I should preface this with: I am not a theologian of any kind. My thoughts written here are exactly that, just thoughts. To sum this disclaimer up, I had a thought today that I am exploring out and I am curious to hear what others think about this subject.
What is worship? Is modern worship via music only surface level worship? Would worship in its truest sense be better described as a sacrifice? Well maybe not described as a sacrifice but always in association with sacrifice? Can you have ‘worship’ without sacrifice?
Lately, I’ve been reading a lot from the MSG version of the Bible (I usually change it up every year or so). There’s a handful of verses that have grabbed my attention that have lead to this train of thought:
Hebrews 13:16 – ‘.. share what you have with others. God takes particular pleasure in acts of worship—a different kind of “sacrifice”—that take place in kitchen and workplace and on the streets.’
Psalm 51:18-19 – ‘Make Zion the place you delight in, repair Jerusalem’s broken-down walls. Then you’ll get real worship from us, acts of worship small and large, Including all the bulls they can heave onto your altar! Make Zion the place you delight in, repair Jerusalem’s broken-down walls. Then you’ll get real worship from us, acts of worship small and large, Including all the bulls they can heave onto your altar!’
John 4:23-24 ESV – ‘But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” ‘
James 1:27 NLT – ‘Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.’
These are just a handful of verses out of countless verses in the bible that deals with worship. Some of the verses above have more weight than others and some don’t directly deal with worship as much as others, but I think they are good to keep in mind.
Ultimately, as a Worship Tech Director, I’m always wondering what is true worship? What can I do that helps build a better environment for others to see and participate in worship in it’s truest form? What can I do from a tech standpoint that doesn’t distract the audience from worship, but instead helps them participate in worship? But I first need to define what worship is.
Something I see/hear often, especially with my wife being a worship leader is, “That was great worship!” But then live their week out in a way that doesn’t represent that. Even worse, within myself, I’ll connect with a song in a new deeper emotional way, but then as soon as ‘worship’ is over, I’m no longer thinking about it and I’m off to the next thing. Then we think great of ourselves because we had ‘such a great worship time’ but then it places no future impact on our life. The thought of that deeply burdens me. How can we claim to be touched by God through a moment of ‘worship’ and then have it not affect our lives outside of that hour or two of service?
With that being said, going back to where we started here, we’ve heard it said that sacrifice is a form of worship but I don’t believe that to be true. Sacrifice should be the foundation of worship, you can’t have worship without sacrifice.
In a contemporary worship setting during service we proclaim His goodness through singing but for that to be true worship, it starts with the sacrifice of our ego, or ourself. That can happen through the raising of our hands, or bowing on our knees. What the physical act is doesn’t matter as much as the intent behind it, letting go of ourselves, our ego, our pride, and letting in God. The act of raising hands or etc shouldn’t be seen as some superspiritual act or only done when ‘you feel the spirit’ but it should be done to proclaim to yourself, “I’m letting down my pride” and to proclaim to others, “Jesus is real and I want to follow Him.” As baptism is, raising hands should also be viewed as a public decoration that you believe in Jesus! And in the words of David, “I will become even more undignified than this!”
But even still, is contemporary worship during service only surface level? Perhaps worship gets deeper as we make sacrifices throughout the week. Like the taboo topic of tithing. Or like in Hebrews 11, can it be found in the kitchen serving others, making meals for others, or helping single moms, or orphaned children? Or what about refugees? What about helping the homeless man? What about bringing strangers into your home to get them out of the cold and providing them with a nice meal? Feeling uncomfortable yet? I am.. All this without Instagramming it? Nothing in return, no recognition. On top of all these external forms of worship and sacrifices, then there is an internal form as well, like resisting lust, anger, choosing to love, pride, greed, laziness, etc. This could even be argued as a greater sacrifice since these things sometimes live so deep within us.
It’s easy to worship on a Sunday morning, and that’s great! But I can’t help but think if we aren’t making some sort of sacrifices on a semi-regular baises that push us out of our comfort zone, requires us to go out of our way and show love to others in some sort of way without receiving anything back or any sort of recognition for our acts, is that Sunday morning worship even true worship?
Ultimately our worship, our sacrifices comes down to intent. Remember Cain and Abel? Why did God accept Abels sacrifice but not Cains? Cains sacrifice came easy and was more of a check off the box, whereas Abels sacrifice was from his best crops. In our life that is, Abel gave God his best coffee grounds, the better parking spot, the better iPhone, the better meal option, the better computer, the better spot in line, and kept for himself the average options. And Cain kept for himself the best options, and gave God the average options. This makes me look within my heart, at both external and internal sacrifices and wonder where am I making ‘average’ sacrifices to God and not the best? Where am I taking the path of least resistance to just get by? What sins within my heart am I allowing to go unchanged?
Then once we start making these sacrifices, these acts of worship, we have to quickly ask ourselves, is it worth it? If we decide that it is we will continue it and let it become apart of our lifestyle. Worship needs to become our lifestyle, not just a singular action. And if it’s not worth it to us, we’ll stop and retreat back to ourselves. I realize it isn’t as black and white as this, and that there’s so much grace in all of it, but it’s something to think about.
If you’ve managed to read this far into this underdeveloped word vomit thought process of worship, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic! As for me, after thinking through this, I am very challenged to make more sacrifices in my life to show God’s love to others.
Romans 3:27-28,31 MSG- .. God does not respond to what we do; we respond to what God does. We’ve finally figured it out. Our lives get in step with God and all others by letting him set the pace, not by proudly or anxiously trying to run the parade.[..] But by shifting our focus from what we do to what God does, don’t we cancel out all our careful keeping of the rules and ways God commanded? Not at all. What happens, in fact, is that by putting that entire way of life in its proper place, we confirm it.’