One of the largest sources of dispute among the church is how we worship. Should there be instruments, drums, guitars, and keyboards? Is there a big choir or a small praise team, or both? are lights okay? what about the styles of worship? gospel? rock? contemporary? traditional? Does all this even matter? Does the word of God matter so much more than the song and its lyrics?
Worship as stated in Webster’s dictionary “is to idolize, adore, to esteem worthy, and to reference.” Everyone worships something, a job, a possession, a person, even a idea. Some Christians even worship the wrong things, let us not forget worship is where you set your focus. What takes up your time? What you think about the most? Even what you desire most in life? these questions can help us determine what we truly worship.
A common misconception that I had for a long time, is worship could somehow be limited to the walls of a Church building, during the set song time in a service. Worship is much greater than just singing in Church, or singing along to the Christian radio station in your car. The concept of worship, is setting your heart toward God, its saying “I am going to take this time and focus on your greatness Lord.” The book of Psalms is fully dedicated to worship, each of those passages are songs of praise meant to be cried out before the Lord, God Almighty. “Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being praise his holy name.” Psalms 103:1 (NIV) . The phrase “all my inmost being” translates to “all that is within me” in ESV and KJV, this literally means worship is giving to God all that is within you, holding nothing back, letting Him have all of you. The psalmist worshipped God through writing and journaling, David sang songs of praise to God, and Miriam the sister of Arron in Exodus 15:20 danced as a form of worship.
As I continue to study out this concept of worship I was drawn to John 4. This passage is the conversation between Jesus and the women at the well in Samaria. After Jesus explains salvation by using the living water analogy he goes on to say in verse 23 “but the hour is coming and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking people to worship him. God is spirit and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” This shows first you cannot truly worship God without salvation(John 4:10-15). The focus of our worship is Jesus Christ who is the author and finisher of our faith, without him worship is not acceptable to God. “…the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth,” this means spirit and the truth are the main factors of proper worshipping.
Worshiping in the spirit as in the ‘Fruits of the Spirit’ does the way you worship produce: Joy instead of sorrow? Peace instead of anxiety? Patience instead of impatience? Gentleness rather than cruelty? Goodness not sinfulness? Faith rather than godlessness? Meekness instead of arrogance? Self-control instead of wildness? If some of these are not true you may need to change some things about your mindset when worshipping.
Next worship in truth, truth is very plainly the Word of God. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching for reproof for correction and for training in righteousness” 2Timmothy 3:16. Not along after I truly accepted Christ into my heart, I began seeking counsel from a more mature Christian. During this time my motives were not the best and certainly not God honoring, the whole time I was running to her all hours of day wanting answers for every little problem, she kept pointing me right back to scripture. Almost everyday this dear friend would say to me “seek truth, the only source of truth is the word of God.” I finally learned to just take the Bible at its word, and believe its all true. Worship is reading and hearing of Gods word.
Lastly the raising of hands during worship, there are many different beliefs on this aspect among different denominations of the church. In 1 Timothy 2:8 the word says “I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling;” this verse is right after Paul declares the deity of God and urges the people to pray for others. Some could even go as far to say it is a commandment to pray and lift your hands before God. Lamentations 3:40-41 says “Let us test and examine our ways and return to the Lord. Let us lift our hearts and hands to God in heaven:” So lift your hands, shout amen, and dance around if the spirit leads you too. Worship is not a show its not about the lights the instruments the song style, this is about telling the father who made you, and died for you how much you love Him. I found that in all the different church services I have attended while traveling, I still sing and I still sway back and forth and I even still lift my hand a little. I am not focused on the music or the beat of a drum or even ‘experiencing the spirit’. That is not important, God is what’s important.
There is this elderly lady at the church I grew up in, she sits in the very front row every service. Every time I see her, she wraps me in a warm hug, kisses my cheek and whispers in my ear I prayed for you today. During service when the song leader gets up and starts to sing, she sings along and lifts her hands out high. You can this lady from anywhere in the auditorium, and everyone knows that’s just who she is. Our church has been through almost three different song leader, and from 2007 to now the church has changed the styles, the instruments, and the emphasis of worship. This sweet little old lady on the front row never changes what she does, she’s consistent because God is consistent.