Thursday, March 10, 2011

Why Do We Worship?

I've been thinking a lot about worship lately. Both in the context of what we typically think of as worship (music in a church setting), and in the context of living lives of worship.

First, in living lives of worship: I believe that God created us to worship. It's a desire we all have. However, like usual, sin mars the story. As sinful beings, when we look around ourselves here on this earth, we see a multitude of things we could worship, and too often, we do worship those things. Lately, I've seen this in my own life mostly in relationships. God has designed us with a great capacity for loving others, and He works through those in our lives to show us His love. Relationship, however, should be based on how God is working through the relationship, as well as a mutual love/respect for each other based on who God has made you. When we start to value a person, but take God out of the equation, that can easily lead to "worship" - and like I said at the beginning, God created us to worship, not to be worshiped. Worship in relationships only leads to disappointment. Worshiping God however, leads to fulfillment.

Second, worship in the context of church: How does your church worship? There are many different "worship styles" out there, everything from heavy rock bands to a solemn organ. Last night, I experienced a very emotionally driven worship service. It got me to thinking. The purpose of our worship is for God. Yes, because of our intimacy with Him, we also benefit greatly from worship. But the number one reason we worship is because of the greatness of God - it's so that we can try, in our feeble and imperfect way, to tell Him who we've seen Him to be. Worship can often awake strong emotion in us, because it's a time of communion with the Creator. However, sometimes I think that some music styles are designed to create that emotion, rather than to worship God. Often times, the words are shallow, and about us - what we're feeling, what we're doing, etc. They repeat endlessly, causing an increasing build-up of emotion. It might sound good, but when we stop to think about the ultimate purpose of worship, it seems silly. For example, "I praise you, Jesus." What does that mean? All you're doing is saying what you are doing. If I were to want to serve someone, but instead, just stood in front of them and said "I'm serving you," that would be awfully silly, wouldn't it?

There is a flip side to this. Like I said, worship often does evoke strong emotion, even when it isn't written and performed in a way that forces that. But sometimes, worship can be so burdensome and well . . . boring. . . that it's nearly impossible to really have communion with God in that time. When you are focused on trying to figure out the melody, and wondering over what the meaning of some words are, it can be difficult to actually praise God.

In both of these settings though, I see that worship is a matter of the heart. If you worship in song because it makes you feel good, or because it's just another part of the service, you aren't worshiping "in Spirit and in truth." Our hearts have to enter worship with a right attitude towards God - who He is, and what He's done. If we start with that, I believe that the appropriate lyrical choices, musical styles, and congregational response to worship will follow.

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