Worship - Some Thoughts
I would like to add a post here about something I thought will be beneficial for everyone who reads my blog. In our church discussion group, someone brought these points and questions. I wrote a response to that. I thought of sharing it here so that it can be beneficial for many others. I was greatly blessed by reading it, thinking about it and by responding to it. So just thought of sharing it here. May be someone else can throw some more light in to it.
So the points or questions :-
1. Worship & Music - These days most Christians are confused between worship and music. For most of them worship=music. They can not even comprehend any other form of worship. As for me, being in the presence of the Lord, meditating in His goodness, mercy, love and grace is worship. For that, music is not necessary. When we sing a song, which is very familiar to us, there is a good chance of singing it without meditating upon its meaning.
2. Are we created to worship? - I hear this statement very often, but I can not find a scriptural basis for it. I believe that we are created for a purpose, which is to glorify His name through our life, and, of course, to spread the Good News.
3. Worship as a means to gain something - this is a new teaching. If you need something, worship the Lord. I don't think worship is supposed to be used to gain something from God. Those who are in favor of this idea are referring to the
deliverance of Paul from the jail. Let me ask you something: how many times was Paul imprisoned? Why didn't he just worship every time to release himself?
Ok here is my response:-
Your thoughts and insights are valuable and helpful in understanding about worship. I would like to add few things here quickly which I think will help in making few things clear.
Before responding to your individual points let me make few assumptions clear. When we talk about the subject of worship, it can be thought in different ways. Different people have different ideas. But I believe that truly from a Biblical perspective, worship is not confined to the singing of songs. For that matter it is not even restricted to the time when we get together or sit specifically for that purpose. Any act which glorifies God can be said as an act of worship. In another sense Worship is also defined as the activity of glorifying God in his presence with our voices and hearts. That's another way of looking at it. But all aspects of our lives are supposed to glorify God. Also in the Old Testament Sacrifice was an important part of worship. We can read Romans 12:1-2. Our life needs to be a living sacrifice. It's the big picture about the subject of worship.
But in this discussion for now I don't what to go in that scope. Praise and singing songs is also part of worship. We glorify God by doing it. I agree that worship is not equal to music in any way. But music and singing songs can be part of our worship. So everything you said like meditating and all can become a kind of worship.
Now from a laymen or from a common Christians perspective it's not that way. As a church when we address we need to keep everyone in mind. Because of the way few things are projected in churches as a whole, the people have got some wrong ideas. But it will take time to change that. People will have to come to maturity to understand it. Till that time we can only pray and work towards it.
Now about singing songs I agree with you that we can sing songs without mediating on its meaning. That's a kind of problem with us. I have personally found it. I think that's something we need to change at least when we sing songs with the intention of praising God. We sing for different reasons. One reason is to help us relate more to God. It depends on the lyrics of song. During my last message and in the past also I have said that we should try to meditate on the meaning and sing. It will become more meaningful and helpful if we can do that way. But many times we are disturbed by many things. So many thoughts pass through our mind. Some of those may have nothing to do with God. Even though we sing but we are thinking of something else.
The truth is not there. One reason for this can be that we are now experts with wording and we don't need to think too much about it. It's like the days we started driving for first time and how we drive now. With practice, our concentration level decreases in the main issue and we can focus on other things while doing the primary thing. It's like talking on phone while driving or listening to message or thinking about something else. We take the turns automatically. It's a human tendency. But the question is - Is it good?
I would say we should try that when we gather as a church, we should free our mind from everything and Worship God in truth. So if we are clapping our hands and have our eyes closed then to be true we should be meditating on God. Otherwise I think the first element of truth is lost. We are just acting. Let me tell you a personal thing. Sometimes when I am singing a song and everyone is clapping their hands and I find that I start meditating on the message I have to deliver during the service. At that time I try not to sing and pretend to be singing and praising. So we all can have that type of experiences. But the main point I think is to try to develop an attitude and habit in which you are doing everything with truth. I am not sure if it's only my struggle or there are someone else also who have this kind of experiences. That's my point in encouraging people to meditate on the meaning and then sing. From a personal experience I have felt that its more beneficial and helpful for us to do a meaningful worship. So I agree that worship is not equal to music or even singing songs.
At this point I would also draw everyone's attention towards a concept I will call as "hearts cry language". Everyone has a language in which they are most comfortable. You feel more secure and comfortable in that. Mostly it's a person's mother tongue. Let me explain. People
who came from Kerala ( a state in India. Malayalam is the language spoken by people there) and are used to Malayalam worship will feel happy and more at home when we sing Malayalam songs. But that may not be true for a person who was brought up in USA. That's why we see the language conflict. Nobody is to be blamed for this. Its a natural thing. Again singing songs in which language will have a big difference to the church attenders. I have done some study about it and found that its a problem which we cannot ignore. That's why mega churches start with services in different languages. We feel most comfortable in that language which I call as “hearts cry language”.
At MPA (that's my church) when we say we are a bilingual church then I would like to think from the perspective of 2 people. One who only knows Malayalam and one who only knows English. My test is to see if both can understand every part of service and message and can both enjoy to the same extend. If not then we calling a church as bilingual is meaningless. So we need to develop a framework in which both these person's can fit. I know it's a challenge but its worth attempting. That's just a side note to throw light on the issue of language in worship.
Regarding the question of are are we created to worship- its a good question which can be debated for a long time. But I don't think we can say an absolute No. A more appropriate statement would be - We are not created JUST for worship. Worshiping God is also one purpose. It holds true when we understand worship in the real sense and not just to singing songs. We do have a purpose in life. We should preach gospel and glorify God. But we cannot ignore the worship aspect. It's again an issue of balance. The Bible has so many verses which points or encourages people to worship God. There are many in support of praising him. There are so many verses in Psalms. Then Jesus himself said that a time is coming when true worshipers will worship God in truth and spirit. Hebrews 13:15 says that "Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name." Then Ephesians 5:19 "Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord"
So without bringing too many verses at this point I would say that we are not created JUST for worship but worship is also a purpose. In eternity we will be worshiping our God for sure. Revelation too have references of people doing the activity of worship (Rev. 4 & 5). Again when I say this I am keeping the Worship in big context as every act we do which glorify God. We are not created just to sing. But worship to Creator God should be an important and integral part of a Christian's life. Otherwise we are missing a big part of our purpose in this world. I am willing to elaborate this point more if needed.
Finally worship as a means to gain anything is a wrong teaching. It will not be correct if someone says that you worship and you will get something. It will be similar to prosperity theology in some sense. I think blessing is a by product of worship in the sense that God is pleased or happy with true worshipers who seek Him with whole heart. God sends his blessing upon such people. It's supported by Bible. In the Old testament its very much there. Even in New testament we see that.
Paul's deliverance was an exceptional story and we can't make it as a doctrine for deliverance. But it can be used as an encouragement in regard to worship. There is a difference in taking some thing as a doctrine and using something from Scriptures for encouragement. We need to distinguish between these two things. There are many other morals or lessons to be learned from Paul being in prison. Then the other side is that there are other occasions in which God worked when people where praising or worshiping God. Again if you think worship from just singing and clapping perspective then it fails. But when you see it from correct sense then it hold true. I don't remember any time I used Paul's example just for supporting deliverance. If I had then I may be in my ignorance. May be for encouraging purpose. I think that anyone who uses it as a doctrine for deliverance is wrong. But anyone who uses it to exhort or encourage people can be accepted if the person is using it in correct context.
These where some of my thoughts. If God willing then one day I would like to take the subject of theology of Worship and talk about it. But I agree that worship is one of the most misunderstood subject in Christian circles today. It's in both ways. People who have praise and worship ministry emphasize it more and give an impression that it's everything. It's extreme in one way. Then there are many people whose ministry interest lies in something else like preaching or teaching and who focus on life's purpose and evangelism. They try to present this subject in a kind of negative way and focus mostly on their subject matters. In that situation its extreme in other way. As a result people do not sing songs during church service. They will not clap hands. They will start focusing on other aspects and kind of start thinking that its a the way to do things. I had a friend in India who was a very good Christian in the sense that he had a good knowledge about Bible. His clarity about scriptures and things -amazing. I could not get anywhere near. But one thing I have noticed was that during the church services when everyone will be singing songs and praising God, he will be reading his Bible. Most of the time he will be doing it. No respect to the worship leader who may be asking people for singing or praise God. Sometimes I feel that it's bit arrogance to do that in a church service. If someone does that occasionally then its fine. May be he is meditating or Spirit of God has revealed something to him. But doing it all time is bit odd. That's my personal view. I am of the opinion that we should respect and participate in everything which is scriptural. The main thing is that we need to strike a balance. We should not be so much influenced with one things that we start looking down on other things.
Again worship should be an important part of a Christian's life. But it should be in true sense and we should worship God in TRUTH and SPIRIT.
Sorry for being little long but hope that it gives a better view of the subject. Again thank you brother for bringing this subject up as it was a blessing for me also to think and it will definitely help me in studying about this subject in depth in coming days.