What is worship? The answer should be very simple. Yet I’m amazed how many church leaders, and worship leaders, do not have a clear philosophy of worship. I confess, I’ve led worship for years without having answered this question. We aimlessly design services, and make decisions based on fads, tradition, preferences, even fear – and confuse this for worship. Really it’s just poor leadership.
Many who have studied the matter seem unable to provide an answer in less than an hour and without referencing obscure Hebrew terminology – as if to say worship can’t happen until you’re thoroughly educated. Understandably, many are left disillusioned.
So here it is – my simple, clear, concise definition of worship. Ready? Worship is our positive response to God. That’s it! Take a moment to let that sink in. When God reveals Himself and we obey – that’s worship. When we turn from our sins – worship. When we openly praise God – worship. When we’re not feeling it and we ask the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts – worship. When we’re thankful and acknowledge God – worship.
With this definition in mind, the purpose of the corporate worship experience becomes clear. The corporate worship service encourages people to positively respond to God. Every element (song, video, reading, etc) should go through this filter. Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you plan a corporate worship service.
- Am I responding to God? It’s easy to lead others while ignoring your own walk. You may even get away with it for a while depending on your giftedness. But this is not good, and ultimately dangerous. Your personal spiritual walk is your responsibility! Spend time with the Lord before leading others.
- What should be added to the service? There are many elements you could use. Choose wisely based on what you believe will have maximum effect. Keep in mind that everyone in the room needs to respond – without exception. The pastor all the way to the degenerate sinner has an obligation to say “Yes” to God. When we respond, others are encouraged to as well.
- What should be removed from the service? Sometimes a good song or video needs to be scrapped. Why? Because it doesn’t encourage a response (or it targets a small minority to the exclusion of the majority.) It might be cute, or trendy, but if it doesn’t encourage response, it’s wasting time.
Romans 12:1 says “…present your bodies as a living sacrifice…this is your spiritual worship” (HCSB). The emphasis is surrender (the positive response). Your job as a leader is to create an environment most conducive to response. You don’t have to coerce, or badger. Just present the truth clearly and artistically. Then model genuine response yourself. In doing this, you will encourage your people to worship in a way that is “…holy and pleasing to God.”
What have you found to be most effective in encouraging worship? What have you found to be ineffective?