Last Sunday, I preached a message on worship as a part of our Marks of Discipleship at Stetson Baptist. Worship is something I am very passionate about because I truly believe it is the crux of the Christian life. What I mean is that when we get worship right, we get EVERYTHING else right in the Christian life. Discipleship? Who wouldn't want to learn more and grow in their relationship with the object of their worship? Evangelism? Don't you want to spread the good news about the one you're worshiping? Ministry/Service? It's so easy and wonderful to serve the one that you are worshiping. Fellowship? When our worship is focused on the same (and correct) object, our fellowship is most fulfilling. Prayer? Who wouldn't want to spend time talking (and listening) to the one that sits on the throne of their life? Yes, when we get our worship right... everything else falls into place.
However, we need to make a distinction here. When I mention worship, I'm not talking about the music that we sing in church. No... it's MUCH more than that! I made a similar statement in the sermon last Sunday and apparently it wasn't received well. That's the reason for this post (I don't blog very often!!). Nicki was approached after the service and then I had a church member call earlier this week because he was concerned about a statement that he heard me say in the sermon (by the way... I ALWAYS welcome a direct call or conversation if someone is uncomfortable with something in a sermon. I'd much rather someone talk TO me than talk ABOUT it.). That statement was that "Music is NOT worship." His question was if I had made that statement and if I had meant to. I responded that if I did not make that statement (I hadn't listened to the sermon at this point), then I probably should have because I believe it to be a correct statement. Obviously, I needed to explain... and maybe I need to explain myself to you too.
You see, MUSIC (in and of itself) is NOT worship. However, music definitely CAN be an expression of our worship and it CAN be a tool that ushers us INTO worship. Music is a-moral. Meaning the notes and rhythms do not hold any morality or anti-morality. They are neutral. What makes a song worshipful is either the lyrics associated with the music or our personal response to the music. Worship is OUR response to God. It cannot be contained in a song. Please hear me correctly... I'm not saying that we don't worship when we sing. We very well may. However, I AM saying that just because we're singing doesn't mean we're worshiping.
In the church, we have a tendency to associate worship with music and singing...and I agree, but it is not limited to that. Is the sermon not worship? Is our giving not worship? Is our response during the invitation not worship? Are our prayers not worship? Of course they are... OR they can be. Again, worship is about what happens in your heart. NOT what is happening on the outside.
Let's put it another way and use a common debate in the church. If music IS worship, I have a question... WHICH music is worship? Is there a copyright date limit on what is worship and isn't? Is there a style limit on what is worship and what isn't? Is there a chord structure limit on what is worship and what isn't? (there use to be... do a search on "chord of evil" to find out about a chord that was not allowed to be played in church) By the way... I would answer NO to all of the above. There is not a copyright date, style, or chord structure limit on what is worship. The only limit I would put on worshipful music is the lyric...meaning it must textually exalt God and coincide with the truth of scripture.
To summarize, I stand by the statement that music is not worship. Worship occurs in the heart. Worship is about our response to God for all that He is and all that He has done. However, I would also contend that music is a very strong expression of worship for many Christians. I would also contend that music is a very strong tool that draws Christians into worship. I hope that clears my statement up and gives you something to think about as well.