Let me begin by saying this post is not just for worship leaders. I would encourage anyone to read as I believe we all need to understand what the worship of God IS and what it ISN’T….since God, in His Word, expresses a clear hatred of all idolatry (Ex 20:3-6, Ex 23:13, Deut 4:23-24, 7:25, Ez 14:3, etc.).
Most good definitions of worship have something in them of “seeing” and “responding”. I like the following definitions, which you may have heard before:
1. Worship is a rhythm of revelation and response.
2. Worship is seeing God for who He is, seeing me for who I am, and responding accordingly.
Or one that I often say: Worship is seeing glory (the outshining of internal excellence) and giving glory (adoration or praise).
In this post, I’ll be working from that premise, so if’s very important that we establish this before we move forward. Worship is seeing and then responding. It’s seeing worth then giving worth. For example….one might truly worship on a saturday afternoon in Athens, GA while cheering on the Georgia Bulldogs. They’ll paint their body, they’ll stand for 4 hours, and they’ll bark like a dog the entire time. Why? Because they saw a kind of glory….they saw the 90 towering giants in red & white running onto the pristine green field on a perfect day surrounded by 100,000 screaming fans. That’s a kind of glory…..a SMALL glory….but a glory nonetheless….and they are simply seeing it, and responding to it. With barking.
In terms of Christian worship, worship is seeing the Triune GOD, and then responding accordingly.
Now….this begs the question: What do you mean by “seeing God”? How do we see Him? Where do we see Him? Good questions.
First: How do we see God? We see the Holy One with the eyes of the heart (Eph 1:18). God is invisible (1 Tim 1:17). He is Spirit (John 4:24). He says that no man can see Him and live (Ex 33:20). God the Son has already come and has resurrected. Thus, in our day and age, we must see Him with the eyes of the heart.
Second: Where do we see God? As I travel and do ministry, I ask this question often, and frankly I am BLOWN AWAY by how most Christians will answer this question. They’ll say things like, “the sky” or “in people” or “in creation”. These things might reveal SOME things about God…in a general sense…but they are inadequate revealers of God and will lead to idolatry apart from the gospel (Rom 1:18-23). The way we “see God” today is in His Word. Period. The Bible is the revelation of God to mankind. We see the glory of God in the Scriptures and in the story of the Scriptures, namely, the Gospel.
This is why if there’s not Scripture in the worship set, then it’s not really a worship set.
Imagine with me….you are in a church service. The service starts and the band begins to play an emotionally stirring progression. The drums kick in. The front row starts clapping. The lights begin slowly fading up. You can feel the excitement in the room escalating. And as the band hits the first chorus, the place erupts with worship….hands lifted all over….people singing, etc….
The funny thing is….no Scriptures have been read….no one has mentioned the gospel…and the song they’re singing is a familiar one from Christian radio….the content of which is banal, shallow, and focused completely on the worshipper and not the One being worshipped.
These people are certainly worshipping, but WHAT are they worshipping?
I would venture to say they are not worshipping God. They are worshipping their feelings, the experience, the lights, the song, and perhaps even the band. How do I know this? Because they’ve yet to see the glory of God. They’ve only seen the glory of some worship band. And they are responding to it. One word:
And this little fictitious scene I have created is FAR too common in church-world today.
Brothers and sisters….worship leaders….pastors…etc….I say this with love….if the Scriptures or the story of the Scriptures cannot be found in our songs or in our worship sets, then we are leading people into idolatry! Music alone cannot PRODUCE worship that God is pleased with. Only God’s Word and the Gospel can do that. They are how we SEE GOD. YES, we must do things with excellence. YES, we must be artistic. YES, we must play skillfully to the LORD. But what do we want people to remember? That slick presentation? That cool transition? What are you counting on to create that “moment” in your worship service? Your performance, or the work of Jesus Christ? Do you want the people to remember you, or do you want them to leave with their jaws dropped about the fact that the God of the universe loves them in Christ.
Writing with faith in God’s Word and the Gospel to create an army of worshippers,
I realize I have taken a hard stance in this post, but I do so with love and with the hope that more and more worship leaders will not be content to throw a set together of songs that “sound cool” or that “people really like”. I also pray that more people worshipping in worship services would be keen to what exactly it is that they are responding to. I pray this has encouraged you and I’d love to hear your feedback.