I love music. I’m constantly listening to old and new material, comparing and contrasting genres and influences. As a worship leader, that is to be expected, right?
Living in the age that we do, when we hear the word “worship”, images of lights, music, and electric instruments can be conjured up in our imagination, especially if you belong to a modernized church. In some minds, the difference in atmosphere between a worship service at our church and a concert are very little.
Now, before I continue, I want to make something perfectly clear; the objective of this post is not to be unfairly critical, judgmental on personal preferences, or to choose sides in this modern “worship war”.
Growing up in the church, I have seen and heard an innumerable amount of worship services, with many different styles, levels of production, and instruments. I have heard christian radio, I know Bethel and Hillsong, Elevation and Jesus Culture. I have heard many, many corporate sounding worship songs, and I probably can figure out how to play them within a few minutes.
I have also discovered a secret underground worship scene. It doesn’t sound like “worship music”. Some of the singers don’t have a traditional sounding voice.
Some songs even sound sad, with many minor chords peppered throughout the track. Where are the big choruses? Where are the light shows and electric guitars? And are you telling me these songs have more than 5 chords?!
The sad truth of this underground is that many wonderful, loving Christians might not see these songs as worship. Some people may say “This song is good, but I’m not sure I’d classify it as ‘worship music’”.
Whether you like Chris Tomlin, Rend Collective, or Gungor, before we talk about what worship is, we have to discuss what worship isn’t.
Worship is not music.
In America, we have allowed that incorrect thought (worship is music) to take root in our spiritual subconscious. This is simply incorrect. Music can be worship, but so can painting, or dancing, or poetry, or building a house.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about what worship is.
The Hebrew word for worship is “Shachah”, which means bow down, and give reverence to God the Father. Worship is not about us. It’s not about making ourselves feel better after a hard day at work, or taking a moment of meditation to calm our minds down after hearing our children complain for an hour and a half.
Worship is God centered. we can see this plainly in the scripture.
Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,
All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, O Lord; they will bring glory to your name. For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God.
There are countless verses that show true worship is about God and God alone. If we step out of that, it is no longer worship of The Father, but worship of idols we have created in our own mind.
One of the great errors in modern worship is making it worshiper centered. We worship to receive blessing, The effort to "get more" out of worship has led to all types of artificial, superficial, and unscriptural gimmicks to "liven up" worship periods. We only worship when it sounds “worshipy” and if it is outside of what you can hear on christian radio, then we can’t accept that.
Our problem is that we have determined that we have a problem but have not correctly diagnosed the problem. The problem is not with the content or style of our worship. The problem is with our hearts. We are so materialistic and carnal minded that we cannot center our minds of praising God and need artificial stimulation to "feel" spiritual.
We must understand that it doesn’t matter about the style of songs that are played, but of the heart of worship in those songs. We have traded a real encounter with King Jesus for 20 minutes of an emotional high.
If K-LOVE hasn’t played it, or if it wasn’t written by your favorite church, that does not disqualify it from being worship. If that’s what you limit yourself to, you are unfortunately missing out on not only great worship, but great music as well. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know the songs by heart, or if they sound different than you’re used to. We have to forget about the silly little differences in opinion that we have, those thoughts that cause disruptions in the unity of the Church, and focus our eyes and hearts on Jesus.
At the next worship service you attend, whether it's with us at Impact Life or with your own home church, remember that worship is so much bigger than your preference. Center your worship on Him.
James Floyd is the creative director of Impact Life Church in Florence, KY. You can find him on twitter at @TheJamesFloyd.