I was invited to speak on worship. My preparation was a journey of exploration; to articulate in 30 minutes the breadth and depth of what I have long grown to experience and believe. What follows is that talk, split into a 6 part series.
Click for sections: 1 2 3 4 5 6
Wonky (defn) :
1. shaky or unsteady
2. not in correct alignment; askew
3. liable to break down or develop a fault
My assertion: Worship is one of the most wonky and misconceived aspects in the contemporary church!
A.W. Tozer nailed the problem when he said: "To great sections of the church the art of worship has been lost entirely, and in its place has come that strange and foreign thing called the ‘program.’ This word has been borrowed from the stage and applied with sad wisdom to the type of public service which now passes for worship among us."
1. First we need a working definition of worship.
How often have you heard: “Let's worship now as we sing ...” or “That was great worship”?
It's as if there’s a switch somewhere -- we'll switch it on now for 20 minutes, then to save our energy let's switch it off till next week so we can take a rest. Something is seriously wrong.
Where do we get a functional definition from? Unfortunately the Bible doesn't have a nice convenient verse like Habbakuk 3:23 stating that "Worship is ...” Instead we have lots of verses that use the term and assume we already understand it. For example Ps 96:9 “Worship the Lord in the splendour of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth!” Ok David, can you tell me how to do that? Or Rom 12:1 “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Right Paul, so what's that look like on a Monday morning? These don't directly help, and leave a lot to inference.
Our language doesn't help either; as many of the Hebrew and Greek words in the Bible which get translated as "worship" are actually filled with deep meaning about service, submission & reverence.
Then, we have all the authoritative definitions pronounced from the pulpit ... some definitions so broad as to be useless (worship is everything), and some so narrow that they simply turn worship into an object.
So let's try the dictionary: "reverence offered to a divine being or supernatural power; an act of expressing such reverence; to honor with extravagant love and extreme submission" Nice enough, but largely useless in telling us anything about actually worshipping.
How about listening to some of the "experts":
So I tried making my own definition, and I came up with: "Worship is an attitude expressed in actions that reflect the values of God" Hmmm?
Yet Jesus said: "But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." (Jn 4: 23-24 ESV)
OK Jesus, so its important, but what's next? Can you translate this for me?
Whatever the definition, worship is clearly fundamental, all encompassing, extravagant, and active in expression! So from all the above and more I conclude:
The Christian's number one, all-time, top priority is: worship the Person of God!
We worship God because he is God. That's it; not for our sake, not for what we can get, not for any reason other than that God is worthy. Interestingly (and not as a primary motivation) there's also a promise attached: James 4:8 "Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you".
So we can say, the breath of a Christian, and the breath of the church, is worship: and the logical conclusion is that when you stop breathing you die!
Why then is the Church's worship so weirdly wonky?