Defining Worship

By Paul Christensen

Over the years I have had the privilege of serving on a number of different worship teams, at different churches and denominations, encompassing a wide variety of worship music styles.  All of them have been different, and to participate in all of them has been a blessing.  One of the reasons I love Evangel is that we do everything we can to create an environment to allow people to worship God.  We have 3 very different service types with different music and atmospheres.  Many people have put a lot of thought and effort to create a comfortable place (from a low key traditional feel to cutting edge contemporary) for people to feel safe enough to engage in worshiping.   This is true not only for those sitting in the pews but also for me on stage.

That being said, I think it is interesting how often I find myself thinking of worship as a noun, a “thing” to go to or to perform.  Frequently I hear the phrase, “Worship was great this morning,” or “That worship was so awesome!”  I even find myself saying something to that effect on a regular basis.  Despite all my background, I can quickly lose sight of the heart of what worship truly is.

Worship should be, was meant to be, and NEEDS to be a verb in our lives. Do a quick word search of worship in the bible.  Over and over people are taking action by worshiping;  “they bowed down and worshiped him,” “clasped his feet and worshipedhim,” “When they saw him, they worshiped him,” and all those from one book. It was intense, emotional, and often spontaneous.

Worship is an act of obedience, surrender, and an outpouring of praise and adoration for and, most importantly, to our Lord and Savior.  I know God desperately wants my worship, but also, I need to worship Jesus from the depths of my heart.  Worship allows me to open up my heart to God letting Him in to fill me, heal me, and draw me even closer to Himself.

I am not saying that this is always easy.

I am NOT a morning person.  My wife would argue that I am not much of an early afternoon person either!  However church is in the morning (usually) and as a volunteer musician I need to be at church extra early to set up and rehearse.   There are many times I simply do not feel like worshiping.  Other times I am distracted, overwhelmed, stressed, sick, the list can go on and on.  Or maybe I feel distant from God, or perhaps too lost and confused to try and focus on Him.  But I know, that I know, that I know, that those are the times when it is most important to simply surrender my feelings and worship God.  I’m not going to lie, it’s really hard, and often I fail.

I love the testimony of Jeremy Camp, a Christian recording artist.  He lost his first wife to cancer a few short months after they were married.  He shares that as he heard the news that his wife Melissa had gone to be with Jesus, in the midst of being overcome with grief, he felt the Lord telling Jeremy to worship Him. He says that they were constantly playing worship music in the background, so he stood to his feet, put his arms up in the air, and worshiped.  I can’t imagine that was even close to what he felt like doing at that moment.

In John 4:23-24 Jesus says; “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.  God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”  Jesus is telling us that He is present everywhere and can be worshiped at any time.  The ‘where’ is not important, but the ‘how.’

We need to worship God, not simply participate in a “worship” service.  I pray that whenever and wherever I worship, it is honest, genuine, and led by the Holy Spirit.