Last week I shared that this past summer I have been challenged to consider the way in which I worship as an individual, as well as how I lead worship on Sunday mornings. We’re going to begin looking more at this concept of worship today.
Let’s start by defining worship. Of all the definitions I’ve read, I still like Mike Harland’s the best (from The Seven Words of Worship): “Worship is our response to God’s revelation of who He is and what He has done.”
Harland goes to write,
Simply stated, we are called to respond to all that God has revealed about Himself—and to His never-ending desire to enter a deeper relationship with each of us. Through the ages, God has been in the constant process of revealing His character and essence. Yes, God is mysterious in many ways, but He is never a mystery. He has gone to great lengths to reveal Himself throughout history—including sending His Son, Jesus, into the world—and He continues to reveal Himself today in a variety of ways:
- God reveals Himself in creation.
- God reveals Himself through His Word.
- God reveals Himself through the Holy Spirit.
Let’s take a few minutes to consider this. There are some important phrases there, one of which is the idea that God is seeking a “deeper relationship” with us. Remember, God is not seeking worship in and of itself, but worshippers. Stephen Newman writes in his study, Experiencing Worship, that “Worship fosters a dynamic relationship between the Father and us, His children.” As such, worship is a deeply personal and intimate act. That also means that worship is so much more than music. We use music as a means to worship, but it is only one tool available to us. Since we are a musical group we will focus primarily on the use of music in worship, but let us acknowledge that it is not the only tool.
Since worship draws us into deeper relationship with God through Christ let’s also consider the fact that relationships are based on two things: facts and emotions. We have deep relationships with those we know, which is a very intellectual activity, but we also have deep relationships with those we love, which is a very emotional activity. It stands to reason, then, that worship should bridge both this intellectual and emotional divide – we worship what (whom) we know (see John 4) but we also worship what (whom) we love. Too often our conversations on worship in evangelical circles casts a large divide between these two areas – either we focus on only the intellectual part of worship (with its liturgies and rules) or we focus only on the emotional part (with its music and even the more extravagant spiritual gifts). Yet we have to remember that both are necessary to worship – these are not two warring parties at opposite ends of the spectrum but are merely two sides to the same coin. Both are necessary.
Which is why sometimes we will sing sings that are very thought-provoking and reflective (both from a lyrical and musical standpoint), and at other times (perhaps even in the same service) we sing songs that are deeply emotional (again, both lyrically and musically). We can not separate the two.
And the same goes for us as a choir. Sometimes the music I select for the choir will hit some of you as very “intellectual” and “thought provoking” and “void of emotion”, while at other times people may feel the music is “too emotional” (or, dare I say it, “emotionally manipulative”). That’s because worship requires the engagement of both our minds and emotions (spirit), and we demonstrate that through the music we sing.
If you find yourself drawn to one side of the coin or the other, I challenge you to purposefully explore and seek to understand worship in ways that are different and new to you – ways that challenge you to grow.