Worship is a controversial topic amongst many modern believers. Evangelical leaders have even coined the phrase “worship wars” to describe the feverish arguments which persist over music styles. This seems strange when one considers the nature of the subject. Worship shouldn’t be so divisive. It is the act of one giving his or her devotion to God, a posturing of one’s soul in submission to the Lord’s will. I personally believe much of the debate in this area is grounded in misunderstandings of what worship really is. Preferences, tradition, and culture have become king for many. They’ve grounded their entire approach to God on a self-oriented perspective, instead of basing it on Scripture-oriented principles. Let’s consider 3 Scriptural marks of real worship.
Jesus said, “An hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth” (John 4:23). The word “spirit” refers to the immaterial part of mankind. It is the aspect of our being which has the capacity to relate to God (see Galatians 5:16). Worshiping God with Spirit doesn’t necessarily refer to singing with emotional gusto or bravado. The pagans of Elijah’s day ranted and raved in a religious fashion, but they didn’t really connect with God (see 1 Kings 18:26-29). Spirit-centered worship isn’t as much about emotion as it is about an encounter with God. Sometimes real praise will result in tears, a raised hand, or other displays. Other times it won’t. Faith in God, not feelings, are what’s most important. Real worship involves a real spiritual connection with the Lord (see Romans 8:9, 22, and 26).
Real worship involves a subjective, Spirit-oriented approach, but it also involves an objective, Scripture-oriented aspect. Jesus referenced the importance of worshiping in “truth.” Though we live in a society which often denies the possibility of fixed truth (see John 18:38), Scripture teaches otherwise. Jesus Himself was the embodiment of truth (see John 14:6), and God delivered a book which explains His truth (see John 17:17). Christians are instructed to live their lives according to truth (see Ephesians 6:14). It stands to reason that our worship should be based on truth, as Jesus maintained. Sadly, many Christians ignore this important aspect. They allow a culture of consumer-driven entertainment to condition their thinking. They don’t measure worship on the basis of the Bible. Instead, they evaluate it as if it was a performance, making presentation and instrumentation their chief concern.
The Lord has not codified a certain type of worship style which He deems best. He allows room for a multitude of modes of expression (see Psalm 150:3-5 and Colossians 3:16), knowing that humankind is a diverse bunch. In heaven, all of the redeemed sing a similar type of song (see Revelation 4:11), but diversity is still a reality (see Revelation 7:9-10). The Lord’s allowance of various means of worship in heaven, shows that we should be fine with a blended approach here on earth. Those who squabble as if their way is best, demanding that others bow to their preferences and resisting cultural changes which are inevitable, show that they are off-focus.