Philosophy of Worship
Music is a vehicle by which the aroma of man’s praise and worship travels to heaven. Music is not a necessity of worship but a tool man can use. Here I list three examples of how men and women can worship God without music.
Worship starts with Christ, worship must be from faith, and worship is beautiful with or without instrumentation. It is important to understand that worship is lived out in the everyday life of the believer. When living our worship is paired with the ability to use our voices as an instrument or play a physical instrument in community with others we make music that glorifies God which is also worship. Worship with music is the overflow of worship from faith and obedience exercised by the believer every day.
“Worship is not a musical activity but an expression of the heart. Music can aid worship, but it isn’t necessary for worship. Worship isn’t an activity simply for those who love to sing. Thousands of folks who “can’t carry a tune in a bucket” are adoring worshipers. Music can be used as a catalyst for worship, but even when no musical instruments are available, like the woman in Luke 7, we can anoint the feet of Jesus with the oil of our affections.”
The purpose of music in Christian worship serves is to aid man in responding to God in humility and surrender with love and adoration.
The purpose of music in Christian worship services is to aid man in responding to God in humility and surrender with love and adoration. Christ calls man to gather together in unity to praise and worship Him as one body. This is why our worship sets should begin with songs that, “speak of God calling us to worship and our response to that call, songs that celebrate the presence of Jesus Christ in the worshiping community, and songs that acknowledge the special communal bond of believers.”
The worship leader should strive to first focus on entering into God’s presence then leading worshipers towards reflection and attentive listening in preparation for worship with God’s Word. It is crucial to understand that we are entering into the presence of God and not the other way around. Christ made a way for us to enter into the holy place by the veil that was torn: the new and living way.
As worshippers, we should see ourselves coming before Jesus. Many worship songs have this concept backward. God is always present with us but to experience the manifest presence of God we must choose to be still and make a conscious effort to set our hearts and minds on Him.
God is always present with us but to experience the manifest presence of God we must choose to be still and make a conscious effort to set our hearts and minds on Him.
When I speak of “distractions” in a worship service I am not referring to someone dancing, shouting Hallelujah, or lifting their hands. Those forms of worship are righteous and welcomed by God in congregational worship. They are only a distraction for church bodies forbidden to use them for the sake of keeping order.
The worship of God with dance, crying out to Him with a loud voice, waving of flags, and lifting of hands can be done in order and is biblical. It must be noted here, however, that some churches simply do not wish for that to be part of their “church culture.” Therefore the church that dances should not look down on the church that does not. And the church that refuses to dance should not look down on the church that does. Churches that allow dance, clapping of hands, and shouting unto God with a loud voice, often purposefully set time aside for praise and worship of God in this way making it orderly. It is not a wild free for all or at least it should not be.
While the believer can worship God without music and without dance it must be noted that the believer can not offer praise and worship to God without offering something. Contrary to popular belief in some circles, praise is an action word, it is not an option, and it is not subject to one’s personality. Like most things Christ calls humanity to do, praise and worship, often requires man to step outside of his comfort zone and express and or declare boldly his love for his God. “Not feeling it” or “that’s not my personality” is something to overcome. We must offer to God the fruit of our lips. C. H. Spurgeon put it this way,
“Let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name.” Or, as the Revised Version has it, “the fruit of lips which make confession to His name.” So, then, we are to utter the praises of God and it is not sufficient to feel adoring emotions. The priesthood of Believers requires them to praise God with their lips. Should we not sing a great deal more than we do? Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs should abound in our homes. It is our duty to sing as much as possible. We should praise as much as we pray.”
Often it is for the sake of onlookers who are not praising but looking around that hearts filled with love for God suppress their longing for intimacy with the Father and do not express and respond to God with the fruit of their lips or their hands or any other abilities they might have. If everyone in the congregation were worshipping and praising as commanded by God, taking no care for how they would be perceived, there would be no one left to be distracted.
Lastly, the preaching of the Word is often thought to be more important than the praise of God with the Word and music but this too is a fallacy. Man was made for both and needs both. The believer needs to worship His God and commune with Him just as much as he needs to be taught the Word of God. We can not divorce one from the other.
After all Worship should be a “proclamation and celebration of the story of God in community (Cherry).” If it’s not biblical it’s not worship. We are called to worship in spirit (with our emotions) and in truth (with the Word of God). Therefore how can we say that teaching is more important than expressing gratitude and love for God. The first and greatest commandment is to love the Lord our God. Both are important.
Real worship changes the heart and mind of the worshiper. It is transformative. No one enters the presence of God and leaves unchanged. In the presence of God we receive insight into the mind, plan, and heart of God for His people. In the presence of God hearts and minds are stilled, flesh is subdued, and man gets a glimpse of his heavenly home. Corporate worship with music is basically a sermon set to a melody that everyone gets to participate in including God.
What could ever be more beautiful than that!
Perhaps the modern-day New Testament church should consider not making a separation between the worship with the music portion of its liturgy from the worship with teaching portion of its liturgy. Maybe it should all flow as one. It is separated for the sake of order and so that the feeble minds of man can comprehend but what if we abandoned this construct and pulled the two together? What would that look like?
Spurgeon, C. H. “A Life-Long Occupation.” Spurgeon’s Sermons. Christian Classics Ethereal Library, n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2019.
Cherry, Constance M. The Music Architect. Baker Academic, 2016.
Sorge, Bob. Exploring Worship. Third Edition. Bob Sorge, 2018.