What Do You Mean, “worship“?
People often casually use the term “worship” interchangeably as either that of theological devotion and study or as a specific aspect that expresses worship through singing and music. The danger here is that a lack of precision in our terminology and understanding of “worship” is often accompanied by a subsequent lack of precision in our theology of the concept. Let’s take a quick overview and see if we can somehow gain a bit more precision in what our theology of worship should encompass. This is not exhaustive by any means, but if we look at the early church, we’ll observe aspects of corporate worship that are often not properly or fully valued.
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship,
to the breaking of bread and to prayer. –Acts 2:42
The Ministry of the Word
When the early church gathered (and they did often) they devoted much of their time to the teaching of God’s word. When we open our Bibles together and attempt to discern the truths that God has disclosed to us, we are worshiping. Well, maybe we are. When the pastor gets up to preach, is that a time when you’re gathering every ounce of energy and mental focus? Is that a time where you’re allowing the Holy Spirit to convict you and change you? Is that a time of devotion to God’s Word? Or is it a time to take a restroom break, text your friend to make lunch plans, or just, in general, let your mind wander to anything and everything except what God may be trying to teach you in those moments?
The Ministry of Living Life Together
This year our church body is focusing on living life together. My prayer is that this emphasis will take us back to the core values that permeated the early church. Hanging out, sharing meals, praying together…to me, this type of cooperative activity implies that the church body should be gathering together to worship God right along side the normal things that we do in life. So yes, when you get together with friends to go shopping, walk your dogs, or gather around a table for a meal, you’re given an opportunity for sweet times of worship before God – if you’re mindful of the moment’s purpose.
The Ministry of Prayer
We find that prayer is a consistent means of communion with God throughout the Old and the New Testament. Often, our corporate worship gatherings will begin with prayer. As part of these gatherings, there may be time set aside for personal prayer, or we may pray with a unified voice from the Psalms. If you’re paying attention, you may even realize that many of the songs that we sing are prayers directed to God. Prayer is meant to be a vehicle for intimate communion with our Lord and Savior. If we are being careful not to just go through the motions, prayer can be a powerful act of worship.
But What About the Music?
There is no doubt that God has given us a powerful tool for worshiping him through music. Music can be a very emotional medium. It’s for this reason that there is so much debate surrounding music in worship. Used properly, it can beautifully connect truth to emotion, and even train us to cultivate emotions properly. Conversely, its improper use can be devastating to sound theology. My simple exhortation is this: if worship in your life is mostly about music, then you’re really missing the big picture!
Worship is More Than Music
Worship is so much more than just music. I would encourage you to dedicate yourself whole-heartedly in every aspect of worship. When praying, whether together in church or privately from anywhere, realize the awesome presence of God and communicate intimately with Him. Don’t hold back! When we are singing, sing with all your might (I mean really…with ALL your might). When we are giving of our tithes and offerings, give willingly and with humility. Stand in awe of a completely sovereign and all-powerful God. When we open the scripture, give your attention to the Word of God and surrender your heart and soul to the work of the Holy Spirit. And when you live your life, unite with others in living it to the fullest…live life as an act of perpetual worship before God!