I don’t think I believe in worship services anymore.
Yeah, I know, I’m doing that thing where I start with an inflamitory statement and then back up and make it reasonable. It’s okay, I’ll explain and it’ll make sense. I promise – maybe.
Mostly, I’m convinced that we present worship with the wrong definition and that a correct definition wouldn’t fit inside what we currently see as a “normal” worship service. Let me explain.
Growing up in the Church, I understood that worship was when we focused on God. Specifically, worship was when we sang or spoke adoration to His name. This made sense to me. It still does, honestly. This is why pastors would say that we worshiped God in song, then we would worship Him with tithes and offerings, and then we would worship Him through the study of His word. All of this is very good, but still lacks something.
This lack has grown in my consciousness the last few years through my involvement in more modern churches and services. In most of these settings, the worshiping through “churchy” actions isn’t normally mentioned at all. Generally, the only part of the service called worship is the singing. Don’t get me wrong, I love worship songs. I love worshiping through voice, music, and even dance, but this is an incredibly incomplete picture of worship.
Check this out. When we see the word “worship” in the Bible it means to, “Lay down before”, or, “Kiss the ring of”, or, “Give gifts to” depending on which word in which passage we’re dealing with. In each case the motivation for the action is to show reverence or give honor. Worship, by definition, is an action – an action meant to show honor and reverence. Words alone can not be an action. We would call that “lip service”. I’d argue that even actions such as raising your hands and falling to your knees fall into the same category as words. They’re purely symbolic actions that don’t truly accomplish anything. This doesn’t make them bad, but neither does it make them worship.
I’ve heard it said that worship is “putting God in His place.” I like this thought. It’s definitely on the right track. The problem is that words, songs, and hand motions can not truly accomplish this. We have to put our money where our mouth is.
Just as an earthly lord would not be pleased with a vassal who kissed his ring and swore fealty at ceremonies but never showed up to defend his lord’s lands, I don’t believe our heavenly Lord is worshiped by words that aren’t backed up by a life lived toward his priorities. There is so much more worship in the choice not to be angry at our fellow man than in a tear filled rendition of “He Loves Us”.
This is the crux of it. The sacrifice that God desires is our life. His priorities and causes are not the ones that are natural to us. Every time we choose His way over our own, we are worshiping. Be it behind our desk at work, in our car dealing with moronic drivers, at home interacting with our spouse and children, or at a corporate meeting of the Church, every decision to put Him first instead of ourselves is worship in the truest sense.
We should worship God in song – absolutely. Every day if possible. We have to understand though, that is only the symbol that represents worship. Without a life that backs it up, it ceases to be worship at all. I don’t want to tell students that worship is singing or emotion. I want them to see me worship daily as I make my Lord’s priorities my own.
We should sing His praises together often. We should worship Him with song services. But we shouldn’t have worship services. We should have worship lives.