How Worship Became an Industry Instead of a Response…and Why it Matters.

Here are a few things I hear on a regular basis…

“I just love to gather with our church family each week at worship.”
“Okay, let’s meet for rehearsal at the worship center.”
“Join us on Sundays for worship.”
“Oh yeah, Chris Tomlin is definitely my favorite worship artist!”
“Hi, my name is Reggie and I’m the Worship Leader here.”

After ten years of playing music around the world, sharing songs and stories from my own life of how God has changed everything, and directing music at churches and for Young Life camps, I’ve learned a few things about “worship.”  Keep in mind, we are all just pilgrims on this crazy journey called life, and most of us are just trying to keep our heads above water.  So as you read for the next two minutes, remember I’m walking alongside you down the dusty road, and God continues to challenge me EVERY DAY in new ways.

I’d love to challenge our current definition of “worship.”
I’d love to take a look at how our culture defines “worship.”
Then I’d love to take a quick look at how God defines “worship.”

Worship, worship, worship.
This is a major buzz-word in our culture.
What does it mean?

You can pick up the latest issue of “Worship Leader Magazine” at any Christian bookstore. You can choose from thousands of new and exciting up-and-coming “Worship Artists/Bands” who are writing brand new songs every day to Glorify the King (and to try and top the “Worship” charts on iTunes).  Which, by the way, there is a GREAT value to praise music that directs us to the feet of Jesus.  We NEED great music that inspires and reminds us who we are and whose we are.  Chris Tomlin, keep writing.

However, what would happen if we no longer defined worship as the songs we sing on Sunday morning, or as a genre-title on Billboard’s top 100?  What if we began to redefine this popular word in our culture?

I would argue that most of us would define the word “Worship” as music or singing (or as a genre of music).  Or some of us might say that “Worship” is when we gather as a church community to celebrate what God is doing!  To those definitions I would say… YES!

BUT …there’s more…

How does the Living God define worship?

In the book of Isaiah we read about Israel’s attempts to truly “worship God.”  God’s people can’t understand why bad things keep happening in their lives even while they continue to fast and humble themselves before the Lord!?  “God, we are doing all the right things.  We are gathering each week, going to small group, studying the latest Francis Chan book, and every time we get in our car we tune our radios to K-Love!  So why is life still so hard?!”
God’s answer is astounding…and overwhelming.

I would encourage you to go read Isaiah Chapter 58 sometime in its entirety…

God reminds His people what true worship is.  “…loose the chains of injustice…to set the oppressed free…to share your food with the hungry…to provide the poor wandered with shelter…”  THEN He says, “Your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear…Then you will call and the Lord will answer.”  Yowza!  That’s what it takes to worship God?!  I’ll prolly go ahead and pass on that…seems pretty hard.

What else…?

In the book of Romans Paul writes more about true worship:

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers (and sisters), in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship.  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.” – Romans 12:1-2 NIV

Sidenote – Paul writes this just after he sings his favorite “worship” song in Chapter 11!  Then he goes on to teach about the body of Christ, how we are all gifted in unique ways to fulfill a unique purpose.  And then he reminds us that our love must be sincere!  Whew…

God defines Worship as caring for the poor, feeding the hungry and offering our lives as a living sacrifice for the sake of His kingdom.  

It’s not just about singing and it’s not even about celebrating.  Worship is about responding.  Worship is about doing something.

The truth is, we don’t need more people in pews, gathering at the worship center to follow the worship leader as he leads us in worship.  We need more passionate Christ-followers on the streets the other six days of the week loving others and sacrificing their time, their money and their lives for the sake of God’s Kingdom.

Here’s my definition of worship:

Worship is our genuine response to God’s gracious action in our lives.

How will you respond?


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