(I wrote the following blog in my notebook several days ago and started posting it this morning with the intention of finishing it tonight. I just finished looking at Darin Hufford's website and noticed he's also posted another blog about worship entitled "What is Worship?" I haven't read it yet because I don't want anything he says to influence what I write. However, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend anything Darin writes so, if you'd like to read his blog, here's the link to it.)
In one of my previous posts, I referred to comments that were made regarding thoughts I had shared about worship. One of the comments was that instead of writing about what worship was to me, I should write about what worship is. I thought about that statement and decided to do just that. First, I would like to say that I don't pretend to have all of the answers but, as I'm growing in grace, Father has been showing me some things that has changed my understanding about worship.
The Bible does talk about worship and it's first mentioned in Genesis 22. At God's command, Abraham is taking his son, Isaac, to the top of Mount Moriah to offer him as a sacrifice. As he and Isaac prepare to leave for the last leg of the journey, Abraham tells his servant, "Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you." (Genesis 22:5)
In the modern church, worship has been re-defined to mean singing slow songs to God telling him how much you love him. These songs are usually accompanied by instruments. I don't believe, however, that Abraham meant that he and Isaac would ascend the mountain where a band would be waiting to play while Abraham and Isaac joined the worship team in singing slow songs telling God how much they love him.
The next time worship is mentioned is in Genesis 24 when Abraham sends his servant to find a wife for Isaac. After praying, the servant met Rebekah. When he learned that she was a relative of Abraham's, the scriptures said that he "bowed down and worshipped the Lord saying." (Genesis 24:26) No mention is made of music or singing.
Several years ago, I did a word study of the word "worship." Using my Strong's Concordance, I looked up every word that was translated as "worship" in both the New and the Old Testaments. What I discovered surprised me and changed my understanding of worship. Of all the words translated as "worship," none in either the Old or the New Testaments had anything to do with singing or music.
The best definition I've found for worship is given in a little book called "Custom and Command" by Stan Firth. The author says, "To my surprise, I found that biblical references to worship taking place were, usually, quite unconnected with what you might call "religious meetings" or "services"! IT BECAME CLEAR TO ME THAT WORSHIP WAS ALMOST ALWAYS A SPONTANEOUS EXPRESSION OF APPRECIATION TO THE LORD, FROM AMIDST WHATEVER SITUATIONS BELIEVERS FOUND THEMSELVES IN, RATHER THAN SOMETHING WHICH HAPPENED AT FIXED TIMES OR PLACES."
I believe that is really the heart of worship. True worship springs out of relationship. It flows from a heart that is filled with thanksgiving and love. Because, it's an overflow, it will be spontaneous in nature. True worship can't be planned and it can't be boxed into a specific time frame on a specific day nor can it be taught.
True worship is personal in nature and will be defined by the relationship. Jesus said that Father is looking for those who will "worship Him in spirit and truth." (John 4:23) As we come to know Father better, worship will flow out of our love for him. Instead of being an occasional experience that we have to be "led into," worship will be a lifestyle that flows out of love and thanksgiving.
Recently, I experienced spontaneous worship that began when I received several emails from a friend describing the great things that Father is doing in her life. Worship continued to flow as Father set me free from some religious baggage that I'd been carrying around for a while. No songs were sung. No music was played. Worship just flowed and, when I went Sunday and the music cranked up, I had already been worshipping so that was just a continuation of what had begun the day before. Worship continued for several days after that in the normalcy of my every day life.
Father is wanting us to be free from an institutional mindset regarding worship. He wants us free from dependence on the institution to provide us with the right atmosphere for worship. We don't need a "worship band" or a "worship leader" nor do we need sentimental songs that make us cry. What we need is a growing understanding of Father's love and grace. As this understanding grows, worship will be natural and spontaneous and will flow from hearts that are pure and uncontaminated by religion and tradition.