the weblog of Alan Knox

More on Worship

Posted by on Mar 5, 2009 in blog links, worship | 10 comments

David Nelson, Academic Dean at Southeastern Seminary, wrote a very good post about worship last week called “A Curmudgeon Weighs in On Evangelical Worship, Part 2“. He begins his post like this:

A substantial amount of what is said about worship by evangelicals today is folderol. That means foolishness or nonsense. I could have just used those terms, but I like the word “folderol” better. Emotional states don’t constitute worship, nor does music, nor does a particular order of service. The genuineness of worship is not determined by the building in which the church gathers, the technology we use in a service, or how trendy our clothes are. In fact, I would argue that worship in the Bible is not even primarily focused on the gathered assembly but is more often a matter of a way of life within the context of the community of faith that lives among the world in order to propose the truth of a better world. Worship is, put another way, the believer’s response in all of life to the Great Commandment (to love God) in light of the Father’s demonstration of His immense love toward sinners in Jesus Christ by His Spirit.

I read accounts like this more and more these days. And, I’m excited about articles like the one written by Dr. Nelson. From the articles that I’ve written lately concerning worship (“Worship again” and “Romans and Worship“) as well as some older posts about worship (“Here I am to worship“, “Worship Service“, and “Learning to worship together“), most of my readers know that I agree with him.

But, how does this play out from believer to believer and from church to church? Why do we continue to hear the term “worship” associated with music, a place, a time, an event? Why do we continue to use terms such as “worship service”, “worship hall”, “worship leader”, “worship music”, “worship band”, etc.?

When I think of the times that I worshiped God last week, I certainly recall the time that I met with the church last Sunday. But, I do not consider my attendance to be worship! No, I worshiped when I encouraged, taught, comforted, loved, etc. my brothers and sisters. I also worshiped as we ate together. But, there were other times that I worshiped as well. For example, when our family and some friends helped someone move last week, we worshiped.

Neither time was more “worshipful” than the other, unless, of course, I was being more obedient at one time than the other. Similarly, I cannot separate worship into “vertical” demonstrations of worship (directed toward God) and “horizontal” demonstrations of worship (directed toward other people). When we serve others, we serve God. When we love God, we can’t help but love others.

In reality, understanding worship as we see it in Scripture, is difficult and simple. It is difficult to worship because we recognize that it is impossible for us (on our own) to worship God the way he desires or the way he deserves. We would naturally prefer to worship ourselves. It is simple to worship because we recognized that we are indwelled by the Holy Spirit, and (super)-naturally everything that we do and say can be worship – a life lived set apart for God, which will necessarily result in a life lived for others.

But, even though we often recognize that all of life is worship – as David Nelson wrote in his article, and as others have written – our culture, our language, and our practices often demonstrate otherwise. I can’t change church culture. However, I can change my language and my practice. I’ve been trying to make those changes over the last few years – often struggling against church culture. I wonder… is there anyone else out there who has started changing their language and practice? Is there anyone else out there who is willing to start?


10 Comments

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  1. 3-5-2009

    Alan,

    Love that word,folderol.

    Almost daily, I find my long held convictions are being vindicated, by others better equipped than I.

    Am I thrilled? On the one hand,”Yes”! On the other,”No”!

    Thrilled for the promise of a more Biblical understanding about the heart attitudes of those who are serious about their relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.

    Saddened to realise how, in the past I, like so many others, have been persuaded to put aside our questioning of the status quo, to “keep the peace” and trust the self serving formulations and traditions of men, and how those traditions have denied the people of God, of their full function as Priests unto the King.

  2. 3-5-2009

    Good post Alan, I agree with you with my whole heart!
    /Jonas Lundström
    http://blog.bahnhof.se/wb938188/

  3. 3-5-2009

    Alan,

    Thank you for this post. I was just thinking about this same subject this week. I have been struggling with the issues as you pointed out and how to express them concerning what worship is and is not.
    We are created to worship, saved to worship and that as you pointed out doesn’t always constitute a place or song.
    It is servitude plus…serving our creator in whatever capacity. Whether in singing,ministering etc.
    I am really appreciative of all of this. It makes me stop to reflect on a lot of things in relation to God and His word.
    Steven

  4. 3-5-2009

    Aussie John,

    I’ve taught the status quo, traditions of men, etc. in the past. It is much more exciting to encourage people in their “full function as priests until the king”!

    Jonas,

    Thanks!

    Steven,

    These posts are responses to my own reflections on worshiping God with all of life. It changes my perspective completely.

    -Alan

  5. 3-5-2009

    In a sense, today’s “church” is, by and large, the illegitimate child of an unhealthy relationship between the bride of Christ and the secular society/culture/state in she (the bride of Christ) has found herself. She was allured by promises of property, status and wealth, and still is.

    Unfortunately, her child, who we refer to today as the “church”, is no longer loved by her father, and her mother has serious reservations about what she has become. She is an odd child, don’t you think? Even though she senses that she is what she is, she is rather proud and consoles herself with the thought that the problem is not hers.

    Should we be surprised when she behaves strangely? Should we be surprised when she buys finery and the latest technology for herself, and hires plenty of servants to care for her needs? Why should she care what anyone should think?

    We must ask ourselves if we are willing to cater to her, or if we are the bride of Christ. She would have us think it is one and the same. I, for one, think not. Perhaps her gig will be up when she runs out of cash.

    In answer to your question – Yes, we have changed and continue to change our language and practice. Dressing up, singing songs that mostly have little meaning, waving hands and all that goes with it does not look like worship to us.

    Rather than repeat what I have said in previous comments and stories, I will add what worship looked like to me today. A single mother called, talked for an hour and a half, mostly discussing her troubles, and asked to borrow something for her son. I have the item, looked for it for an hour, but can’t find it. It’s not that expensive, so I plan to go to the store and buy it and give it to her son.

    Worship for me was the morning she called at 6:00 A.M. and said her house was full of water from a leaking pipe and she didn’t know how to turn the water off. I left immediately, got her water off, and literally spent days letting in repair people and supervising them so she could go to work.

    Worship is sometimes messy, inconvenient and expensive. So was dying for me.

  6. 3-5-2009

    Sam,

    “Worship is sometimes messy, inconvenient and expensive. So was dying for me.” That says it all.

    -Alan

  7. 3-5-2009

    This is an excellent perspective. Matter of fact, this is an excellent question you’ve posed Alan. I know I’m encountering people more and more whose perspectives are changing, or altering, or are even becoming questioning of what they are calling worship.

    I once found myself shopping for clothing to wear to ‘church’ on Sunday morning and instantaneously became disgusted with myself. My motives were to fit in to a social gathering and be accepted so that I could ‘worship’ with them. Our commonality was no longer in Christ, or servitude to Him, but in servitude to an edifice and ego.

    I do not say any of this with vitriol, but with sadness in my heart because so many of us are only at/in/going/actively worshiping in an organized/set apart/service based setting every week. We are isolated from worship because it is something we’ve reserved as a special occasion instead of it being…

    EVERY OCCASION…

    Sola Christos

  8. 3-5-2009

    Faithful Servant,

    You said: “We are isolated from worship because it is something we’ve reserved as a special occasion instead of it being…

    EVERY OCCASION…”

    Yes! Exactly!

    -Alan

  9. 3-6-2009

    My university has a “Center for Worship” that trains “Worship Majors” to be future “Worship Leaders”. It’s interesting.

    (Liberty University, Lynchburg, VA)

  10. 3-6-2009

    Troy,

    That’s true of most Bible colleges, Christian universities, and seminaries.

    -Alan