What is it about worship?

“Therefore I urge you brothers in view of God’s mercy to offer your bodies as living sacrfices to God.  This is your spiritual act of worship.” (Romans 12:1)

After attending pentecostal worship services from childhood into adulthood and spending three years at a Christian college where worship services take place almost 24/7, I think I’m ready to say it. I just don’t like contemporary worship services.  I’ve become disillusioned with the guitar-strumming, hands-raising ritual most of my peers call worship.  It’s not because I’m grumpy or cynical– although I may be– but the Bible doesn’t really call for the type of worship that has become so popular in churches today.  I’m not saying that Christians should stop using music as worship, but we may want to reconsider what the Bible has to say about praise and worship and how our own practices match up.  Here are a few points I’d like to make:

1) Paul defines worship as the offering of one’s body as a living sacrifice to God.  That’s much more serious than singing songs for an hour.  Worship is all-inclusive.  It refers to our passions, thoughts, and choices surrendered to the glory of God.  What we do with other believers in an organized service is, more accurately, praise.

2) In the Old Testament people sang to God in the temple, but the New Testament says little about praising God through song.  Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14:26 “When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.”  Music has its place in a service, but we must remember that it is for the strengthening of the church as a whole.  I have heard people talk about “getting in touch with the Spirit,” or getting their “Jesus high.”  All of that is very individualistic.  There is a time and a place for personal reflection and adoration of the Father, but when we gather with other believers, we have another purpose to fulfill: to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”  I’m not saying that we don’t need to seek God individually as well as corporately.  I am saying that if you don’t set aside time to get alone with God during the day, you can’t make up for it during a worship service, when there are distractions everywhere.  I personally find that my conversations with God are much more natural and genuine during my personal devotional time than in a church service.

3) Lastly, I would like to point out that most contemporary worship services incorporate a heavily emotional element.  Once again, I’m not saying that this is a bad thing.  How can you avoid being affected by the lyrics of a song about the wonder and majesty of God?  The problem comes in when we begin to associate God with an emotional experience.  Most of life takes place in the realm of humdrum, uninteresting moments.  We usually don’t have trouble finding God in the extreme highs or the extreme lows.  The hard part is worshipping God on the ordinary days.  I have trouble seeing how the format we use for praising God in church helps us to worship in such times.

I try not to write things that will upset people for no reason.  But if a practice in the church that is not explicitly mandated by the Bible ends up hurting the body of Christ, I believe it should be changed.  Consider whether your “worship” is truly worshippful to God.

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