And the reason is that the end of worship isn’t our experience at all. It is God’s glory—but how? Simply by us saying, or singing, so?
‘The glory of God is man fully alive.’
Tim Keller explains that worship is the “act of ascribing ultimate value to something in a way that energizes and engages your whole person or being.” Worshipping God takes place in the active redirection of our love away from ourselves or our ideologies and toward Christ—including emotions, but also will, intellect, action—our whole selves!
This is true when we sing, but also when we sit to learn, or shake the hand of a brother, or take communion.
Christian worship is incarnational (God-on-earth to redeem) not transcendent (we escape this troublesome old world to find God elsewhere).
It is formative (God changes us through our embodied practices) not just informative (we change ourselves as a result of God’s good ideas).
It’s embodied, not just expressed.
The fact is that as we gather together, God’s presence transforms our lives, our spaces, our minds and hearts, and our very selves from toe-to-top.
Our meetings and liturgies in their entirety—and our shared mission when we leave—are like Kingdom trenches in a world at war with itself and badly in need of redemption. And so our ‘worship’ should reflect those same holistic values. The moment we intentionally or unintentionally prescribe a hierarchy of experiences (mind over matter, emotion over mind, actions over either)—we teeter dangerously on popular heresy.
So let’s be sure to constantly remind ourselves, starting with something as simple as our words, that ‘worship’ occurs in actively embodying our beliefs day-to-day, moment-to-moment, and accordingly describes the entirety of our worship services.
Worship includes the redemption of our emotions (music), intellect (teaching/word), soul/will (prayer/fellowship) and bodies (eucharist/communion).
So, call me a ‘musical worship leader,’ even just ‘musician,’ but not ‘worship leader.’ Let’s “open up the doors and let the music play”—beautiful, life-changing music! As we sing together, as we listen and are moved together, let the Holy Spirit be your sheet music. It’s worship after all.
But also sit together, make peace, pray together, sing: It’s worship after all.
Take and eat the body He gave for us, the blood spilt for us. Be reminded that God has given us bodies of our own to give. It’s worship after all.
Hear the Word of God, learn, think, digest, respond. It’s worship after all.
Let our worship be seen, tasted, heard and lived together as we go out into the world. If ever I deserve the title of ‘worship leader,’ I pray that it’s because I actually live this way.
Not because I play the acoustic guitar.