A Philosophy of Worship

Oh sing to the LORD a new song;
     sing to the LORD, all the earth!
Sing to the LORD, bless his name;
     tell of his salvation from day to day.

(Psalm 96:1-2 ESV)

It is important to remember that worship is more than what we do while in the church building, it is something we do all the time. We can worship our job, our families, a sports team, or even the ministry itself. The Pharisees were some of the most passionate worshipers in the Bible. The problem was that they were not focused on authentic worship of God, but had become worshipers of the Law instead. They had lost focus of what or Who was really the center of their praise.

Who worships?
Everyone is a worshiper. We can either choose to worship the true God of the universe or something He created. We are born worshiping and we naturally spend our time and money on what we ascribe worth to. We sometimes think that only “religious” people worship something, but that is not the case. As Harold Best says, we are beings created worshiping. We naturally gravitate towards what we value and we ascribe worth to those things, whether it is God or something else.

Why worship?
Worship is the rhythm of God’s revelation and our response to it. We are unable to conjure up worship on our own; we worship because God has made us worshippers. He has graciously made Himself known to us and He has given us the ability to respond in worship to that revelation. God is the only being in existence that is worthy of all our worship. He is worthy of much more than what we can do in worship. In fact, He deserves infinitely more worship than what we are capable of. We do not worship because we are forced to do it or that we do it in order to gain his approval, rather, we worship him because he has already approved of us by applying Christ’s righteousness to the elect.

How do we worship?
We worship through the reading of the Word, the preaching of the Word, the singing of the Word, the praying of the Word, the memorization of the Word, giving cheerfully to the Lord, and through communion and baptism. Although the aforementioned are the most tangible ways in which we worship corporately, we are instructed to respond in worship in all that we do, think, and say. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:16-17 ESV)

What should worship look like?
Whether intentional or not, a common worship practice among many evangelical churches is to utilize vocalists on stage as the primary focus of a worship service. The singers, though, should not be the focus, nor should the band, orchestra, choir, or preacher. The primary objective of those who facilitate corporate worship should be to point congregants to Christ. If the leaders do anything to point to themselves, the foundational principle of corporate engagement with God is thwarted.

Worship is not about the style of music, the instrumentation, the clothes worn on stage, the equipment one owns, the mere ability of the musicians, or the delivery of the preacher. Worship is a matter of the heart, and God sees the authenticity of one’s heart in worship. This authentic heart of worship should therefore be what we seek to work on more than anything as we prepare to point others toward worshipping God. Ironically, big churches can find themselves causing more distractions because of the vast amount of resources they are capable of providing. At times, things put in place to aid people in worship can be the very things that cause distractions. Fancy displays, videos, and equipment can put people in awe of “stuff” instead of the “stuff maker.”

Ministry Leaders
Church and ministry leaders must make it a top priority to carefully and prayerfully craft worship orders as they lead others in corporate worship. In John 21, Jesus repeatedly asks of Simon Peter to feed his sheep. Those of us in ministry should recognize the same calling on our lives. It is our responsibility to lead the people of God in a Biblical way towards Christ-likeness. The most effective way to lead others in this way is to continually refine our own personal holiness. To properly feed Jesus’ sheep, it is essential to feed ourselves in such a way that reflects the character of God in our lives, both publicly and privately.

Scott Cornish serves as the Instrumental Associate & the Director of the Performing Arts Academy at First Baptist Church in Arnold, MO.  He is also a recent graduate of Southern Seminary with an M.A. in Worship Leadership.