Challenging Worship Myths, Part 1

stained-glass.jpeg“But as for me, I will come into Your house in the multitude of Your mercy; In fear of You I will worship toward Your holy temple.” Psalms 5:7, NKJV.

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.

hillsongworshippers.jpegBefore 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.

  1. ancientworshippers.jpegThe 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.
  2. 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.
  3. loudkid.jpegThe 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.

  4. oldpriests1.jpegThe 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.

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10 thoughts on “Challenging Worship Myths, Part 1

  1. Oh boy, you’re talking about a subject that has been boiling for some time now, probably forever. (Right on! This blog doesn’t back down from controversy!!)

    I’ve discovered: Worship does NOT mean ONLY music!! In fact, I searched the Bible quite diligently to find a verse that does tie worship to music. I sure couldn’t find ONE! Worship seemed to equate to always BOWING down on your face before God in reverence and worship – ecstatic to trembling in fear. Music was equated to praise. If you know of a verse tying worship with music, please let me know – I’m still looking.

    So, what do you think of my discovery? I would suggest one could truly worship totally without a pot or pan! (That was a great illustration to the reality of the differences in types of musical praise today!) Being an almost-seven-times gramma, riveting guitars equate to pots and pans. (Remember Rosie the Riveter?) Please hand over the ear plugs!! (Please note: I did say “riveting,” unlike the sweet sound of a guitar played well!)

  2. Uhhh… dear Jean… one of my favorite commenters… I must lovingly correct the record!

    You gave your hand away when you contrasted today’s “riveting” sound with the “sweet sound of a guitar played well.” What you call sweet, others just might call boring or worse! What you describe as “played well” is another person’s nightmare. I know. I’ve heard loud and clear from both sides!!!!!!! (And I don’t use exclamation marks lightly). What’s a pastor do to? 🙂

    As to worship and music being linked in Scripture… you’re right that worship terminology (esp in the OT) has to do with bowing down to God. But it also has to do with music:

    2Ch 29:28 So all the assembly worshiped, the singers sang, and the trumpeters sounded; all this continued until the burnt offering was finished.
    2Ch 29:30 Moreover King Hezekiah and the leaders commanded the Levites to sing praise to the LORD with the words of David and of Asaph the seer. So they sang praises with gladness, and they bowed their heads and worshiped.
    Ps 66:4 All the earth shall worship You And sing praises to You; They shall sing praises to Your name.” Selah

    B

  3. Wonderful comments on worship! I’m going to share with my buddies. Plus, this is a good way to make sure your next worship music director is on the same page as you.

    B

  4. Thanks for explaining and adding the “human” side to worship, Bill. Worship is indeed an act of faith! That being said, I do not think life-change or experience is not present in our worship services or to some extent is not a reality we can expect at times, just not an “entitlement” or demand we should have all the time. (I think this is pretty much what you are saying). After all, some of your sermons have worked pretty good in this regard.;-) Thanks for your leadership and I miss you and Neighborhood Church!

  5. A pastor is to smile nicely and do what he thinks is best to fulfill his ministry calling. Just know you can never please everyone. (news flash!!) Grammas can always put in their ear plugs! And, yes, my definitions are relative. I have heard some electric guitars that would raise the dead (can’t fall asleep in church that way), and I have heard some very sweetly played guitars that bring peace, joy, and rest to the soul…..(Maybe pastors wouldn’t like that method.) By the way, I’m sure human voices can be described as such too. (uh-oh, I’m really getting myself into trouble now!) I truly don’t think it matters too much as long as the heart is worshipping. It does say “Make a joyful NOISE unto the Lord.”

    As far as the tie-in to worship and music together. Worship is the act of falling on our faces before the Almighty God. Music and singing are our ways of showing our praise IN our worshipful act. I was looking for a Scripture that said “worship the Lord with singing.” I could only find “worship the Lord AND singing.” I know it’s a very small technicality, but it satisfies my mind when some will say worship is only our music/singing and/or playing. I think that “cheapens” worship into one small area of our lives – worship should be a lifestyle. At least, that’s what I’ve “discovered” after all these years of hearing, “Now, let’s worship the Lord,” and they start singing….

    I don’t feel like I’m making myself clear at all, sorry. I am a musician and have been involved for many years making a joyful noise. The challenge is to NOT make it a performance, to not think it’s a show that has to be perfect, to make our music an instrument to glorify and worship our God with all our hearts, souls, and minds. Of course, music done to the best of your ability is very important, but there’s a balance that has to be inspired by the Holy Spirit – as with all our ministries to God.

  6. A few issues ago in Christianity Today there was an ad for a worship pastor to lead/produce “cutting edge worship.” I’m not sure what that is, but it doesn’t sound very “authentic.”

    If God’s ways are not our ways, His musical tastes are probably not mine either, sigh.

  7. Janet,
    I looked up “cutting edge” and it means to contribute a dynamic and invigorating quality to a situation. To me that’s a good thing; it certainly applies to worship. It applies to preaching, music, and any other elements. I’d lovingly ask you to reconsider your perception. Cutting edge worship simply addresses a certain culture with a style of (in this case) music. To that culture, it is authentic.

    God’s ways are not our ways! Hooray! Can you imagine the “style” of music in heaven? Cutting edge seraphic with a hint of Sinatra!

    Bill

  8. Jean, I love your emphasis on worship as a lifestyle; I help to lead musical worship at my church as well, and there’s been a big emphasis on that concept in recent months. I do tend to get peeved with a mutually exclusive view which then goes to the opposite extreme of excluding (for appropriate use) the term ‘worship’ in reference to singing and music. (Vaughn Roberts’ “True Worship” seems to advocate that extreme at times). Thanks for pointing out the importance of associating “worship” with lifestyle AND musical worship; I don’t think we have to pick one or the other.

  9. You’re welcomed, V. I certainly hope we don’t have to pick one or the other to satisfy our need to “worship.” Music moves me to tears much more often than words alone. But, that’s just the way I’m moved. I LOVE music! However, that is so relative too. I LOVE MY kind of music! Ha!

    In thinking worship is a lifestyle, then what Dr. G says about our “faith” being a huge core makes a bunch of sense to me! I tend to use the term “praise” when it comes to most of my musical experience – joyful singing, dancing with enthusiasm, making that joyful noise unto the Lord!!

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