are all created different and equipped differently to serve, so are we created different in our worship expression as well. Some clap, others sing, some raise their hands, and others just sit quietly, with their arms folded across their chests (assuming the “I’m not going to and you can’t make me” stance)…..Our uniqueness when blended together is wonderful in worship. We come before Him in ways that please Him and yet we may do it differently.
But…..when certain people, despite their posture, fail to participate in worship (as in the act of responding through song), I believe it’s because of two things.
1.) They don’t know what to do because they have very little understanding on this thing called worship.
2.) Their hearts are not ready, or prepared, to experience worship
I believe that both of these obstacles need attention. Worship (as a corporate act of responding through son) can be modeled. As it is modeled, and explained along the way, those who want to learn will grow. If we will encourage them to express their worship on a daily basis (on their own), then their corporate experience will be that much more. As mentioned above, focusing on the heart (and not on the art) takes practice and constant awareness of our body language, our posture, our focus, and how we spend our time, but hopefully, it will come.
May our worship become what it should be and not what we have made it.
“I’m coming back to the heart of worship
And it’s all about you
It’s all about you, Jesus
I’m sorry Lord for the things I’ve made it
When it’s all about you
It’s all about you, Jesus”
(Heart of Worship chorus)
Let us move away from wowing our people and help them to learn to wow the Lord with their hearts in worship, and we will see an explosion in worship with God’s hand moving like never before. Press on towards the mark that He has called you complete for His Glory!