Have you ever heard someone say that? I have, and I just have to say it really bugs me.
I know that I’m a worship leader and because of that I may be a little biased. But the statement “I just don’t really get into that whole ‘worship’ thing” reflects what I think is one of the most dangerous misconceptions in the church today: The equating of worship with music (or confining worship to a fifteen minute slot on Sunday morning). Nothing could be further from the truth.
Not to profile a certain demographic, but if anyone is going to tell me they don’t really “get into worship,” it’s usually the dudes. You know who I’m talking about. I guess many of the guys out there view singing as a purely emotional exercise and, since they don’t want to have anything to do with “the e-word,” tend to distance themselves from corporate worship altogether. This is another misconception, that to be a man means to show no emotion. If you look at the life of David in the Old Testament, you will see a man who slew giants, led armies into battle and had a band of mighty warriors as his small group. He wasn’t afraid to show his emotions (Ps. 51, 62), especially before God. I happen to believe that real men cry and give bear hugs, but maybe that’s just me (Not to mention if you take those same “dudes” and put them in a stadium with their favorite sports team, they will likely be far from shy in showing emotion). The point is that worship isn’t purely emotional or purely musical, even though we tend to think of those things first.
I can understand why some people have difficulty in corporate settings. Not everyone has musical inclinations and that is perfectly fine. Some have the gift of playing an instrument or singing beautifully and some just don’t (you know who you are). I can also understand that not everyone connects with God primarily through a musical medium. Some people prefer to connect with God through contemplative, intellectual, active, or other means, all of which are perfectly legitimate. But it is vital to understand that all of these means of connection are rooted in the same basic principle: worship.
Worship is not a style of music or a section of a service, although we have all been guilty of putting it into one of those categories (either in practice or through the language we use to describe it: “Let’s all stand together and worship…”). Worship is what we were made for in relation to God. Worship is our response of adoration and obedience to God’s initiation and invitation and it is expressed in every activity in our lives. Notice that this has no stipulation concerning music attached to it. Not everyone likes to sing, but everyone worships.
Worship is what we value most and what we live for. We all have the capacity to focus the eyes of our hearts on God and worship him. When we are praying, asking, meditating, thanking, and receiving (the list goes on) we are in fact worshiping. These can be done at any time, during any activity, regardless of the circumstances. When we say, “worship isn’t my thing,” what we are actually doing is giving ourselves permission to remain unaffected by the truth of God and letting our pride remain unchallenged. Maybe we’re afraid of looking bad or sounding bad, but is this reason enough to hold back from the God who gave his life to save us? Even if you don’t sing your heart should resonate with the truth of the song or in the sermon. If it doesn’t, you may have a big problem.
Worship is a fundamental fact of human existence like breathing or cellular reproduction. It happens whether you’re conscious of it or not. But we are meant to be conscious of it and focus our energy on it. This is where we find our purpose and meaning in life.
A.W. Tozer said it beautifully when he wrote about faith in his book The Pursuit of God:
Private prayer should be practiced by every Christian. Long periods of Bible meditation will purify our gaze and direct it; church attendance will enlarge our outlook and increase our love for others. Service and work and activity; all are good and should be engaged in by every Christian. But at the bottom of all these things, giving meaning to them, will be the inward habit of beholding God.
My challenge to you is to change your definition of worship. When you think of worship, think of what Tozer calls “the inward habit of beholding God.” It will change the way you worship in private and on Sunday.