I was in church today and I had a real moment where I wondered how visitors to our Church must think that worship is weird. I mean we raise our hands, close our eyes, dance around, maybe even do the Pentecostal two step. (Ask around if you don’t know what this means) The more I thought about these outward gestures the stranger they became in my own mind, It’s kinda like when you look at a word and it just doesn’t look right, then you spell it over and over in your head and it still looks weird. Do you know what’s I mean?
So I thought I would offer up some thoughts on what worship means to me.
I think the heart of worship is surrender, for the Christian it is surrender to God. When we surrender it means that we don’t always get to do what we want, but go along with the plans of someone else.
Imagine that a famous, football player or a world leader in a given field or the Queen invited you out to lunch but you already had plans wouldn’t you change those plans and ‘surrender’ to their will because of how much you admired them? This is what worship is like for the Christian because we have had a revelation of how incredible God is, we willingly surrender our plans and go where He wants us to. Thats worship, worship isn’t just raising our hands (there are plenty of Christians who do that and yet don’t surrender to God’s will) I think raising our hands is best when it’s a response to our private surrender or willing obedience.
The greater our understanding of how good God really is the greater our willingness to surrender will be. Begrudging submission or obeying because we have to isn’t worship, trust me if someone I looked up to wanted to hang out then I would enjoy going along with their plans not whinge about it and yet so many people whinge about having to serve God. That’s not worship!
So why do we worship God? As a Christ follower I’ve come to learn that God alone really is deserving of the deepest worship which is possible on this earth. A celebrity can be worshiped from afar but get up close and you will be disappointed because they are just flesh and blood, like you and me. On the other hand God will never disappoint us no matter how close up we get He is the real deal.
You don’t worship someone who you are better than, I play a mean game of table tennis, (even though it’s been a while) so if I play someone who is good and I beat them they don’t get my attention but if I would meet an Olympic Table Tennis player I would stand in awe. Let me say this, Jesus is better than you in every single way! Actually I have come to believe that He was and is God, so we should stand in awe of Him.
So next time you are in Church raising your hands, check your heart and maybe more specifically check your week to see if there have been moments where you have been able to surrender and worship. Lets not just make this a bizarre ritual of throwing our hands in the air, shaking them around like we just don’t care.
4 thoughts on “What Even Is Worship?”
Great article Dan.
Worship is, as you say, surrendering our lives to God – in every area – no exceptions!
Re: raising hands – The most common posture for worship in the Bible is face down prostrate before God.
Worship is not just singing to God in submission to Him though. We were created in the image of God – that means we are supposed to show what God is like. A bit like a photo or a mirror. That image has been broken by sin, but restored through Christ (although only partially). Worship is actually living every moment of my life in order to show the glory of God – period! Whether others are watching or not. Singing worship songs at Church for 20mins a week is a very small part of that.
On the topic of Worship through singing, it amazes me that, in churches across the world these days, we can sing songs that have lyrics that are exactly the opposite of worshiping God – but we are expected to blindly follow the “worship-leader” and have a heart that is surrendered to God while at the same time practically lying to Him and singing about things that do not show his majesty and glory (i.e. worship Him).
Here are some lines from a couple of popular contemporary “worship songs”, that I have felt a check in my spirit lately over.
– It’s Your Love (http://www.lyricsfreak.com/h/hillsong/its+your+love_20863514.html)
1. “That we were worth every nail” – how are we worthy of every nail that Jesus endured. What we are saying is, “Hey God – I am so awesome and worthy of Jesus’ death on the cross.” How is that worshiping God?
2. “Your love, It’s Your love, It’s Your love, That has saved me, Your blood, It’s Your blood, It’s Your blood, That has claimed me” We are not saved by God’s love – we are saved by the blood of Christ – God’s love claims us. So the statements are backwards. Again we are singing to God a false doctrine, and we think we are worshiping him. How can this be?
– Beneath The Waters (I Will Rise) (http://www.lyricsfreak.com/h/hillsong+united beneath+the+waters+i+will+rise_21056942.html)
3. “And I sink beneath the waters That Christ was buried in” I might be wrong here, but I don’t remember Jesus being buried in water. It was a tomb in the ground in my understanding. And even if there is a vague reference here to death or baptism or something – how will a new Christian or non-Christian get that, and join us in heartfelt worship to God? We are singing some sort of strange meaningless dribble to God, and that is supposed to worship Him?
Another question to ask is, “Who is the focus of our singing?”. Both of these songs above are focused on the singer (me). Christ gets a mention, but not because of His glory and majesty, but because he is the vehicle that gets me what I want. Perhaps they are celebration songs – but not worship. There are many other modern “worship” songs that have the same focus.
Recently I attended a memorial service for a great man of God, at that service we sang some of his favorite hymns. Those hymns are so full of Biblical truth and worship of God through Christ. But these hymns are flushed down the toilet in today’s “modern”, “progressive”, “innovative” churches because the music genre isn’t popular. So we sacrifice worship for popular music – does God feel worshiped by that? Why not write songs with worshipful lyrics to the popular genre of music? Or if we must sing the “top 10” Christian songs, choose ones that have worshipful and biblically correct lyrics?
There are much weightier matters to be concerned about than “raising hands”. How about, Do our worship songs please God? or does Leviticus 10:1 apply? or Amos 5:21 onwards?
Our modern congregations may have a lot to answer for in this area. Our Worship Leaders have the opportunity to teach the gospel (just as much as the preacher) but through a different method, so they have the same responsibility to teach the truth as the preacher does, and may even be held to account to the same extent as teachers. James 3:1
btw – I consider myself a good table-tennis player – although it has probably been 15 years since I played. We need to have a hit some time 🙂
Thanks for your comment. I agree about singing songs which are theologically correct and are centered on God however like anything it’s a journey. I have in the past sung songs with do, do, do or da, da, da lyrics in them and while I don’t think they directly honor God the intention of the person singing the song may. But with maturity and increasing both in our understanding and knowledge I believe that we become more accountable for what we know. I also think that some of your objections to the three songs listed above could be because you are a literal kinda guy where as these are poetic in nature, so sure Christ didn’t sink beneath the waters but that could be a poetic way of saying that He descended to the depths etc. I will say this that I do desire for us to make the most of our opportunity to Preach the Gospel through what we sing and will continue to steadily walk towards that end. Happy to have a coffee sometime then go somewhere and give you a flogging in Table Tennis 🙂 although it has been a long time since I played also! (That’s my out)
I think the best way forward from here is to seek how we can equip and motivate those who lead worship in our Churches otherwise we just become their critics and that never Inspired anyone in a healthy way to be better ever.
Thanks for replying.
My comments are in relation to the contemporary church is general – but if they apply to the church we both attend that’s great!
I think the place to start with equipping and motivating the song leaders, is to get them all together and talk about our concerns, and why – then ask them what their responses are – and why.
So much of modern western “christianity” is really just trying to entertain people. This is the worldview where smaller pentecostal churches can’t compete with the big branded multi-campus outfits, who can, for example, pay famous musicians $20,000 for a 45 minute performance at their annual extravaganza. So, in this worldview, smaller churches lose their youth to bigger churches, or get completely absorbed or passed over because they can’t invent catchy logos, vision statements, rennovate the auditorium or attract the big name conference speakers fast enough.
All of life should be worship. It’s all about God. He saves those He chose, for His own glory demonstrated in His gracious mercy. And, (really unpopular topic in our culture) He allows some to harden in their sin against Him, but still for His own glory demonstrated in His righteous justice and wrath.
Worship of our Lord doesn’t need a “front of house manager”, a smoke machine, a laser light show, or the prettiest girls in the church dolled up on stage with their image projected onto a cinema sized screen, or some cool guy riffing out the best guitar solo since Santana came to town. Worship of our Lord can’t be captured into consumer items that make millions of dollars for the “content owners”.
Dan, you’ve said some things that are hard for a pentecostal leader to say. Well done. Greg, well done. If it feels weird or like a bizarre ritual, it’s because it is.
Sadly, there is another thought regarding this. It’s becoming evident that the huge church businesses have realised that this kind of behaviour is actually bad for their bottom line, and are now shying away from overt “distinctives” like jumping, clapping, raising hands, “slaying in the spirit” etc. But if this behaviour is beginning to be curbed, it’s not because they’ve realised it’s not authentic worship of God, it’s because it’s bottlenecking that crucial ingredient of the big churches – turnover and numbers. Jesus told us to be fruitful AND multiply. Individual believer growth in sanctification as a priority ensures many true conversions to the Kingdom of God. Focusing first or indeed only on growth of the number of people is like accepting unchecked growth of a malignant tumour. Both forms of growth are what Jesus commanded, but you can’t have growth in numbers without first making true disciples (which is growth in sanctification over time)