Worship is the crown jewel of the Christian lifestyle. The peak. The pinnacle. That’s why it is so important that we really understand what worship is. I remember struggling with the whole concept back in the 1980’s.
Robert E. Webber taught at Wheaton College. I was a freshman and his books and teachings stirred the pot of worship. In my opinion, his writings singlehandedly launched a worship revolution in America.
Before Webber, worship was assumed; it was taken for granted. It was not a focal point of the evangelical/fundamentalist conversation. After Webber, everything changed. Mostly good. Some of it confusing. Some of it annoying. Even Christianity Today used that word of him, so don’t blame me.
May I be so bold as to jump into the fray. I’d like to chew on a couple of common worship myths today.
- The myth that postmodern worship is different than modern worship. The truth is that worship is worship. The elements and forms may vary. But there is no difference in the fundamental reality. What… people worshipped god since Bible days the same way, and then postmoderism introduced something new? Naahh.
“And it shall be that whichever of the families of the earth do not come up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, on them there will be no rain.” Zechariah 14:17, NKJV.
- The myth that worship is ALL about God. Nope. It’s mostly about God; but it’s also about us as worshippers. You often hear worship leaders tell the church to leave all their problems outside the worship space. NO WAY. I say bring ’em in with you! Bring in all your distractions, problems, issues… even bring your entertainment and afternoon diversions. I don’t care. If it’s on your mind, bring it with you into worship. And relate to God around the very things that are on your mind enough to almost distract you from him. It is mostly about God in that we are to express admiration, affection, appreciation, and adoration to him. But it’s partly about US in that we bring our SELVES before his throne to just be with him.Worship leaders are a passionate bunch and often speak in hyperbole. You can’t take them literally.““God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”” John 4:24, NKJV.
- The myth that a true worshipper will worship no matter what the style. Let’s be real. If I banged on pots and pans while you tried to worship, you’d most likely give up. Why? Because you’d be so distracted that your mind couldn’t handle it. Even if you tried really hard. So if pots and pans is my worship style, you’ll probably sit there politely till I’m done. Or stick your fingers in your ears like a lot of older folks do, and then send pointed emails. Or just vanish quietly, like a lot of younger adults do.Elements of style, volume, pace, language, word choice (casual, formal), visual arts, familiarity (high church, low church), preparation (“Spirit led,” or highly scripted)… any of the them can be like banging pots and pans even to the most determined worshipper. The worship style makes it hard or even impossible for a certain demographic to worship. This is unavoidable. One group’s pots and pans is another group’s high praise. Let’s admit it.And then let’s choose WHOM WE’RE GOING TO OFFEND, because we’re going to offend someone. Let’s at least be conscious of it. And let’s not blame them for vanishing faster than a pimple on Phisoderm.
NO ONE STYLE CAN ENGAGE EVERYONE.“And one cried to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!”” Isaiah 6:3, NKJV.
- The myth that worship is an experiential/powerful encounter with God. Rarely. This is expecting too much and trying to make worship carry too much freight. It also makes worship leaders work waaaaay too hard to try to “make something happen.” Nope. Just sing good songs and preach good messages, and invite people to respond and to express to God their 4 A’s: (from above, appreciation, admiration, affection, adoration).If you insist that people “feel” something or “encounter” God or “have a life-changing experience” you are spoiling one of the core elements of worship: FAITH.I just BELIEVE that God hears me NO MATTER WHAT I FEEL OR DON’T FEEL. Once I define worship in terms of an encounter, I force myself to introduce foreign elements to manipulate that encounter. Martyn Lloyd Jones wrote against “creating the mood” for worship. Worship works with any and every mood. Encounter or no encounter. Powerful experience or not.“For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh,” Philippians 3:3, NKJV.
Let’s save the myth of blended worship, the myth of immature worship, the myth of worshiptainment, and the myth that worship is hype for the next post.
“Give unto the LORD the glory due to His name; Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.” Psalms 29:2, NKJV.