Worship is a word that gets thrown around a lot in church circles, but what does it actually mean?
Well, according to Harold Best,
"Worship is the continuous outpouring of all that I am, all that I do, and all that I can ever become in light of a chosen or choosing God."
But, aren't there so many other things that the Church should be about?
Yes, of course. But, worship should be our ultimate goal.
Not Sunday attendance.
Not being in a Wellspring Community.
These are all important things.
But, Worship is most important.
That's a pretty bold claim, so let me share this quote from Dick Eastman so that I don't get all the blame for this one.
Stay with me. This next part took me a while to process.
Dick Eastman is a writer who loves missions. But he says,
"Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn't. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. When this age is over, and the countless millions of redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more. It is a temporary necessity. But worship abides forever."
So, while missions, pastoral care, and prayer teams are all necessary and important, worship is the one thing that will abide forever.
Now, you may have heard of the Great Commission, which Jesus gave to his disciples in Matthew 28:18-20. It's all about spreading the good news and making disciples, but I want to talk about what happened right before Jesus gave them this mission?
This story takes after Jesus's death. He has now been ressurected and he comes back to the disciples, but the disciples had no idea that he was going to do this. Imagine your confusion if you were one of the disciples. You had just walked the earth for years with the Son of God doing ministry and performing miraculous acts. However, now you are looking at Him, resurrected, probably still processing His death. I would have so many questionsa for Him. I would be angry. And, some of them were.
However, we read in verse 16, that the disciples went to a mountain in Galilee where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him.
That's right, before Jesus gave them their mission, he took the time to simply be with them and let them worship him. Clearly, this is, and has always been, a priority.
So, what exactly is worship?
The word worship comes from the Old English weorthscipe , which combines two words meaning "ascribe worth".
Let's listen to some of Harold Best's words again.
"Worship is the continuous outpouring of all that I am, all that I do and all that I can ever become in light of a chosen or choosing god...Continuous implies relentless…
Because worship is a continuum, we can now understand that we do not sing or pray or preach in order to worship. Rather, we do these things because we are already at worship."
Additionally, worship a commandment from God.
In Exodus 34:14, it says, "You shall worship no other God, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God."
Psalm 95:6 says, "Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!"
Romans 12:1 says, "I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship."
So, if we are continually worshiping, and worshiping God is a commandment, how do we live this out?
It's about surrendering everything to God and acknowledging his greatness. When we worship, we are simply being with him and acknowledging his presence.
Some of you read that and think, "but, I don't like singing".
This goes far beyond just singing songs on Sunday morning, however, we have placed way to much credit on music in recent church history.
Harold Best, take it away.
"If in making music or listening to it I assume that faith will bring substance and evidence to the music, so as make it more "worshipful," I am getting into real trouble. If I truly love the music-that is, if I have chosen a church that uses "my music" and I am deeply moved by it-I can make the mistake of coupling faith to musical experience by assuming that the power and effectiveness of music is what brings substance and evidence to my faith. I can then quite easily forge a connection between the power of music and the nearness of the Lord. Once this happens, I may even slip fully into the sin of equating the power of music and the nearness of the Lord. At that point music joins the bread and the wine in the creation of a new sacrament or even a new kind of transubstantiation.Or let's say that I deeply love Jesus but I detest the music-it is not "my music." What am I then to do in the absence of a linkage between having faith and loving the music? Where is God in all of this? If he is in the music, I will never find him, because to me there is no substance or evidence, even though others are seemingly finding him there. Do I wait for the right kind of music so that my faith becomes effectual? Do I look for another church, hoping that my faith will be fed and my felt needs met? Or do I turn from the music to the Lord, knowing that faith remains faith and the music is merely music and not a sacramental substance that mediates between God and me? I hope that the last question becomes the only question. Otherwise, faith needs exterior scaffolding for worship to become authentic worship."
Worship is not, and will never be, just music.
One of my favorite authors, Bob Sorge, once said,
"Praise and Worship are not so much God coming into our presence as it is our going into his presence. There is no "right" way, "wrong" way or "my" way to enter the presence of the Lord— there is only God's way. And His way is probably different every time!"
We are all worshipers and some worshipers are Naturalist, loving and connecting to God through naturee.
Some are Sensates. Worship, for them, happens through the senses. Liturgy. Art. Grand stuff.
Traditionalists worship through ritual and symbol. Sacraments and sacrifice. They can often define their faith by conduct.
Activists confront injustice. They standagainst evil and they call for repentance.
Caregivers serve others.
Enthusiasts worship mystery and celebration. They are cheerleaders for God.
Worship, for Contemplatives, is all about adoration. They aren't focused on serving. - Intellectuals are i their worship sweet spot when they engage with the mind.
And, Aesthetics can be found worshiping in solitude and simplicity. They are oftenleft alone in prayer.
Where do you fit on that list?
Next time you find yourself close to God in an art gallery, on your own in prayer, or at a loud concert, that's worship. You're doing it. You're not like anyone else.
It also needs to be said that Worship is not always easy, and sometimes it can be quite challenging. Notice I did not say that worship is always based on your preferences. This is another post for another day, but remember that there are moments in our relationship with the Lord where we are moved out of our comfort zones, especially in corporate worship. Don't worry. You will always have the ability to connect with God through art, nature, or liturgy. Don't be afraid to step into situations and participate in worship that can, at times, make you uncomfortable.
You are not alone. Remember that even the disciples, who were closest to Jesus, had a hard time understanding what he wanted to do with them and through them. So, if you're feeling confused or doubtful, know that you're not alone. God is big enough for your questions and frustrations.
There may be times when we sing, pray, and seek after God, but we don't feel anything. This can be discouraging, but it's important to understand that Jesus doesn't always show up in person when we worship. If He did, our worship would be involuntary, and we wouldn't have to choose to love Him. When we choose to love and worship God, we are shaped for the long haul, like in a marriage.
Our circumstances may change, but if we learn to worship through all of them, we learn to worship the One who is unchanging.
The Levites in the Old Testament ministered before the Lord twenty-four hours a day, and they knew what it meant to praise the Lord without any goosebumps. These musicians "were responsible for the work day and night" (1 Chronicles 9:33). So, don't give up on worship, even when it's tough. Keep pressing in, and you'll find that God is faithful.
Here's my challenge. Find some way that you connect with God, and worship Him in that way. We can't have a church teaching without a classic Clive Staples Lewis Quote right? That's C.S. Lewis to some of you.
"The more we let God take us over, the more truly ourselves we become - because He made us. He invented us. He invented all the different people that you and I were intended to be. . .It is when I turn to Christ, when I give up myself to His personality, that I first begin to have a real personality of my own."
When we kneel before the Lord in praise & worship we actually find who were truly designed to be. When we become less He becomes more.