(We're having an interesting discussion on the Free Believers Network forum and the discussion has turned to the topic of worship. I posted some comments on the forum and also decided to post another blog with some additional thoughts on worship.)
Worship, like everything else, has been hijacked by the institution and turned into a program. It's been robbed of its life. Instead of something that was meant to be relational, it's become a performance which is repeated week after week after week, year after year after year. The program is set up and planned so as to produce the desired emotional response. The songs chosen, the lighting, the tempo, the drum beat and so on are all planned to produce this response. Now, I'm not saying that every emotional response is of a fleshly nature but I believe the vast majority of it is.
What we call worship today doesn't, in my opinion, normally produce or encourage a relationship with Father. Instead, it produces a spiritual addiction which is why when we leave the system, we struggle with wanting to go back because of the music. The focus is not on loving Father or the people but instead the goal is to produce another high like we experienced the last time we were in a worship service. I'm not pointing fingers at anyone because I've been there myself and was highly addicted thinking I was worshipping God by singing and dancing wildly.
Now, I'm not saying corporate singing services are wrong. I'm not saying it's wrong to sit in a room with a bunch of Christians and sing songs about God or to God. This can be a very enjoyable time. What I'm saying is don't confuse this with worship.
To read more about this type of addiction, check out Darin Hufford's excellent blogs, Spiritual Porn Addiction and Going for the Worship.
A couple of years ago, I did a word search on the word "worship" and discovered that NONE of the meanings had anything to do with music or singing. ALL of the meanings are relational. In other words, worship has to do with our lifestyle - how we relate to God and how we relate to people. The first time the word is used in the Bible is in reference to Abraham taking Isaac up the mountain to sacrifice him. No mention is made of a band or choir waiting for them at the top. Abraham merely told his servant that he and Isaac were going up to the mountain to worship God and they would return. (Genesis 22:5)
Ann, in response to the discussion on the FBN forum, shared about worshipping God by loving her family. I believe that's the heart of true worship. It's easy to fake worship when it's about music and singing. Anyone can sing a song with eyes closed looking upward with arms raised. We can even put a smile on our faces so others watching us think we're enthralled with the presence of God. It's not so easy to look the part when hubby or the children don't cooperate with my wonderful plans. However, I'm finding that as I grow in true worship, love becomes more of an automatic response.
I used to listen exclusively to what is called Christian worship music. Now, I don't much listen to music of any kind. If I do, however, it'll likely be easy listening unless Joel posts another of his Twisted Sister videos which of course I have to listen to. (I'm sorry, Joel, I just couldn't resist.) Anyway, back to topic. I don't normally listen to "Christian" music any more because I really don't need to in order to worship.
I've found that worship is meant to be spontaneous. It's not something that I can plan ahead and it doesn't fit into a set time frame. I believe it's something that's meant to be experienced in the every day circumstances of our lives. Hearing the birds singing praises to God reminds me of my Father who takes care of me. Seeing the beauty and grandeur of the mountains reminds me of his greatness. Chasing my grandchildren around the house reminds me of his love. Movies that I watch often remind me that Father is gracious to me.
Darin Hufford states that "Every part of the Christian walk has been romanticized and glamorized to the point where we have no concept of what God really wants to offer us." This is definitely true for worship. Worship is meant to be natural and not orchestrated. It should spring naturally from a heart that is filled with Father's love as a byproduct of that love. It's not something we conjure up to get an emotional response.
Darin also stated that "It is almost impossible for a Christian who has been raised on a steady diet of spiritual pornography to settle down and be content with the everyday life of REAL spirituality." That's why it's often necessary to separate from whatever encourages this type of addiction. Like any other addiction, this detox time may be difficult and the desire to run back may be strong. However, if we'll persist through the struggle in the end we'll begin to experience worship which is really done in spirit and in truth. (John 4:23-24)
To read my other posts on worship, follow these links:
Does God need our praise?
Worship - Darin Hufford
Worshipping out in the wild
More About Worship