As a worship leader I am constantly asking myself, is this worshipful or how can people worship with this? Sometimes this question gets pretty hard to answer. Our job is to create an atmosphere of true worship. But with so many ideas out there for what worship is (especially traditional vs contemporary), it gets pretty hard to answer what is true worship. So let’s look at what the Bible has to say.
“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24 NIV). This comment made by Jesus was a statement to help the Samaritan woman at the well understand worship. She says earlier that the Samaritans worship on the mountain, but the Jews say they have to worship at the temple in Jerusalem. However, Jesus says both are wrong. Instead he says that we must worship in spirit and truth. So what does that mean? To worship in truth is to worship with the knowledge of who God is, including what He has done for us and our relation to Him. I believe that in order to worship in truth, it is important to remember that God is God and deserves all glory and praise and I am nothing, and deserve far less than He has given me. To worship in spirit means to allow the Holy Spirit to work and move within you. When I first started worship leading this was the second hardest thing for me to used to (the first being “stage fright”). I think it was so hard because worshiping in spirit means that we let go of control on worship and let the Spirit move us as appropriate.
Going along with worshiping in spirit, true worship must be directed by God. “I know, O Lord, that a man’s life is not his own; it is not for man to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23 NIV). If we are not even worthy to guide our own lives, what would make us think we should control something designed to praise God above all? This is why lots of prayer is needed for those that plan worship services. We must be in tune with God and know what He wants from His people. It is also important to let God guide your personal worship time. Don’t go into it thinking “I really like this psalm, so I’m gonna pray it,” rather sit for a few moments in silence listening for God to direct you.
The final act of true worship I would like to discuss comes from Paul’s letter to the church in Colossae, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:2 NIV). Lots of people might think “well duh”, but think about it for a moment. How many times at church do we only go because we like the music, or the pastor, or people around us. Now these are all important things to look at when it is time to choose a church, but it is not the reason we come to worship. We come to worship, so we can worship the one true God, the maker of Heaven and earth. If we focus on the things around us though, we become susceptible to idolatry. And that, my friends, is something we must shy away from (Exodus 20:4).
So the main focus for worship is to connect with God and give Him glory and praise. If something else becomes your focus, I encourage you to spend time in prayer over it. God does not what you to worship something other than Himself (Exodus 20:3). So focus on Him, and thank Him for all He has done for you.