Over the last several decades I have witnessed phenomena in the churches that I have been a part of, and ones I have observed through broadcast media and print. There has been a paradigm shift away from worship to a certain sort of activity passed off as worship.
“Worship leaders”, “worship teams”, and “worship music” are fairly recent terms that are now as common as pews and pulpits. There is nothing inherently wrong with any of these. I question though, just how much they contribute to genuine worship of the Almighty God of the Bible.
In today’s Christian world, worship has been defined as some particular activity that takes place primarily on Sunday morning before the preacher delivers his message. That activity is singing. And, worship has been more narrowly defined as not only just singing, but singing only a certain kind of music, “worship music”, or “praise and worship” music. So the implication is that if you are singing “worship” music you are worshipping. That is foreign to the Bible. Am I to believe that none of Charles Wesley’s songs, Fanny Crosby’s songs, or any of the old hymns were ever used in worship? Christians were worshiping God many hundreds of years before “praise and worship” music and Powerpoint presentations were invented.
The dead give away that this so-called worship might be bogus, is the way most of the so-called worshippers critique the so-called worship. Comments usually follow along this line of thought. “We had a great worship service this morning. The music was so beautiful!” Or, some of our more uninhibited friends might say, “Worship was great today, you could really feel the Spirit in the service”. When worship is measured by the experience or the skill of the human participants, I promise you it is not Biblical worship.
Worship is not something to be experienced, but something given to God. Worship is not about me and you, but rather about God. Jesus said to the woman of Samaria that worship is to be done “in Spirit and in truth”. I fear that we as believers in modern times have not fared well in the “truth” department of worship.
Worship is first and foremost about surrender. I can be bold to say that a person who has hardly given God a thought all week is not likely to worship on Sunday morning. He or she might go through the motions, sing the songs, or even lead the songs, but in the end, not have worshipped. Paul in Romans 12:1-2 gives some great insight into the real meaning and method of true worship.
My paraphrase goes like this.
“I beg you brothers, in view of the fact that God did not condemn you to hell as you and I deserve, but has shown us mercy; Present the whole of who you are to God as a living sacrifice. Surrender yourselves completely to God for His pleasure and purpose. This dying to self in complete surrender to God for his use, is not unreasonable in view of His mercy, but is rather, “reasonable worship”. And, don’t be conformed to this culture, but rather be transformed by having your thinking made new by the word of God.”
Being “transformed by the renewing of your mind..” speaks again to the “truth” part of the equation of the elements of worship. It doesn’t matter how spiritual you might feel after doing a religious exercise, unless you have conformed your activity to the truth of the word of God you have not worshipped.
Not only is worship about surrender, it must be God centered and not people centered. Worship is akin to faith. Faith is vain and useless unless it is directed toward the right object. The strength or measure of faith is not nearly as important as the object of our faith, the Lord Jesus. Worship is exactly the same. Unless the object of our worship is God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, our worship isn’t worship, it is religion.