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, sports...you 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 post...lol), 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/non-demonimational....my "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! :)