But I’ve also had many conversations with Jesus lovers who are not so inclined, who actually get a little irritated by this view of worship. They don’t like to sing, can’t sing, or the current flavor of worship music doesn’t resonate with them. Some are just not into the mystical, ethereal aspects of the Christian life in general.
In some cases, I can empathize. For instance, I’ve attended “worship conferences” in the past where it’s at least implied that heaven is going to be one big non-stop worship service (taking their cue from Rev. 4-5). But, to many, this doesn’t sound very appealing. And I have to admit, it sounds a bit exhausting to me!
This brings a simple question to mind. Does God need, or even want, our non-stop singing? I think we need a bigger picture of worship.
So, with this in mind, I would like to first briefly outline what worship is, and then a little bit about what worship looks like for me. Maybe this will help my readers who aren’t like me. And this post is by no means an exhaustive treatment on the subject.
What is worship?
First, the New Testament Greek word for “worship” is προσκυνέω (proskyneō). It simply means to give homage, to revere, or adore. And there are a myriad of ways we can do this without singing. Conversely, we can be singing Christian worship songs and not actually be worshiping. I don’t think I need to explain the difference to you.
Jesus brought a dramatic change in how we’re to worship God. Temple location is no longer relevant because God put His temple in us! (1 Cor.3:16; 6:19) And we’re called to worship God as our Father, in spirit and truth (emphasis mine):
21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:21-24 NKJV)
When we talk about God as a Father, we’re talking about relationship. And because we’ve been given Jesus’ relationship with the Father as His sons and daughters, we can now worship Him in spirit and truth.
Spirit. To worship in spirit simply means to embrace God who has put us in Him in heavenly places (Eph.2:6; Col.3:1-3). God is Spirit so we must worship Him in spirit. We can do this because we’ve been brought into perfect union with God through the Holy Spirit. We’re already “partakers of the Divine nature” (2 Pet.1:4).
Truth. Truth is about reality and honesty. The objective reality is that Jesus is the way to the Father, He defines truth for us, and He’s is our life (John 14:6). This also means becoming totally open and vulnerable before the Lord, which has nothing to do with singing songs! Intimacy is about mutual interpenetration—I run into the Father’s arms (metaphorically), simultaneously letting Him into the deepest and darkest part of me. He reveals “truth in the inward parts” (Psalm 51:6), bringing greater freedom in my experience (John 8:31-32). This is the interactive nature of worship.
What worship music does is provide an atmosphere, or environment, where we can more easily focus on these aspects of worship. Music opens the heart in unique ways before God. For instance, Elisha called for a musician to set the atmosphere to hear from God (See 2 Kings 3:14-16).
There are creative expressions of worship in art and in our service to Him (when we let Him work through us for other’s benefit). Our renewed mind proves to the world that God’s will for mankind is “good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom.12:2 NKJV)
All of these things are forms of worship because they bring God glory.
Atmosphere probably explains how I actively engage in worship. Again, we’re talking about relationship. So, for me, I probably “soak” to “worship” music more than actually sing songs. I think about the words and make them my own heart song.
But I also worship when I’m walking in the woods. No music, no singing…just me and Papa walking together and enjoying each other’s company (We let the birds do the singing and nature provides the atmosphere!) In fact, this is some of my most fruitful times of authentic worship.
Let me make one thing very clear. I always worship reverently. And I am, by no means, “sentimentalizing” God (my “Good buddy”). Quite the contrary, it’s the reverential shock and awe I’ve talked about before. He transcends all my knowing and being, yet my life is intricately woven into His life. This is why it’s impossible to truly worship Him without it impacting how we see ourselves.
Worship, for me, is about joining the Great Dance of Love between the Father and Son that’s been going on since before time began (John 17:24). It’s the interactive process where I pour my heart out on the Lover of my Soul, while He pours His love and life into me. It’s profound and tender. It’s never about singing songs; it’s about my adoration of Him and His incarnation transforming me.
I will end with Paul’s prayer, which is my prayer for you, that you would cultivate a lifestyle of worship of intimate fellowship with our great God.
14 The amazing grace of the Master, Jesus Christ, the extravagant love of God, the intimate friendship of the Holy Spirit, be with all of you. (2 Cor.13:14 MSG)