What is worship? This question can drive us crazy with conversations about what we do each Sunday regarding sermons, music, and even the coffee. One teacher of mine said this, “If worship is everything, then worship is nothing.” So, we can’t simply disregard the importance of our gatherings. In order to clear the air a bit, let’s talk about 10 big Christian worship misconceptions.
Common Christian Worship Misconceptions
Worship is music.
Indeed, we say “the worship was great” when we really mean that the music was. We need to be careful to understand that worship is the service we give to God on Sundays—at least in this context. This includes the prayers, the word being read and preached as well as our gathering together and the Lord’s Table.
Worship has to be felt.
Our emotions are important, however, they occasionally have a mind of their own. Can we express worship to God if we happen to not feel it? I think so. At times we may feel like the traffic law that requires us to wear a seatbelt is lame. We can follow that law without feeling much. We might do harm if we demand a certain level of feelings as the requirement for true worship.
Worship is mostly intellectual.
On the other side of the coin, there are many who espouse that an intellectual response in worship is superior to an emotional response. While we need to be careful to not to pump up people to “feel” certain things in our worship services, we must also be careful to inhibit the emotional reaction altogether. Our sorrow and our joy have a place in worship.
Worship is praise.
It is a shame that we have lost the word “praise” in our worship vocabulary. There are distinct words in the Bible in both Hebrew and Greek that explain praise and worship. For instance, the word “hallelujah” is a word translated often as praise in the Old Testament. It means to be “boisterously” exuberant in expression worship. The word “worship” often means “kneeling” and such. Much of what we call worship today really is praise.
Worship happens only at church.
A programmed service on Sunday may be called a worship service, but our traditions, structures and patterns don’t guarantee that worship is taking place. Also, a church building does not have to be officially a full-time space to be a church. If your church meets in a school room, hotel space, or a theatre it might be clearer to you than many of us. Worship can happen in many places, not just in a stained-glassed building.
Worship can be done by myself.
What are we supposed to get out of worship? Our service of worship is an act of faith that reinforces for us our love for God and each other then sends us out to the world. Being part of the community of believers gives us the right perspective: we live for others. This is why Jesus said if we have a complaint with our brother that we leave the altar and resolve it first.
Worship services are for seekers.
It is true, we must be as accommodating and open to people coming to seek faith in God. But, that is not the purpose of a worship service. Yes, the Bible says not to make our services so strange that people don’t know what we are doing. Yes, we need to be relevant and speak to the indigenous culture we are in. But, church services are an activity primarily for worship. Evangelism is our mission, but not everything we do has this purpose.
Worship is only for adults.
I had a friend tell me that kids don’t have a kid-sized Holy Spirit dwelling in them. But, we tend to make our services segregated. When you finally an adult, you are expected to enter into this strange environment that seems foreign in comparison to the youth group. We then complain about why our young people seem to be disconnected when they become adults. The church is a spiritual family. And, it would behoove us to design our services to include the whole family as much as possible.
Worship attendance is optional.
When your family schedules a meal, is that optional? Our services are very much like a family meal. If we miss, we are not being “spurred on” to love and good deeds. We can quickly become numb to our first love, Christ. Coming to the family meal feeds us—through the Word, the Table, and all that we do together. If taken for granted, we miss out on a very important part of the Christian life.
Worship is everything we do.
In a full circle here it needs to be said again. if worship is everything, then it is nothing. This means it has to be something. Think of it this way. A man is married to his wife. But, showing love to his wife is an act. Not everything is that act. In fact, there are certain things only between both of them that are sacred. This is how worship is. It is those acts that we choose to keep for God and God alone. This then makes the rest of what we do flow from worship. Our heart is where it begins. But, it has to be something more than a thought.