He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.” (Genesis 22:5)
Abraham was about to go “over there” to sacrifice his promised, beloved son, Isaac, in obedience to God, and he called it worship.
But where’s your boombox, Abraham?
I believe we (the Church) have redefined worship. To many, if not most of us, the word “worship” is synonymous with “music”. In fact, you rarely hear those two words separately anymore in the Church. We have worship songs, worship music, worship bands, worship services. We even have worship encounters.
But do we have worship?
As I searched the scriptures, I came to a startling conclusion: music was not used for worship in the Bible, it was used for praise. But we have so joined those two separate and distinct acts, that they are now defined by the type of music being played. If it’s a fast, upbeat “make you wanna dance and shout” song, then we are praising. If it’s a slow, contemplative, “make you sway and/or cry” song, we’re worshiping. Sunday services generally begin with “Praise and Worship”, and are even specifically formatted with a little “praise” at the beginning, some “worship” in the middle, and some really good “praise” at the end.
Am I right?
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
In both Hebrew and Greek, the word means to bow, to prostrate oneself in homage to God, and in both the old testament and the new testament, worship involved sacrifice. In the old, they offered sacrificed animals. In the new, we offer sacrificed lives. Neither has anything to do with music.
Worship cannot be defined by a few hours on a Sunday morning of people singing, swaying and dancing to the latest worship songs. It can’t be defined by how well we were able to “enter in” based on how the band played and how the sound system was working that day.
Worship belongs to God, not to us. When we make it something we do for us, it is no longer true worship, it is self-worship.
Worship is not an experience or a response to a song. Worship is obedience to God’s command.
With all of that said…I LOVE the music in the Body of Christ! I love the gifts that God has given to the songwriters, musicians, and singers, enabling us to make a joyful noise, to praise Him, to exalt Him. And the win/win is that when we do that, we feel good, and we experience His presence because He inhabits the praises of His people.
Church, use the gifts of music that God has placed in you. Praise God, exalt God, make a joyful noise. Even make a slow, beautiful noise that makes me cry and put my face to the floor. But don’t continue to call music “worship”, and don’t keep defining worship as an “experience” with God.
So here is the realignment, for me: Do not reduce worship to the realm of music. Do not seek to worship God because you need to feel something. Learn to worship Him with your life. In the quiet spaces, in the difficult times and the good times, in the wilderness or on the mountain…worship God with a sacrificed, obedient life.
“Offer your bodies (the complete man) as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”
If I continually seek after the next great song so that I can “experience” worship, but give little attention to my own obedience, to my own heart condition, then I am not a worshiper, I am just someone who likes good music.
Church, if you pour all your resources, time and efforts into creating the ultimate “worship experience” on Sundays (or any other day), but you are not teaching your congregation to live sacrificed, obedient, holy lives…then you are not a worshiping church, you are simply a church that has really good music.
Challenge (I’ve done this and, admittedly, it’s not easy, but it will shift something in you):
For one week, worship without music. In your quiet time with God, when you would normally pull up your playlist to start things off — don’t. No “worship music” for one week. Instead, ask Him how you can obey Him that day, and then do it. Ask Him if there is something you are holding onto that needs to be sacrificed as an act of obedience. Then make the sacrifice. Worship God.
Let me know how it goes!