Over the past few months I have noticed many blogs, articles and posts regarding worship. As one who is studying worship, I am very intrigued by these writings. However, I have noticed that the vast majority of such highly opinionated viral posts argue for or against something that is found in the Christian practice of worship. Most often there are problems with worship practices presented in these online musings. However, it is my belief that these “problems” are not problems after all but rather they are symptoms of a much deeper issue.
Worship is a topic that has gained much attention in recent times. This is, in part, due to the growing amount of discontentment that is rising amongst the church in regards to its practice of worship. This stirring is often observed as being wrong, or ignorant, as the discontentment presents itself most commonly in the battles over worship service style. However, I would suggest that this discontentment is not the result of service style, nor is it the result of the church directly doing something wrong in it’s practice of worship services, but rather it is the result of a deeply rooted problem. The problem at the core of modern Christian worship is the problem at the core of modern evangelical Christendom – Misplaced Identity. The Church has forgotten who she is, and this is reflected in how she worships.
Humanity was created to worship. This is seen in Genesis, where in the beginning man and God were found in unbroken fellowship, as man and God walked together in the garden. Man was made in the image of God.(Gen 1:27). This is worship at it’s purest form, a human/God relationship which is not broken by sin. However, we no longer are able to participate in such worship due to living behind the fall, nor will we find this until we are around the throne of the Lord, worshiping in eternity, as depicted in Revelation. We are creatures made to worship. Worship is the primary intention and purpose of humanity, something which is seen in it’s ideal: total relation to God.
Worship is also the purpose of humanity. This is not an idea which is unique or new. This idea has been professed by the Church since it’s beginning. This is seen in the Westminster Catechism, which claims, “the chief end of man is to glorify God, and enjoy Him forever.” However, today we seem to forget this truth. We have forgotten our purpose in worship, and in doing so, we have forgotten who we are. We have become a people who view worship merely as a weekly service, and this has led to our loss of a part of our identity. We have become so consumed by the way in which we “do” worship, that we have forgotten whom we worship. When we forget the “Whom” we worship, we forget who we are.
Our forgetting of who God is has led us to not worship. We have so far been removed from our search of knowing God that we are virtually incapable of comprehending who we are. We may know that our identity is directly related to the Creator we claim, yet we fail to grasp who He is, therefore we do not know who we are. This has directly impacted our worship practice.
We have replaced the wonder of worship, with wandering worship. We are constantly seeking worship, which has the right combination of expressive mediums, engaging individuals, and environments full of comforts. We are constantly seeking something which will allow us to worship. However, this constant seeking, this wandering, has led to a valuing of how one does worship rather than the knowing of Whom one worships. We focus so much upon the things of worship that we do not focus on the reason for worship. We are called to be in relation with God. We are called to know our Creator and worship Him, yet we do not seek to know Him. We often fail to ponder about God, to seek and to know the things of God. Consequently we do not wonder about God. So often we sing of our wonderful God without truly being filled with wonder in regards to Him.
So what do we do? How do we readjust ourselves to be more concerned with seeking God, rather than seeking the things we call worship? There is no clear solution, none other than the decision to seek God. However, there are some steps that we can take in order to better prepare and enable us to Seek God in worship.
The solution must start at the top. Those of us who have been given the title “worship leader” should be conscious that we do not become over-absorbed by the things we use in worship, to the extent that we ourselves forget to seek the One we Worship. This sounds simple, but this may, in most of our cases, mean we need to change many things about the way we live. For instance, I can, from personal experience, tell you that the vast majority of worship conferences that attract worship leaders are focused on the ways in which we worship. They focus on how to better train our teams, and teach us what resources are available which might enhance our church’s worship experiences. These conferences are good, and useful, and much can be learned from them. However, often very little is taught in regards to theology at worship conferences. Because of this, it is easy for us to become “trained” and “skilled” worship leaders, without ourselves being pushed to seek God. We have become very good at leading people, all the while having a very limited idea as to where we are leading people. We cannot lead people to something we do not ourselves know. As worship leaders, we need to better engage in things which will teach us about God. We need to actively surround ourselves with resources that will push us to better seek and understand God. We need to learn and to learn we need to read. We need to read first the word of God, but also what others have to say about God. We must become theologians, ourselves, so that we can teach people about the God they worship, and not just lead them in acts of worship. It is only when we lead people in the pursuit of knowing God, that we lead them in worship, and It is only when we are truly participating in worship that we may experience, even though for now it is only a glimpse, our true identity. In order to know who we are, we must know who our God is and worship Him as such.