I grew up in traditional Pentecostal churches. Any of you with the same background know that means the word “worship” was in the same category as satan, demons, hell, and “charismatics.” For a long time the very conservative Pentecostals associated “worship” with a very modern genre of music played by the “charismatics.” To my old tribe it meant moving from choirs to loud bands with electric guitars and drum driven music. From very lengthy hymns to rock ballads with repetitive lyrics. From quietly standing to waving arms around in the sky. All of these things were a scary thought for many. For years the churches fought these “worship wars” yet they were and are fighting about a relatively narrow (and incorrect) definition of worship. In all cases worship is only associated with music. Specifically what type, or genre, of music is right for 10 to 20 minutes of singing in a corporate church gathering. Singing is awesome, and we should sing, the Bible even says it. But if we think worship = singing, we have no idea what worship is.
1. Worship is not just music.
There are 79 references to worship in the New Testament, not one is associated with music. Only once in the OT (Psalm 66:4) is worship and music found in the same statement. In all 234 Biblical mentions of worship only that one time is singing even mentioned. That doesn’t make singing bad, on the contrary the Scripture always tells us to “praise” God with singing, many musical instruments, and even dancing. In fact singing can be a small part of our worship, but my no means is singing the whole thing.
2. Worship is not confined to one location.
Jesus said some shocking things while speaking to a sinful woman who thought worship was a practice, ritual, and ceremony. (John 4:20-24) While she asked him what is a proper external pattern and location for worship (mountain or temple) Jesus said worship should be “in spirit and truth.” God isn’t a physical being, he isn’t simply concerned with external physical actions at a physical place, like the sounds or hands raised inside of the church building. Why would God talk so much about worship if it’s merely a 15minute ceremony that happens at one location, but has so little to do with the rest of life? God doesn’t live inside church buildings, does he?
3. Worship is not a religious ceremony or action.
Cases of worship in the Bible include falling down at the feet of someone far greater than yourself, and acknowledging their preeminence over every aspect of your life. (Greek/NT ‘proskuneo. Hebrew/OT shachah, among others). But the main thing is not the action of bowing, for that can be faked. Instead its the heart behind it. While it’s possible to do worship on a stage, or in a church meeting, worship transcends stages and performances; it is the spiritual inclination of our hearts. Someone can take a week of vacation and worship God during it, while another person may be on stage singing “worship music” everyday and still not worship God. The first may have a spirit that is always bowing to God, the second may not.
4. All things can be worship if you have an attitude of admiration.
Paul says we can give glory to God in some of the strangest ways (1 Cor 10:31) like eating. A true Christian can worship Jesus through a glass of orange juice, while a fake Christian cannot worship Jesus with choirs and loud prayers. If you truly and spiritually recognize Jesus as the preeminent Treasure and Joy of your life, you worship with every action. You drink juice, and your heart overflows with gratitude to Jesus for creating life, fruit, your sense of taste. You realize with your being that you only have this trifle pleasure because God is exceedingly good! On the other hand, if your treasure is something other than Jesus, you ultimately worship that thing. For example, if your greatest worth is being admired by people, then your act of “worshiping in church” is deep down a prideful ambition for people to look at you and think you are so righteous and good.