One of the questions I’ve been asking internally (and externally) lately is “What is the point of worship?”
For most of life, I’ve been taught that worship isn’t about me – it’s about God. About my recognition of who God is and who I am in relation to that. Whether or not I enjoyed or got anything out of worship was irrelevant. It was all about what I gave to God that mattered.
This has never really made sense to me. I’ve never really understood why an all-powerful God would require his subjects to worship Him. Is He insecure? Greedy? Arrogant? None of those attributes seem to mesh with the picture of God in the Bible. I do think that He desires our worship, but I’m not entirely sure why. Feel free to chime in with a comment if you have any insight.
After a great conversation I had Friday night, I began to think about worship again. And while I’m sure that the initial conclusions I’ve arrived at aren’t earth-shattering, they were helpful for me. And so I share them with you.
I’ve come up with three “purposes” (for lack of a better word) for worship. I don’t think that these are exclusive, but rather they exist together in harmony, each equal to the others in importance. As I said, I’ve just started developing these, so be gentle in your critiques, please.
Worship as Praise
Despite my lack of clarity or understanding, I still think that worship is designed to glorify God. Even if it’s as basic as our recognizing that God is God and we are not, giving praise to God is important.
Worship as Communication
Sometimes, we are incapable of expressing exactly how we feel or think about something. As a kid, I remember listening to a country song called “Life’s a Dance” and feeling the deep, meaningful truth of that song. I could never have expressed that on my own, but the lyrics and melody did it for me. In the same way, many worship songs communicate our feeling of love, gratitude and relief for what God has done for us.
Unfortunately, many worship songs and gatherings only communicate celebration – not sadness, anger or confusion. This is one of the challenges of community worship – it’s difficult, if not impossible, to capture the feeling and emotions of the entire group. Wouldn’t it be awesome if a gathering allowed its participants to express how they were feeling – even if it wasn’t happy? Or, if the gathering encouraged its participants to share in the feelings of others, even if those feelings weren’t happy? (I’ve got more to say about this in another post.)
Worship as Encouragement
Finally, I think that worship is designed to build up and encourage the community of people who are worshipping. Colossians talks about this in chapter three:
Verse 16: Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.
I think it’s incredibly encouraging when people are gathered together, authentically sharing in worship as praise and communication. When I went to Catalyst, the worship was by far my favorite part. Being in a room with 10,000 similarly minded folks, worshiping one God, was amazing. It reignited my passion for not only worship, but for the God we were praising.
So that’s it. Three facets of worship. What do you think? What have I left out? What have I got wrong? I’m eager to hear.