So, what is worship? There have been many deep and philosophical posts on this topic throughout the years, some here and some elsewhere. The word worship (and its many interpretations) is at the heart of many discussions, debates, and disagreements. We’d all agree that the idea of “worship” in the context of how it is expressed in our corporate gatherings can be a pretty explosive topic.
But when you boil it all down to the essence of what it REALLY is, worship is pretty simple. Beyond all the genres and style wars; beyond the arguments over traditional, blended or contemporary; and even beyond the proactive versus reactive discussion, worship isn’t all that complicated. It’s basic.
To have worship, you must have an object to receive the worship. Worship isn’t what we sing or do to one another, although those can be done in a worshipful manner. Worship needs a target. In our Christian faith, God, the maker of the heavens and the earth, the One that causes all to be, is the target of worship. Whether it’s a response to God’s goodness, His qualities, or His actions toward us, or whether its an offering that we give to “show” our devotion to, affection for, or faith in, worship is directed towards God, not others, and not us.
Simply put, the definition of worship is when we render reverence or homage to a deity or sacred item. There is always an object or a target intended to be the receiver of worship.
We’ve heard many times over the years that worship is a lifestyle. While this is true, I believe that sometimes the INTENTIONAL and SPECIFIC nature of worship can be lost in the broadness of that statement. Of course, we want our lives to be lived in a worshipful manner, but sometimes we might be missing out on the specific nature of the simplicity of worship.
I cannot worship (verb) if I do not focus on an object (God). I must be mindful that when I am singing songs to worship God (or any other worship activity) that I can and should actually be singing TO GOD. Not just casually singing a song that makes me feel nice, or even sincerely singing to tweak my emotions. We should be mindful that for true worship to happen we must view it as a spiritual activity. We are connecting our spirits to God’s Spirit, in a sense. We tune our hearts to that frequency that resonates with God’s heart.
Target = God. God is the object of our affections (and we are the object of His). We don’t just love blindly. The same is true for worship. We engage in worship activity (singing, prayer, study, service, etc.) so that the target of our worship is glorified. Do you think God needs our help to bring glory to Himself? Yes? No?
If not, then why does He choose to allow humans to be the vessels of His glorification (glory) throughout the earth?
I once heard a friend sharing about worship that used the imagery of a conquering king who raises statues (images) of himself in the conquered lands so that people would look on those statues and see the king’s “glory.” It would be a constant reminder to those people who they belonged to, so to speak.
Using this imagery, we can see how that God chooses to “raise images” of Himself throughout the earth. We are those images. We are created in His image. We are not literally God running around this planet, but we are “made” in His image.
What does that have to do with worship? Well, worship is our chance to be LIVING images, lively stones, if you will. Our ultimate act of worship is to become a living sacrifice. Not just for nothing. It is a spiritual “system” that brings us closer to Him, and at the same time allows us to be image-bearers of God Himself.
As we worship, we reflect God’s glory. So, not only are we giving our worship to the target (God), but the target (a living one) also uses that worship to make Himself known. There is an underlying evangelistic element to worship that many times we don’t ever acknowledge. And if we do, somehow we get so focused on the evangelistic part that we forget the worship part.
My encouragement for us is to make the primary thing primary. Let worship be simple and uncomplicated. When you plan your worship sets start with the notion that what you’re crafting will actually, literally be received by an Almighty, Living God. Remember that even in a corporate setting worship is first and foremost FOR and TO God.
Sure, we need to be aware of the people we serve. Sure, we need to be mindful of transitions and the best ways to present and establish worship activity and environments that encourage our people to participate. And sure, we need to be mindful of offering the best that we possibly can in that moment…
But let’s not ever forget that the best part about corporate worship…is corporate worship!
We get to come together and lock arms and raise our voices as one. We get to lift our hands and our hearts together, many small individual streams of worship trickling out to join one raging, rushing river of worship that rises to the very ears and heart of God Himself.
Remember that when you’re crafting setlists, when you’re working on harmonies, and when you’re charting out arrangements.
By Russ Hutto