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Explaining Worship

Explaining Worship

Greg Jones

I’m convinced that the expression of worship we give when the church gathers in community is too easily misunderstood. I’m convinced that those of us who lead worship often do so out of context. We cannot assume that the average person in the church understands why we worship the way we do as we gather as a church.

Even our language is confusing. When a church service begins, usually to segue the beginning of the music, we often say we gather to worship, but according to Romans 12:1-2, worship is the act of believers giving their entire lives to God as an act of worship. This is why Colossians 3:23 says that whatever we do, we should do it with all our hearts as working for the Lord. Those guys and gals we often call ‘worship leaders’ are really ‘congregational worship music leaders’. The latter would make a horrible title but as a description it certainly clarifies. So as you can see, even our language and job titles work against our understanding.

Each expression of worship, no matter how clearly Biblical, can be easily misunderstood. Take Solomon’s temple for example. A temple makes it too easy to see God as small, fitting within its confines, or so weak as to even need a building at all for His home. Solomon was aware of this inadequacy when he says in 2 Chronicles 6:18, “The heavens, even the highest heavens, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!”

Sometimes I wonder how our pride might contribute to our misunderstandings. In 2 Samuel 6, Michal, David’s wife, is offended by David’s humility expressed in His worship as the ark (representing God’s presence) is brought to Jerusalem.  In Genesis 4, Cain’s pride makes him jealous of Abel and his offering, spurring him to commit the first murder.

While teaching and communication isn’t an antidote for pride, it certainly is necessary to bring clarity to that which is too often easily misunderstood. But I often wonder if the reason the church seems deficient in explaining worship is because many of us who might have the influence of a pulpit, or lead Bible studies & small groups don’t really know ourselves WHY we worship.

Socrates said an unexamined life is not worth living. I believe that an examined faith is not worth believing. II Peter 3:15 says we should always be able to give a reason for the hope that we have.

So of course, while space doesn’t permit me to tackle every question (nor could I answer every question), let me at least address some of the major ones:

So why do we worship? As stated earlier, Romans 12:1-2 calls us to offer our lives as an act of worship. The Westminster Catechism correctly concludes that worship is the very purpose of man. Worship is the very reason we live. It is not to be reduced to Sunday morning church services. We gather in services to worship as a community. The chief way we do so is by loving one another (I Cor 13).

Why do we worship in song? Col 3:16 says that the Word should dwell among us as we teach and admonish one another through all wisdom through psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Worship music is liturgy augmented by art. Art in general (not just music), awakens the imagination of the heart. Worship music, marries the heart and the mind. They that worship God are called to worship Him in Spirit & in truth (John 4:24).

Why do we incorporate X style? Paul said in I Corinthians 9 that he became all things to all people to reach as many as possible. If your church is trying to minister and reach the average person living in a modern world, they are probably best suited to using modern music. If they are called to reach traditionalists, traditional music is better suited. The same goes for Black Gospel, Southern Gospel, low or high church, etc…. Where the Scriptures are silent, we are free.

If the worship leader/band/orchestra, sets the bar too high, or is ‘too good’, isn’t that a performance? Yes it is a performance but you are not the audience. How are you giving YOUR best with what God has given YOU to God as an act of worship according to Col 3:23?

But what if people get the wrong idea of our worship? Christ never withdrew from saying or doing anything because He risked being misunderstood. He stood before the temple saying, destroy the temple and in three days He’d raise it up again. He told his followers that unless they drank His blood and ate his flesh, they could not be His disciples. Why did He do this knowing He’d be misunderstood? And why did God sanction the temple given the danger of it being misunderstood as His literal home? The question is not IF you will be misunderstood. The question is WHO will misunderstand? It is Christ like to be misunderstood by the shallow.

I’m fortunate as a worship leader to regularly be able to also preach. I have found ways to sometimes use the pulpit to bring clarity to our corporate worship. But many worship leaders aren’t so fortunate. Do our Pastors realize the importance of giving context to our worship? What is your church doing to give its members reasons for why we worship as a community?

Greg Jones is a musician, music teacher, worship leader and independent recording artist. On my site you find me sharing music instruction, with an emphasis on worship music and articles on worship leading.

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