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Fine Arts – What is Worship?

What is Worship? Before we can lead worship we must first understand what worship is, why we do it, and how we worship. If we do not understand worship, how can we lead others? We would be missing out on the fullness that God brings unless we worship Him in spirit and in truth with understanding.

There are many scriptures that describe worship and praise to God. The Psalms are a great place to go for wonderful scripture, but to start I want to rely on the worship leader favorite, Romans 12:1:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, 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.

When Paul wrote this in his letter to the Romans, the pagans were offering sacrifices to their gods in order to keep them happy and off their back. In other words, they were leaving fruit baskets on the altar to cover for their sin or to get something they wanted. Then they just went away and sinned some more.

Paul encouraged the Christians to spiritually offer their bodies (also translated life) on the altar. By offering their bodies they could not just walk away and continue in a life of sin – they were stuck. By offering their bodies they were always sacrificing, whether at church or out on the streets. They would have to walk in complete obedience and worship to God.

We need to do the same.

Before our music, God wants our lives first. When we put aside our desire to be the cool youth band, all we want to be at some point and decide to live what we sing, the worship we offer will be holy and pleasing, not just noise.

What is worship? It is a sacrifice. It is obedience. And it is a choice to give honor and respect to a God who loved us first. What more can we do but show love in return with our lives as worship.

Why do we worship? We worship because we can’t help it. We were made to worship. We cannot not worship. The question is not whether or not we will worship but who and what we will worship. When we choose the things of this world we find joy for the moment, but when we choose God we find joy forever.

How do we worship? You would probably say, “With our musical talent and abilities.” Nice try… we worship with our lives in obedience to God. The music is an expression of the worship inside our heart.

Psalm 33:3:

Sing to the Lord a new song, play skillfully and shout for joy.

This is where it begins. As worship leaders (and that includes the whole band) we are called to:

– Sing a new song – Start here. It is very easy to get caught up in singing the newest song from convention or the latest thing by Joel Houston or Chris Tomlin. Although those are great songs, before you lead that new song, make sure it is lived out in you and your team.

Whether you and your team wrote the song or it is the newest, popular worship song, don’t just play it because it sounds cool or rocks. Learn to be patient; read through the song and make it more than just music and emotion. Make it something real and lasting. Then keep on making the song new. Don’t forget the next day what you sang the night before. Remember that you are not singing to your friends but to God.

– Play skillfully – Everyone is at a different point. Some may play like The Edge from U2 and some might play like me. Everyone can still play skillfully. Later we will discuss many different techniques that will help strengthen you and your team, but for now, practice, practice, practice. The more prepared you are to play, the easier it is to worship and the easier it is to “Shout for joy” without accidentally hitting the wrong chord.

– Shout for joy – Worship should be fun. You should enjoy praising God. If you are unable to shout for joy, something is missing. I admit there will be hard times; the sound system will blow in the middle of an awesome set and the drummer will come in late, but don’t be thrown off by those things. When we first sing a new song with our life and then practice it until we can play it in our sleep, we will not be able to contain the joy inside and we will want to shout.

In the months ahead we will talk about different musical techniques as well as the spiritual and theological aspects of worship. But first, take time to develop a deeper understanding of worship. Take time to figure out what your worship team is all about. Is it about the music? Is it about God? What do you need to sacrifice? What can you work on harder? What areas are you pleased with? How do you think God wants you to grow?

Life is a song — each day a note. Every week is a word. A month is a line. In a year, we sing a verse, and the chorus is sung every few years and on and on until full soundtracks of our lives are created. What does your song sound like? How does it change? Who is it for? What is it about? If we pressed play in the middle of track 3, what would we hear? Psalm 35:28 says, “My tongue will speak of your righteousness and of your praises all day long.” Worship is a physical, emotional response to God. It never stops and always needs renewal.

Before you pick up the instruments to play, remember that worship is not about the music – it’s about a lifestyle.