Once again I find myself thinking a lot about what worship IS and IS NOT.
This is not a bad idea if you’re responsible for leading worship. It’s a big responsibility, a serious undertaking and a high calling.
Worship decisions are huge for the spiritual formation of your people. Frequently, we should look at what we’re doing, evaluate and recalibrate.
In the church world, when we hit bumps in the road, when we’re trying to resolve conundrums, or when we know something has to change – it’s time to ask again the fundamental questions with an open heart and mind. Let’s start with:
What is the purpose of corporate worship?
Google that. There are many answers, with many points of emphasis. Here’s my latest take:
The purpose of corporate worship is to provide a ways and means for the people of God to have communion with God.
I suggest that God is intensely relational. This idea of communion reflects God’s nature of love, His desire to have intimacy with His sons and daughters. Here’s why.
1. God has a vision for worship and it is to be together.
“I will be your God and you will be my people”
This sentiment is woven throughout the biblical narrative, both Old and New Testament.
I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Exodus 6:7
I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people. Lev 26:12
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9
2. Worship is a pattern of revelation and response.
In worship God reveals, man responds.
We can love Him because He first loved us 1 John 4:19
When we truly encounter the almighty living God in all His majesty, power, holiness and glory – our response is reverence, humility and honor. We then give Him glory through words of praise – this is doxology.
Only the one true God is worthy of wholehearted worship.
Which leads us then to the next question.
What is the role of music in worship?
We are not to worship “worship”. Especially worship music. That is idolatry.
Music is a tool. It is a powerful vehicle of communication and expression. But it is a created thing, the Creator does not dwell in the music. Music is the work of men’s hands.
The primary role of music is to serve the purpose of worship, which is communion, or closeness with God.
We do that as the gathered church through singing, clapping, bowing, lifting hands, and other biblical actions, often led by music.
Music helps us sing together, clap together, etc. Music connects with us at a deeply emotional level. Music can and does inspire, entertain, inform and motivate, but these outcomes are secondary.
“Excellence” in worship music is a wonderful servant but a terrible master. Chasing the impulse that “everything has to be amazing so we can impress as many people as possible” is a distorted motive.
The purpose of worship music is not to attract or draw a crowd. It is not to make us or our house of worship “famous”. These things may happen for the glory of God, but they are not to be our motivation.
To encourage one another, edification, is another reason we gather to worship.
Worship begins at the heart level.
Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord Ephesians 5:19
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up 1 Thessalonians 5;11
Can I say this to you my friend? Sometimes “amateur” music encourages people better than “professional”. Maybe it’s because we can relate it more, I don’t know. I wish every perfectionistic critic would seriously consider that, because you know it’s true.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Matthew 5:8
The “pure in heart” may sing out of tune, play out of tune, chose cheesy songs, be over the hill, out of style and basically un-hip; but they are the ones who not only see God, they are the ones who reflect God. By the way, the “pure in heart” may also have world class talent with killer chops, good taste and be young and good looking. They reflect God too.
It is the presence of God that does the heavy lifting in worship, not our talent or high dollar production values. I respect the massive effort it takes to pull off great production, I’m just saying that is not what worship is all about.
God is in the transformation business.
When we gather for worship, we should leave changed, with a fresh revelation of God for who He really is – holy, good, merciful and loving. We should be transformed and then take action as ambassadors for Christ.
Then we will know that the purpose of church worship has been fulfilled.
Over to you!
What do you think is the purpose of church worship? What would you add or change? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!
Coming oh so very soon! My new “Wholehearted Worship” e-book series.