Sunday, July 24, 2011

worship - what is it? why do we do it?

My apologies - this is a long post, but I could not figure out a way to shorten it and still say everything I wanted  to.

I have been struggling lately with worship. With what it is. With why we worship. With whether there is a right way or a wrong way to worship. None of these questions are easily answered and I am not sure how complete of an answer I now have, but I have to start somewhere with trying to answer them.

For me the questions first began to arise in church one weekend when I realized that I was not singing anymore - I love music so this is rather strange for me. I was not even standing with everyone anymore. I was sitting down and I had been thinking about my grocery list.

That was when I began to wonder if what we call worship in our church services is what worship really is. If that is all that worship is. If there is more to worship than reading words on a screen as we attempt to sing along with the worship team on stage in front of us. This is not the first time I have wondered these things, but it is the first time the questions just would not leave after a few hours or days. Weeks later, I am still wondering these things.

A couple of days ago I stumbled across a blog called Worship Matters. While I was looking around, I came across a short series of posts titled, "Defining Worship." Reading through the series encouraged and challenged me and left me with some thoughts to ponder about what worship is.

"We want to be mastered by the objects of our worship. And indeed we are. We worship whatever rules our time, energy, thought, longings, and choices." (Bob Kauflin, Defining Worship, Pt. 1, Nov 4/05)
"Christian worship is the response of God's redeemed people to His self-revelation that exalts God's glory in Christ in our minds, affections, and will, in the power of the Holy Spirit." (Defining Worship, Pt. 3, Nov 8/05)
"Biblical worship is God's covenant people recognizing, reveling in, and responding rightly to the glory of God in Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit." (Defining Worship, Pt. 4, Nov 9/05)
The author of the blog also quotes some authors who have things to say about what worship is that continue to challenge my thoughts about it. As well as, increase my understanding of worship.

"Worship is the believer's response of all that they are - mind, emotions, will, body - to what God is and says and does." (Warren Wiersbe, Real Worship, pg. 26)
"Worship of the living and true God is essentially engagement with him on the terms that he proposes and in the way that he alone makes possible." (David Peterson, Engaging with God, pg. 20)
"Worship is the submission of all our nature to God. It is the quickening of conscience by His holiness; the nourishment of mind with His truth; the purifying of imagination by His Beauty; the opening of the heart to His love; the surrender of will to His purpose - and all of this gathered up in adoration, the most selfless emotion of which our nature is capable and therefore the chief remedy for that self-centeredness which is our original sin and the source of all actual sin." (William Temple (1881-1944), Readings in St. John's Gospel)
"Christian worship, then, is the happy blend of offering to God our Creator and Redeemer through Jesus Christ both what we owe to Him and what we would desire to Give Him." (Ralph Martin, Worship in the Early Church, pg. 17)
The more I have pondered these quotes in relation to my earlier questions, the more I have come to see that worship is not just a part of a church service. Worship is a response to something greater than ourselves. Singing songs in church, spending time in prayer, reading the Bible, listening to sermon, doing something to help another person - these can all be acts or worship, along with many of the other things we do each day.Whether something is worship or not depends on the attitude with which we do them.

Scripture is full of examples of people worshipping as a response to God. One of the ones that comes to mind is in 2 Samuel 6, where David is worshipping freely and with no concern for what others may think as the Ark of the Covenant is brought to its rightful place. David's worship was not a specific action he did; it was worship because it was the response of his heart to God.

In Romans 12:1 Paul says:
"Therefore, I urge, you brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship." (NIV)
Paul is calling his readers to a response of worship because of God's mercy on them. It is not some specific action they have to perform. It is a lifestyle chosen because mercy received from God.

I guess the conclusion I come to after all of this is that worship is important. And the songs we sing in church are definitely one aspect of worship in the life of a disciple of Christ. But church services and singing are far from the only places or ways we worship.

I still find myself wanting to know more of what worship actually is. This seems to only begin to scratch the surface. But, I guess I now see that if there times in a church service that I am not singing that is okay. I just maybe need to focus my thoughts on something other than my grocery list.

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