The title of this blog post and question that I ask is not one I am totally serious about – I’m not really suggesting we actually do call the accountant the worship pastor. But I do have the question of how we have overwhelmingly defined “worship” to primarily be music and singing.
I have become very aware of the power of words—and the power of defining words. In the Christian culture we have created, I don’t believe we can ever assume anymore when we say the terms “gospel,” “Jesus,” “salvation,” “inspired,” “evangelical,” “evangelism,” “missional,” etc. that we all mean the same thing. I have learned (and sometimes the hard way) that you need to be asking definitions of terms with specific meaning to understand how someone else uses a term that may differ from your definition.
One of these terms is “worship.”
If you were to ask most teenagers and young adults what comes to their minds when they hear the word “worship,” it will likely be singing. I understand why they do, as we have pretty much defined worship to them over the past 20 years or more as worship = singing. Now it is totally true that we worship as we sing. But that is only one aspect of worship. We have subtly taught (in my opinion) a reductionist view of worship, limiting it primarily to music and singing as what defines the word and practice.
I try to pay attention to reasons why we define worship mainly as music these days. And it is not too difficult to discover. What do we call the person in a church who leads the band or singing? It is normally the “worship pastor” or “worship leader.” When our music leaders say, “Let’s now worship,” that is when the singing begins. When a sermon begins or when the offering is received, we often don’t say, “”Let’s now worship” like we do when the singing starts. When we think of Sunday gatherings of the church and when does worship happen, we generally think of the singing – not the teaching or the sacrifice of people who are worshiping by volunteering time in the children’s ministry or other things happening. You look the Christian albums, and as we call them Best of Worship or Worship Greatest Hits, that reinforces the idea that music is the primary—or even only—form of worship. I just read on a Facebook post how a group was bringing in a guest person to “lead worship,” and of course, this guest person was a musician. We constantly, constantly reinforce by how we use that word casually all the time that it primarily means music and singing.
I recently attended a college-age gathering, and after the time of musical worship ended (I personally try to always say “musical worship”), the person up front who announced that the offering would be taken referred to it as a time of sacrifice as we give our finances as an act of worship. The word sacrifice really stood out to me as being defined with worship.
I also fully am aware that there are times when “worship” occurred without any actual physical sacrifice. But when you study the whole of the Bible, you will see that worship so often involved the sacrifice of something. Romans 12:1-2, after the first 11 chapters teach on the act of Jesus and His sacrifice for us, tells us to “offer our bodies as living sacrifices.” This kind of sacrifice includes all areas of our lives, and it is costly. We choose to refrain from something we may otherwise want to do but it could be sin, so we sacrifice aligning ourselves and our ways to God’s ways. The Old Testament was filled with times of coming to worship and sacrificing something. Generally, something that was costly, with animals or grains – as it showed that worship was a sacrifice of something worth something to the worshiper, who offers it back to God who owns everything anyway. You read in 2 Samuel 24:24, “I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God that cost me nothing.”