When a person says “worship” in the modern church, any number of things spring to mind. One of the first is usually style of worship: “traditional” or “contemporary”. To say that styles of worship have caused some dissension in the church in recent years is much like saying a Corvette is a somewhat powerful car. The fact is that churches have split over whether or not they should have “traditional” or “contemporary” worship, although everyone seems to have different definitions of what those types really are.
Unfortunately, there has not been nearly the focus on what worship actually is as much as what it sounds like. God is not as interested in the instruments accompanying us as He is in the songs that spring from our heart. It is critical that we understand that worship is to be a time of praising God for who He is and what He has done. Worship is not about us as much as it is about God.
Although music garners much of our attention when we talk about worship, it is only one part of the picture. In Deuteronomy 12:1-17:7 we see instructions on the priority of worship. First of all, we see that there is a need for corporate worship (12:4-5). It has always been God’s plan that His people should come together at an appointed time and worship Him as a community of believers. The author of Hebrews instructs us that we are not to forsake coming together, “as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Heb. 10:25). Corporate worship is a vital part of our Christian life, and is integral to our growth into mature Christians.
It is important to point out, however, that worship cannot occur exclusively at one or two times throughout the week. We must be worshipping God each day in our lives if we are to truly worship Him as part of the body of Christ. If we haven’t prepared for worship individually, we won’t be able to worship corporately.
Another important aspect of worship is giving (Deut. 14:22-23). In the worship services at our church, I emphasize the worship aspect of the offering. We do not give because we feel we have to, but because it is the least we can do. Our sacrifice of what God has given to us financially should be done with joy. We also need to realize that God deserves our best, not what is left over. The first check we should write after we receive our paycheck, or retirement check, or any other form of income, should be to our local church for the ministries thereof. If we wait to see what we have left to give to God, there won’t be much—if anything—left. Give God the firstfruits, and see what He does in your life.
This is not a “prosperity” Gospel, nor is it a “name it and claim it” doctrine. The Lord Himself instructs us that we are to test Him and see if He will not bless our obedience in this area (Malachi 3:10). The blessings of God are not necessarily monetary; He will, however, bless our obedience as He has promised to do.
When we worship, it should be a time of celebration. Many people have gotten the idea that worship is to be a solemn, silent occasion. Quite the contrary: corporate worship in Scripture is always a jubilant, festive time. David, a man described as having a heart like God’s, instructed believers to shout and make joyful noise unto the Lord, making music with all kinds of instruments (Psa. 66:1; 100:1). The reason for our joy in worship is simple: we are thankful for God’s many blessing in general, and His salvation in particular (Psa. 103:1-5). Worship is a time of celebration, giving God praise and honor and glory that He alone is due.
Worship is truly a multi-dimensional experience that cannot be simplified into stylistic terms. Rather, its an attitude that flows from our heart and manifests itself into an outward expression of praise, adoration, and thanksgiving. Whether you like the great old hymns, or prefer the newer sounds finding favor in many churches, or maybe even a combination of both, the main thing is that we keep Christ as the focus of our worship. Anything else is false worship, and a waste of time.