What is worship, really?

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What is Worship --- Really?

When I began worship leading at age 20, I began a long journey seeking God for the truths of praise and worship, studying the Word and observing the practical aspects of the ministry. I continued to do this as I joined YWAM and combined serving in computing and admin, along with worship leading and teaching, for a number of years.

As I moved away from computing into SOW and training, I concentrated for 10 years on seeking God for what should be taught to help worship leaders understand what they were doing. When I joined the staff of the Kona worship school, it was the fulfillment of a desire I' had for many years - to see a multiplication of anointed worship leaders in the mission. But as I listened to many worship teachers I began to see a lack of teaching on the specifics of worship. Worship was almost exclusively talked about as a lifestyle - I could see where this was coming from and strongly agreed with the motivation - a deep desire for holiness and right living - similar to the message of the Puritans who observed dead formalism in the church.

But as worship was being taught in this very wide, general sense, most of the teaching on worship became teaching on discipleship in all areas of life (good teaching) - except noone was talking about what worship leaders might be trying to get people to do in the so-called "" times or what they might do or communicate in their private worship. So I observed that, in the absence of teaching about the specifics or distinctives of worship, for a lot of people, songs were thought to be what worship was about - the distinctive that identified this activity. This is the mistaken idea that says " we are singing, we are worshipping" - but I understood how this idea emerged - worship times usually meant singing. Others countered this with " worship is more than singing songs" - which I totally agreed with - but then they would follow it up with "' everything we do" Now I accept that, in a very general sense, all our life is an offering to God, but this didn' help worship leaders understand what they were doing. If worship was everything we do, then what specifics could be understood.

So as I dug into the Word, I began to discover truths about worship in a specific, distinct sense (in contrast to the general sense). As I focussed in on these specifics, content began to emerge that could be applied to teaching worship leaders how to go about their leading. I felt I had to avoid teaching particular methods of how to do worship, but to teach the meaning behind what we' doing and let other nations and cultures express it their way. So I have never pushed any particular style as THE way to worship.

People all around the world were picking up on this "" idea and were making statements which, to me, sounded extreme and sometimes confusing. Someone wrote me one time crying out for help as she was facing people saying that going to the bathroom was worship!! This appears to be a logical extension of the idea that all of life is worship. I had to find an answer for this confusion.

What I am seeing is the effects of using a word (worship) in a way that can bring misunderstanding and confusion. I don' feel we have to use the word worship to solve the deeper problem of sacred and secular divide. There are implications to the meaning of worship when we do this. What we are doing is using a connotation word to solve the problem - by calling our work "" we are making people feel that their work is more spiritual and valuable. This actually works, so we keep doing it - but in the process, the biblical meaning of worship gets reduced. I have seen, on the Kona campus, a number of instances where the work-is-worship idea has been pushed towards its logical conclusion. One Monday morning, the DTS asked if they could clean up the grounds instead of coming to campus worship. Their point was that seeing work was worship, this would be a valid form of morning worship. Their heart for helping clean the campus was wonderful, but they took themselves out of the corporate gathering and we were no longer meeting as the whole campus. What we see here is the diminishing of the importance of corporate worship in the life of the campus as a direct result of the work is worship idea.

I am NOT disagreeing with what the Reformers said about the bible applying to all of life and I agree with them that all aspects of our lives are an offering to God. I also can go along with saying all of life is worship as long as we realize that this is using the term in a very general sense - which the bible hardly ever does (almost all references to worship speak of worship in a specific sense, even the New Testament).

I have seen the implications of over generalizing in the area of evangelism. We can say that our whole lives are a testimony to the love of Jesus so that in a sense we are always preaching the gospel. This makes sense and seems fine - except if you push it too far and all we ever say about evangelism is that our lives preach the gospel (i.e. if we speak too much of friendship evangelism), or use the statement " is a lifestyle" There are certainly times when this may be necessary and helpful (in countries antagonistic to outward preaching), but unless we train and release anointed preachers of the gospel and give them opportunities like IWT, then we are missing huge pieces of God' purposes for evangelism. I see a parallel between evangelism and worship - if we over emphasize the general sense, we drift away from the specific.

I would prefer it if we used the word "" to overcome the sacred secular divide - by using phrases like " is ministry" - this word not only has a similar connotation to worship, in that it relates to serving God, but it more clearly reflects the biblical idea of service. Right through the Bible we see a distinction between worship and service - both are part of the Kingdom of God, both are valuable and one is not more important than the other. "" (or ministry) is the word the Bible uses to describe our lives lived to the glory of God - it is a general word that emcompases all of life - it doesn' refer to any specific activity, hence it doesn' confuse or diffuse any particular activity. Using worship as a general word only, leads us to a lack of the distinctive aspects of worship.

I was excited to discover that the word ministry (diakonia) is used both for teaching/preaching and for serving food and giving monetary offerings. Hence it is a word that shows the Bible' view that these activities have value. The word worship is not used in the sense of serving food or giving offerings, so I feel it is not a good word to show from the Bible that work is valuable.

"Pulling weeds is ministry" is a phrase that can be shown to be biblical - but " weeds isworship" is one that, in my opinion, takes some liberties in biblical interpretation.

So, please, lets think about what we' saying about worship and perhaps rather than trying to prove all of life is worship, maybe we can put some biblical content into the word - after all, we schedule it assuming it is a specific activity (different from other aspects of our lives) - how about figuring out what we' meant to do in these times!!