This blog was written by one of our own, Cassie, who helps to lead worship at the Cary Campus. Read her thoughts on worship below.
Labels are powerful. Slap a non-GMO label on a can of beans, and you’ve garnered the clout needed to raise the price by a dollar.
Titles are powerful. When we see the letters PhD or hear the word President, we perk up a little, and titles like “Aunt” or “Grandpa” produce feelings of pride and joy.
Terms are powerful, too. What we call something or someone matters. Calling your wife, “old lady” may not produce the same effect as “darling” or “honey.” Referring to your boss as “bro” may be the start of a beautiful friendship – or a new job search. Terms can change everything...
I’ll never forget the first time someone asked me to be his “girlfriend.” I was in 7th grade, and I was not-so-secretly in love with Matt Heustess. He was cute (what other concern is there in 7th grade?) and played on the JV basketball team. We were great friends – until he asked me to be his girlfriend. That word changed everything. Instead of my hilarious friend who teased me and threw dodge balls at me during gym, Matt was my boyfriend. How was I supposed to treat a boyfriend? I had no clue; neither did he. We never really recovered from the awkwardness of our altered relationship, and another middle school love story ended with dramatic tears outside the girl’s locker room. All because of one little term.
As believers, examining how
we’re using foundational words of our faith can remind us of important truths and perhaps even reveal misconceptions that affect our relationship with God. Just like the word “boyfriend” altered my relationship with Matt, I submit that how we use the term “worship” has important implications for how we interact with and relate to God.
“Man, worship was great this morning.”
“I just don’t like their style of worship.”
“Let’s stand and worship together.”
“The worship at Passion was just so powerful.”
Have you ever caught yourself using the term “worship” in reference only to congregational singing or the music at a Christian conference? You’re not alone. Over time in Christian circles, music and worship have become synonymous.
While most of us would correctly acknowledge that “worship” refers to much more than singing, the danger of conflating the two terms lies in the potential to misunderstand who we are as image-bearers and how we’re to interact with and relate to God. As a result, I want to help us think about one way that we can reframe the “worship” terminology and thus begin to see more clearly who we are first as created beings and then as reclaimed worshipers for God’s glory.
Who we are as created beings.
To see how problematic it is to substitute the term “worship” with singing, we must start with a key aspect of the human condition: we were created worshiping.
Harold Best, biblical scholar and former Dean of the Conservatory of Music at Wheaton College, explains this foundational trait of image-bearers in his book Unceasing Worship
. He problematizes the idea that humans were created to worship God in favor of the idea that we were created already worshiping God. God didn’t teach Adam and Eve to worship Him. Upon their creation, the first humans naturally and fully directed their affections to and enjoyed perfect fellowship with God.
When man sinned, however, that perfect and continuous directing of his affections toward God was broken. But, the worship didn’t stop. The outpouring of love and worth did not cease. No, humans continued worshiping. They simply began to aim their love at lesser gods.
And, we still do. No matter how unreligious a person may be, she is a worshiper. No matter how adverse one may be to matters of faith, he is a worshiper.
At this very moment, and for as long as this world endures, everybody inhabiting it is bowing down and serving something or someone – an artifact, a person, an institution, an idea, a spirit, or God through Christ (Best, p. 17).
Who we are as Reclaimed Worshipers
If all humans are, in fact, ceaselessly directing their affections toward someone or something, the chief concern of the believer should be that the recipient of that continuous worship is the one true God. Not just during “set aside” times like Bible study, small group, conferences, and local church services, but at all times.
Understanding constant worship as a reality of our hearts revolutionizes both our individual walks with God and our weekly gathering as believers. Individually, it shapes how we view even the most mundane tasks. As I sit here in Starbucks typing on a laptop, I am worshiping. The question becomes, am I typing on a laptop to the praise and glory of the Father? When I am sitting in traffic, are my affections aimed at my heavenly Father or Father Time? When I’m at work, is my ceaseless outpouring of worship directed toward God?
>We all know the verses, “whatever we do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Col. 3:17) and “whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31).
Have verses like that ever stressed you out? Do all for His glory? Like even scrubbing the toilet, or gasp
using it? How does that even work!?
The concept of continuous worship sheds light on how we can in fact do all for the glory of God. It takes the pressure off of us to perform. As we daily lift up our souls to God alone, resting in the finished work of Jesus, trusting in His sustaining grace, and enjoying His blessings, the outpouring worship of our hearts flow in endless streams toward Him.
Inevitably, when the Spirit reveals sin in our hearts, we recognize that even in sin, our worship did not stop. It changed directions. As a result, repentance – “the turning from and (re)turning to” (Best 19) – is the only option. We gather the waters of the rebel channel and allow the Spirit to dam the wandering streams, resting again in the God whose streams of mercy flow endlessly toward us.
What a cause for celebration! What a cause for singing!
Finally, understanding worship as continuous outpouring influences our corporate gatherings as well. Rather than the initiation of a worship experience, church services become a collective continuation of each believer’s intentional aiming of worship toward God.
During the corporate gathering, we can encourage each other in love to remember how it was that we came to be reclaimed worshipers. How God made a way for us to understand that He is the only intended recipient of our worship. How Jesus took upon Himself all of our misplaced worship – every sin, every lesser god – that we might, again, worship in spirit and truth.
What a cause for celebration! What a reason for singing!
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