Been having a lot of conversations about “worship” lately. Having grown up in many “charismatic” types of churches, “worship” has often been understood in relation to music, with most “revelation” about “worship” coming from musicians and singers. To this day I still regularly hear people make statements that assumes that singers and musicians automatically have the skinny on offering a “biblical theology” of doxology.
Obviously I’m being a little tongue in cheek here, but you probably get my point.
In many churches, the music portion is simply a “warm up” to the sermon and in other congregations it is the main event, with the preaching of God’s Word simply a necessary fifteen minute transition into more music.
But worship is obviously much more than than. For me, worship is easily defined as the “outward expression of an inward reality.” I can’t remember where I first heard that, but it has stuck with me. I appreciate that definition’s emphasis on expression. Worship isn’t simply a “heart” thing, though it obviously begins there (“inward” reality, right?).
There are two NT passages that help shape this definition for me. The first is found in Paul’s letter to the Roman Christians:
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Rom. 12:1)
Spiritual worship deals with presentation. We are to present our bodies as a living sacrifice. In other words, all of our being (mind, soul, and body) belongs to God and must be conformed to the Spirit’s will. It’s an ongoing practice, by the way… not a one time event.
This strikes against a “worship is just music” type of theology. Worship is about everything we are.
The second verse is found in Hebrews:
“Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.” (Heb 13:15)
Again, there is an emphasis on continuing to offer something to God. This time the presentation includes what comes out of our mouths… we are to offer up “the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.” That’s what biblical praise is all about. And in the context of understanding worship, praise fits nicely under that broad concept. Perhaps it could be said that all praise is worship, but not all worship is praise.
For me, this challenges the notion that our worship gathering’s are not about worship, especially during the music portion. It’s like the music is a time where we become completely focused on presentation. We are presenting our bodies and voices to God for worship. We may be raising our hands, clapping, dancing, or participating in other ways of body expressions of worship. Our mouths may be caught up in praise, prayer, or singing about God’s greatness and glory! These are spiritual acts of worship that, in essence, are about presentation.
I’m challenged here. I want to present to God. I want to present to him my body and my vocals.
Luke is a pastor-theologian living in northern California, serving as a co-lead pastor with his life, Dawn, at the Red Bluff Vineyard. Father of five amazing kids, when Luke isn’t hanging with his family, reading or writing theology, he moonlights as a fly fishing guide for Confluence Outfitters. He blogs regularly at LukeGeraty.com and regularly contributes to his YouTube channel.