When you hear the word “worship” what do you think of? A particular style of praise and worship music? Guitars, drums, v-neck shirts and skinny jeans? What about masses of people in a stadium rocking out to the latest popular worship song? Or do you think about traditional hymns? What about hymnals and organs? Choir directors? Whatever the genre, do you instantly think of music and singing?
Well, have you ever thought of silence? Of quiet meditation, just you and God? What about service? When you hear the word “worship” do you ever think of sweating while you clean out your neighbor’s garbage? What about washing an old lady’s car? Do you think about simply the way you live your life? How you speak and act?
Maybe you should.
Today we have the tendency to equate worship with a church service. We even call the main gathering in churches the “Worship Service.” We often equate worship with the act of lifting our hands and singing our hearts out to God. It’s true that this is one form of worship. There’s nothing quite like uniting with other believers to sing praises to the One True God, Creator of the Universe, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This is one of the most well-known and enjoyable forms of worship; but this is not all that worship is or could be.
The Webster’s definition of “worship” describes one of the meanings as: “reverence offered a divine being or supernatural power; also: an act of expressing such reverence.” We often express such reverence to God by song and rightly so. The Bible is filled with passages that describe various kinds of music with instruments and voice as a way to give God glory. It is right and beautiful that we do this. But would we also do well to worship God by giving of ourselves in sacrificial service? Yes. How interesting that we call it “worship service,” and yet we as a church are often infrequent in our literal acts of the second part of that phrase: service.
Too often the Christian community takes the easier road when it comes to worship. We will gladly sing and make a joyful noise, but we are less likely to give of our time, money, energy and comfort to God. Our Savior is equally glorified, if not more so, by His people offering willing hands and hearts to others in need. I’m thankful that my Savior got dirty and saved lost people… I’m glad He gave of his time and energy… I’m saved because He decided comfort wasn’t good enough and chose to bleed on a cross to remove my sin.
Worship is a way of life. It’s how we greet our friends and family on a daily basis. It’s the words we use when dealing with a confrontational stranger. It’s how we respond to life-changing circumstances and how we thank God even in the hard times. Worship is a state of being, a constant uplifting of God and not ourselves. It’s giving God the glory when the world would tempt us to praise ourselves. Worship is also choosing not to watch that movie, listen to that song, or view that image that is dishonoring God. It’s making the choice not to indulge in something that debases everything God stands for. Worship is choosing to run after Christ and not the world.
I can’t discuss worship and not mention the “great debate.” Many Christians get distracted by musical genres during a worship service. It’s a shame that we let our own personal preferences cloud what worship really is. I don’t think God has a particular musical genre that He prefers. Last time I checked, He created music of all kinds. “And David and all the house of Israel were celebrating before the Lord, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals.” (2 Samuel 6:5) That sounds like a party! God’s very creative. Don’t let your own preferences put God in a box. And be careful not to make your own preferences outweigh the importance of giving God His due worship with a willing heart. If that style of music you hear (be it drums and guitars or organs and pianos) is distracting you from praising God, you may need to do a heart check and think about what is really important. It’s occurred to me, this contention between musical styles is an excellent distraction from the main point: glorifying God. Hmm… who is “the author of confusion” again? Oh yeah…
Never forget that God isn’t the only one who sees our worship; others are watching us too. As Christians we are a light of God’s glory to a world looking for answers. The more we worship God with our lives, the more they will see Him. The more we lift Him up and not ourselves, the better they can tell a difference between us and the world. The more we serve the hurting around us, the more likely they will be to actually listen. The more we unite as one voice to praise, honor, represent, and glorify God, the better witness we will be. And that’s a worship style that we can all agree on.