Saturday, February 2, 2013


What is worship? I've heard so many sermons and explanations of worship that can be summarized in one sentence: Worship is a lifestyle. Ok, true, but only in the past few years have I realized that it's not that simple.

Webster defines worship as  "extravagant respect or admiration for or devotion to an object of esteem". If you've been in church for more than a few weeks, you've heard people warn against "worship of idols" such as money, career, family, get the idea.  Right, so we put God ahead of everything else, whatever that means!

But what does worship mean in 2012? I've struggled with the thought for a few months now. Does it mean dressing up and giving our best every time the church opens? Does it mean getting emotional at a certain point in the services? Or does it mean keeping the appearance as minimal as possible, using only piano and singing out of a psalter? Does it mean keeping up with modern times, using an electric guitar and wearing jeans? In all of my moves around the state of Georgia, across and between denominations, I've learned one thing: in every church, worship looks very different. Deep, I know. :) Only recently has this frustrated my young-adult, carnal self.  In my previously-mentioned black-and-white mind (see story about the "male" cat in a previous, there must be a right and wrong way to worship.

As you may know by now, I have a few favorites that I enjoy listening to and reading. Matt Chandler, Elisabeth Elliot, Tullian Tchvidjan, Mark Driscoll, Tim Keller, and David Platt are just a few. (Yeah, PCA/Baptist/ "buffet-style" Christian background & my resulting theology today might be a bit unique to many faithful southern Baptists! You can see why I'm so confused about what "worship" looks like, haha!) Lately,  reading Francis Chan's "Forgotten God" has been my fuel for studying worship.

1 Kings 18 gives an interesting look at worship.The prophets of Baal had a loud, passionate, long worship gathering, yet "no one answered, no one paid attention." Elijah simply prayed a short and meaningful prayer. "Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice."  It's so easy to make and complete a list of "worship tasks" to make ourselves feel "spiritually good", yet worship can be as simple as a genuine prayer.  So according to this passage, worship is a prayer.

Yet in 2 Samuel 6, worship looked very different! David danced around the streets "half-naked"! People were appalled by this act. Yet, he continued worshipping. Maybe the act of worship was the fact that he kept dancing even when others were staring; he was so focused and obsessed with his God that he didn't even care what those around him thought.  So, worship is focusing all your energies and attention on God.

These are two very different examples! You can probably only imagine how my simple mind is spinning after reading these two stories. Then, Francis Chan gave his interpretation. We can sing and dance and attract a large crowd, but what are the people talking about when they leave? Are they talking about how great the people are or are they talking about what God did? In 2 Samuel, no one was praising David for rescuing the ark of the covenant. In fact, they were shocked by his behavior. In 1 Kings, no one said "Look at what Elijah did! He's such a great man of God." They were in awe of God.

What has God taught me through this? Sad as it may be for my goal-oriented self, worship cannot be defined by a set of actions and appearances.  It is "simply" (there's nothing simple about this Christian life on Earth!) living a life that brings glory to God. Each person on Earth is unique, and has special callings while still here. In the same way, each of us has a unique way to show worship to God. Even each day & each moment is a unique opportunity to show worship to God! What I have learned through this personal study is to look for those opportunities; let the Holy Spirit show me ways "to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever" instead of worrying about "how to worship" on Sunday mornings. Just worship!  What a relief! :)

1 comment:

  1. This is very thought-provoking and so relevant, Joni!

    "let the Holy Spirit show me ways 'to glorify God and enjoy Him forever' instead of worrying about 'how to worship' on Sunday mornings." - This really spoke to me because for so long I've let what others might think of my actions hinder me from truly worshipping God in church.

    At home, when I'm praying or when I'm listening to praise music, sometimes I feel compelled to lift my hands and turn my face up to Him, offering Him my whole self, offering Him praise. I've even been known to do this while lying in bed at night with my earphones in, listening to praise music before going to sleep. :)So I guess you might say I'm a "hand-lifter" when I'm in the act of worshipping Him!

    The only problem with this, is that for the 19 years I've been at FBC Hazlehurst, I've only lifted my hands a couple of times just since Pastor Brad has been here! We were taught for so many years not to do anything that might draw attention to ourselves and away from the Holy Spirit. So, even though I've wanted to, I've just kept my hands down and kind of mentally pictured myself worshipping as I do at home.

    And now, it seems a little awkward to me to raise my hands in church in front of everyone! (I guess I worry that I WILL be drawing attention to myself!) I know this is not really what you meant about your definition of worship, but I guess in a round-about way what I'm trying to say is the point you made about not worrying how to worship, but just worship, speaks to me in such a way as to encourage me not to worry what others might think, but instead just worship! (wow, what a run-on sentence, lol!) In other words, if I feel the Holy Spirit prompting me to lift my hands as an act of worship to God while singing in church, then I should just follow His leading and not be concerned with what others will (or even will not) think about it.

    Thanks for putting "worship" into perspective for me!