What is worship?
This will be the first post of a series looking at what “worship” is.* It's something all Christians (are supposed to) do, but how often do we stop and think through what it is and how we ought to do it? Asking this question these days, you're kicking a hornet's nest of arguments and culture wars about music in church.
Surely we all realise the issue is bigger than just whether or not we have guitars and a drum kit at the front on a Sunday morning?
To put it simply, “Worship”, is giving our creator God his due: We praise, honour and revere him for the worth of who he is and everything he's done.
We do it on a Sunday and we should do it every other day of our lives. We do it by singing songs to God and to each other that state how amazing God is. We do it by giving a glass of water to a thirsty person. It is all of life and it is select moments where God's people gather together in the hope of meeting with him.
Perhaps the best and simultaneously most terrifying thing about worship is that it is God-centred.
With the definition I've already given, maybe you think this doesn't need to be said, but right from the beginning of human society, we've been more interested in ourselves than we are with God. Just think of the adverts you're bombarded with every day: “Because you're worth it.”
Our society in the 21st century is especially individualistic. It's obsessed with the individual person – individual freedom; the individual good. The church is guilty of this as well. The brokenness in our human nature makes it all too easy to turn something that should be all about God to something that is all about me. Whether generation X, Y or Z, we're all part of generation ME.
“I didn't really enjoy worship today: It didn't move me.”
“I didn't like the music.”
“I couldn't worship properly because I prefer the other tune for that hymn.”
“We're thinking of moving church: The Bible teaching is very good, but the worship isn't for us.”
Perhaps you've heard (or even made!) statements like this. At heart, they're all forgetting the first principle of worship: Worship is God-centred.
Two final thoughts:
1. If worship is God-centred; if worship is giving God his due; and if God is perfect, then we ought to realise that there is a very real sense that however good we are, however professional, however skilled, nothing we ever do is good enough. Rather than walking into church on a Sunday morning with a smile looking forward to a good sing-song, we should be running in the opposite direction looking for a rock to hide under, aware that our own imperfection makes any encounter with the Living God an experience to be avoided.**
2. If worship is God-centred, doesn't that liberate us from so much worry? Doesn't it mean that even when we “don't feel like it” - even when “the music isn't for us” - even when we're away from home or in a foreign culture or struggling with the traditions of a different generation or just weighed down with a sense of our own failings and the burdens and stresses of life – worship is still possible. It's possible, because though it involves us (and all of our being, as we'll see), it's not principally about us. Whatever we feel like, we'll realise that worship is worthwhile because of the worth of the One we worship.
*I'll be drawing on a lot of help from wiser, more experienced people. I can recommend Professor John Frame's book, “Worship in Spirit and Truth” (Presbyterian & Reformed: 1996). It's a fairly easy read with some good study/discussion questions. If you'd rather listen to something, Professor Jerram Barrs has done a course on Worship: https://www.covenantseminary.edu/resources/christian-worship-barrs/ [Accessed 21/06/19] From a Presbyterian perspective, Professor Barrs goes over some very helpful worship principles from the Bible.
**Of course, this is where Jesus comes in. I'll say more on this in a later post.