some simple thoughts on worship...

Have you ever wondered what the heck you’re doing when you’re worshipping? In this day in age it can be really difficult for evangelicals to think of worship apart from music, it’s hard to think outside the music box. There’s been some great “worship songs” written but I’m afraid that even saying that; “worship song,” we might be missing the point. Worship is a great verb but it doesn’t quite work as an adjective. What happens when we sing a worship song without worshipping?

Worship puts on display our interacting with God, while in all cases giving Him exaltation. We are, when worshipping, demonstrating our relationship with God. Sometimes this is a broken relationship and so we come broken before God. Sometimes our relationship is confusing; we have trouble even grasping weather or not God’s even there, so we express our confusion. Sometimes we are thankful and so we express it. Sometimes we are joyful and so we express it. Worship is expression and exaltation; it’s an attempt to put things in their right place; with God on the throne and us at His feet. But it’s not done dishonestly, we do not hide our real emotions in order to look or feel more spiritual, replacing honesty with flattery. For example; we cannot, while feeling distressed and angry towards God (which I’m sure we’ve all felt), simply burry those emotions and put on a happy face. We can sing “worship songs” without worshipping at all.

When we worship we are acknowledging that no matter how we feel about it God is the Lord of all. So worship is our “active response”[1] to who God is, it’s us realizing who He is. It’s not us allowing Him to take some position in our lives that He didn’t already have. God is the Lord of all and we are engaging Him. Dallas Willard describes it like this:

“We engage ourselves with, dwell upon, and express the greatness,
beauty, and goodness of God through thought and the use of words, rituals and
symbols… to worship is to see God as worthy, to ascribe great worth to

So we use music because music brings us together. It pulls our thoughts along with our bodies into a place of harmony. It is physical and therefore brings our whole person into a rhythm. This rhythm brings expression. According to Anne Lamott “music is about as physical as it gets: you essential rhythm is your heartbeat; your essential sound, the breath. We’re walking temples of noise, and when you add tender hearts to this mix, it somehow lets us meet in places we couldn’t get any other way.”[3] When we meet God through music our heart begins to beat with His. We meet with Him in corresponding rhythms. We enter into the ages of people who’ve come before us, a great tradition of people seeking the Lord of all and putting on display our great relationship with Him.

[1] Jim Burns and Mike Devries The Youth Builder (USA: Gospel light 2001) 121.
[2] Dallas Willard The Spirit Of the Disciplines (New York: Harper San Francisco 1988) 177.
[3] Anne Lamott Traveling Mercies (New York: Anchor Books 1999) 65.


Dan McGowan said…
Very happy to have found this blog of yours!! I'll be linking to yours from mine (

On this matter of worship (and as a worship and music leader for over 25 years) I have two comments:

First - yes and amen! Worship is a CHOICE and we choose to worship our great and mighty God regardless of how we happen to "feel" about it...

Second - the same problem of "non-worship during worship singing" is not only restricted to our "worship songs" (assuming you mean contemporary choruses) but also with the singing of the great hymns. I have seen both song forms become more like "happy birthday" and less like "God is awesome" for the simple fact that they are soooo familiar.

I really am enjoying this blog!

Blessings to you and your ministry!

Dan McGowan