I’ve spent the last few days in Buffalo, NY, a curious city. I am here for the Christian Musician Summit, which provides a pretty great service to musicians, techs, and pastors in the form of training and sessions led by some of the leading voices in the church at large. A great cross section of people looking to learn how to better lead people into worship and to cultivate their own skills in music and songwriting. There were some truly fantastic session and I could see people being inspired and edified.
While many of the attendees were in session, I had the opportunity to chat with a good friend about the nature of “worship”. In the Church, as much as we say that worship is not music, we continue to reinforce that it is. We have worship teams, worship training, worship nights, worship concerts, worship conferences, worship books, etc. I don’t think anyone would disagree that worship is NOT just music, but we, by our vocabulary and our actions belie that.
When the Bible speaks of worship, it speaks of bowing down to the King.
We discussed a bit about the quality or lack thereof of many Christian products. But another major reason is market economics. The main outlet for Christian products of any kind is the Christian bookstore. A nd these are commercial enterprises. They are consumer supported, fed by distributors who are distributing content for the publishers/labels/studios. Most Christian “art” will be supplied through this commercial enterprise.
I am sure that the owners of these knowledge boutiques feel that they are providing a great service to the body of Christ. Where else can you go to get the “oil of gladness” that anointed Jesus but HolyMart Booksellers (I kid you not, I dont need the Holy Spirit to give me gladness, I can buy it in a store). We live in a post information age. Information is everywhere and the downfall is that we know more about things than ever before but act on less knowledge than ever. I suppose this means we never really know what we know. When asked, Jesus said that the sum of all the law, all the books in the world is this “Love God, love your neighbor.” I imagine that if we just did this, we wouldnt need Christian books at all.
Dont get me wrong, I love books. Love them. Can’t get enough of them. But if they do not produce fruit, or just serve to puff me up (as knowledge can do) then they are worthless.
In the interest of not dragging this out and getting on to the creative stuff, I’ve decided to just go ahead and lay out what I am thinking worship is. I’ve come down to 5 things that I think make up the essence of worship. I’m just gonna lay them out here and then double back and explain them a bit.
1) Fear of the Lord 2) Obedience 3) Availability 4) Purity 5) Excellence So what does that mean and why these 5? I am sure there are more, but these 5, at least to me, biblically represent worship–the core, or essence of worship. These things, when put together, add up to a wonderful whole that leaves very little out.
When God wants to do something, he looks throughout the earth to find someone willing. When we worship, we are telling God, “Here I am, here I am, pick me, pick me!” He doesnt have to look far because he would trip over us just getting out of the throne room.
That, to me, is the heart of worship. The major word used in the Old Testament for worship is also translated bow, bow down, obeisance, reverence, and fall down. In the New Testament, the dominant word means to kiss the hand, bow on knees with the head to the ground; the root implies the word picture of a dog licking the masters hand.
If obedience is step one, then availability is step two.
We are told in various places throughout the Bible that we are to offer ourselves as living sacrifices, and that praise is our spiritual sacrifice. No longer do we need to bring the bull, the ram, the dove, we can offer a sacrifice by lifting our voices to God.
So the praise of our lips, the worship of our hearts is the equivalent to the temple sacrifices.
Samuel tells Saul that “to obey is better than sacrifice”.
I suppose that when I say redefining, I mean re-redefining. Worship has been redefined for us and we have to decide if we like the new definition or not. Personally, I think the direction that we got started on was fantastic, but either we got stagnant, or the enemy snuk in and mucked about.
Starting with the good. Worship has been redefined apart from a style of music or instrumentation. The guitar has *almost* universally (in America) been given a pardon from its status as satan’s tool. Drums are welcome (drummers are questionable. Just kidding…), bass is present, and singers arent defined by their range.