For most of us when we think of worship we think of gathering ourselves together within the confines of a building somewhere to pray and talk about God. For many, many Christians in North America at least this has come to describe the first part of a service where we sing together. Having been a worship leader for almost two decades it has for several of those years been my definition as well.
Worship has been a source of great contention and fighting in churches throughout history. Charles Spurgeon even called the worship team “the war department” because worship has always been a subject which causes people to argue. How many songs do we sing. What kind of songs can we sing. Are there musical instruments allowed?
I have begun to realize over the years that we have completely missed the boat in regards to worship. Because worship was never meant to be about us. Music isn’t even needed for worship to happen. I have left many services over the years, ones that I have led, and others where I have been a participant, and have often heard people say “wasn’t worship powerful?”, and the opposite “worship didn’t do anything today.”. I have had people say they didn’t like the music I chose. I have had people refuse to take part except when songs they like to sing were played. I have been involved in discussions where people demanded that chorus be used instead of hymns.
I think we have walked away from true worship and have begun to worship worship. We value the songs, the lyrics, or the rhythms that we like and discard everything else. We take part when we feel like it, depending on how spiritual , or how difficult or easy our week has been. I have struggled to take part myself when I was feeling low or tired. But worship was never meant to be about us.
When we allow our preferences and passions to determine our worship we focus on ourselves and what we want. And worship was meant to be all about Jesus, letting our love and hunger for Him express itself. Worship is about proclaiming God’s value and glory. It is about focusing on and valuing God simply for who He is.
Worship is about our lives placed before our creator and exalting the one who made us, and redeemed us. Wolfgang Simson wrote “worship has much more to do with Spirit-filled obedience (Romans 12:1-2) than with music and singing “worship” songs. Our worship must center on the unquestioning readiness to lay aside life, limb, possessions, family, house, friendships, evangelical respectability—everything—to see the knowledge of the glory of the Lord covering the earth as the waters cover the sea. Worship is not so much what we do but how we do it; not so much what we say or sing but how we are a living sacrifice.”
We have allowed ourselves to walk away from the passion and power of lives lived in surrender and allowing our lives, hearts and voices to give expression to the greatness and awesome splendor of the King of kings who spoke the entire world into being, and knows every star by name, and still has time to know how many hairs are on our heads. We serve an incredible and awesome God and we need to return again to the true roots of worship, and become the worshipers God is seeking after. “Indeed, the time is coming, and it is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. The Father is looking for people like that to worship him.“ John 4:23 GWT