There’s been a great outpouring of worship music over the last few decades that has significantly impacted our Christian experience in so many positive ways. But there’s also a potential problem. When we mainly associate worship with music we risk worshiping music instead of God. One way we may know this is by asking who or what the focus is actually on when we worship.
What is worship? Of course, it can be easily understood by hyphenating it as worth-ship. It’s anyone or anything to which we ascribe ultimate worth. Of course, this is not necessarily God. We are created to worship, but our ultimate adoration could be misguided: it could be for our favorite artists, celebrities, heroes, a girlfriend or boyfriend, our spouse, our career, our kids, our dreams, fortune or fame, science, the environment…when it comes down to it, we may just “worship” ourselves. It’s simply whoever or whatever captures our affections the most, and that can be a deceptively hard thing to be truly honest about.
I was a professional musician living in Texas when I got saved in 1978 (don’t laugh too much at the photo!), and it was artists and ministries like Keith Green, Vineyard, and later, Matt Redman, Chris Tomlin, and Hillsongs that helped me embrace Christian worship music. Today, there’s Bethel, Integrity, Gateway, Elevation, and many others that are producing excellent contemporary worship music. But, as a musician, I found myself running the risk of being attracted to style and skill and artistic gifting rather than the majesty and beauty of Jesus.
Singing songs helps us remember what is said far better than teaching and reading because it involves more of our cognitive senses. For instance, it could be argued that the Reformation was more impacted in the public mind by the songs of Luther and, later those of Wesley, Watts, and others, than their preaching. People who couldn’t recite the theology remembered and sang their songs verbatim.
But this particular benefit also has potential problems. I’ve personally found that many Christian songs (including some of our beloved hymns) can teach us bad theology. This is doubly bad considering how we learn, which is why I tell people never to get their theology from Christian music!
But my point here is, what do we think of when we use the word, “worship?” For instance, if you were to start a home group and wanted a time of “worship” would you need a guitar player or CD to sing along with? Another way to think about this: did the early church have worship teams and guitar players with them?
One way we can break ourselves from the notion that worship requires music is by learning how to worship God devotionally with Scripture. The Bible is full of worship poetry and songs so this is very easy to do. You can worship God very effectively (and learn about His majesty and goodness scripturally rather than by sentiment and artistic license) simply by reading, meditating, and sharing your praise to God together as revealed in Scripture.
Here’s a small sample of where you can start (click on the link to read the text). These are all in The Passion Translation:
Worshiping God in the Psalms:
NOTE: For our purposes here, I left out the Psalms about singing and playing instruments.
New Testament Hymns and Creeds
Many Christians don’t realize that the New Testament is full of hymns and creeds that were well-known by the church long before the written text. Because most of the early followers of Jesus could not read, even if they had a Bible, they committed these hymns and creeds to memory and often recited or sang them in their gatherings.
For more on this see my post, “New Testament Hymns and Creeds“.
These New Testament hymns can also be used for our worship. Here are some examples:
- John 1:1-18
- Rom.1:3-4; 10:9-10
- 1 Cor.8:6; 15:3-7
- Col.1:15-20; 2:9-15
- Phil 2:6-11
- 1 Tim.2:5-6
- 1 Pet.3:18-21
Finally, there are many heavenly songs of worship in the book of Revelation. Here are just a few that can be used for devotional worship.
Obviously, there’s a lot of singing in these verses, but they are easily adaptable to devotional worship.
I hope this brief survey has blessed you and enhanced your understanding of worship. God is looking for people who will worship Him in spirit and truth (John 4:23-24), and sometimes this even includes music.
One last thing that’s important to understand. We don’t worship God because He needs it; we worship because we need it! The only thing God has ever wanted from us is our heart, and that’s because our heart is the rudder to how well we navigate this life (Prov.4:23), and He is the continuous source of life and everything good and perfect (John 1:1-4;10:10; 14:6; Col.1:16-17; James 1:17). We are gloriously changed into His likeness when we behold Him in worship, and one very effective way to do this is to reflect on His infinite goodness, beauty, and holiness in Scripture.
18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Cor.3:18 NIV)