Part IV – It’s Our Fault

(Be warned – this is a tough read!)

Now we have even more definitions:

1) Original English – “to give worth to” (weorthscipe)
2) Translated in the Bible – “to bow down” (proskyneo); “to serve” (latreia)
3) Traditional Church Use – usually refers to the liturgy, or order of service
4) Modern Definition – God-ordained ways of expressing our response to Him

What I find disturbing though, is that one of the most common modern day uses of the word “worship” isn’t any of the above – I believe you all know what I am talking about. We use the word “worship” when we refer to a time on a Sunday morning (or before Bible Study) when there is music, clapping (sometimes), and singing.

For example: “as we bring this time of worship to a close”, or “who’s leading worship?”, or “worship was great today!”. You know what I mean.

Bob Kauflin mentioned a few instances where the word worship is used wrongly – and it really makes no sense when you think about the definitions we’ve been through.

One comment that always leaves me puzzled and slightly disappointed is “hey, i really enjoyed the worship today!” What does THAT mean?? I always want to respond (and lately I have done), “Alright, but I hope that GOD did as well!” You meant to say, “hey, I really enjoyed the singing today”. Even then it’s still disappointing.

Having so many different definitions for such an important word like “worship” is bound to end up in confusion and theologically-incorrect thinking. But you know what? I really don’t think it’s the congregation’s fault they have the wrong idea of what worship is…

…between you and me, the people who are involved in worship week in & week out, we who represent the church and plan the services? I know who’s fault it is – it’s our fault.

It’s our fault because we allow ourselves to be called the “worship team” when we are really the “music team”, to have “worship leaders” who are actually “song leaders”, to have “worship practices” that are in reality “band practices”.

Please, I beg you, disagree with me.

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~ by jonhyz on January 16, 2009.

31 Responses to “Part IV – It’s Our Fault”

  1. it’s not so much that what we do isn’t worship – it’s that the music has claimed more glory for itself than it should. sounds strangely familiar doesn’t it?

    do you think that incorrect labelling has led to wrong beliefs about what worship is?

  2. 27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. -John 14

    It’s amazing to read all your different insights.. there’s just so much room for anyone to grow in their understanding of their faith! (:

  3. Actually… thats nothing new nor is this a tough read… The term enjoying worship is something we’ve been critizing so much, Yet.. the root of the problem lies with music producers who make music for our pleasure.

    You know.. I realised in the previous posts.. someone quoted on martin luther and music being second in importance… Jesus never mentioned anything about music being second in importance or whatsoever.. Wonder why do we bother quoting martin luther?

    I think at this point the comments have been very good… though If I could throw in two sense worth of summary. The issue is the biblical understanding of worship has got nothing to do with music, yet the importance placed into it is tremendous? how does one even begin to “practice” worship. Yet the disgreeing people are those defending the usage of music, which no one said should be disallowed. We’re simply showing the basis of music in worship as secondary, which should help us relook music and its role in worship. Before even being able to worship in itself.

    On another note, enjoying worship, is the proof of worship as entertainment, be it in the Sanctuary or the Hall, See the tremendous amount of clapping? which of course wodners what’s this offeratory song about? For the people to be entertained while the bag is passd around?

    Well said… we are musicians.. that;s the problem when we emphasize so much into the practice of scores.. cutting cds.. etc.

  4. ok, i shall clarify why i quoted martin luther on that…

    it’s simply cos martin luther was THE reformer of the day. when the church was really doing all the wrong things, he was the one who stood up to say what was wrong and what the church should be doing.Without martin luther, there wouldn’t be the protestant churches.

    my point in this is that he also had very strong words to say with regards to music. yes, perhaps there is no biblical basis for them, but we do know that his heart and mind were on God and he clearly saw a necessity for music to remain in the churches.

    i don’t think the whole issue of us worshipping music rather than worshipping God is a recent occurence. it’s happened, as anon says, from Israel’s time.

    The importance here rather is where has our discipleship gone? and what steps are we taking to educate the worshipper of the right attitude to have?

    in all honesty, i started out like that too when i was a youth. In it more for the music than anything else. But it was because of the education and discipleship that i received in church, that is why i am able to see things from a proper perspective.

  5. @HJ, Ian – Luther subscribes to the Normative Principle for worship, i.e. don’t do anything forbidden in scripture. Whereas Calvin subscribes to the Regulative Principle i.e. do only what’s allowed in scripture.

    Of course, there are many things that Jesus didn’t say – like buy a condo, buy a car (then you have the Amish).

    My thinking at the moment is that “worship” has come to define so much what we do on a Sunday morning that even the church service itself (offering, word, prayer) is called a “worship” service. See how far the use of the word worship extends from its original definition? Whether you use “worship” to define the church service or to the music, it’s the same – worship can be SO much more than either of those, depending on how you define it – which is why I think that it is so important to define “worship”.

    The Church is an organism, a living community. It’s unfair to ask it to be the be all and end all of “worship” – just as it’s even more unfair to ask music to be everything that “worship” represents.

  6. yup… i think all of us would adhere to the normative rather than the regulative though… unless we’re BP..

  7. when i asked interviewees, “what is worship to you?” i mostly got replies directly associated with music/sunday service, and on a good day, prayer. 🙂 i agree that it’s our terminology that has confused people about the meaning of the word.

    But what if, despite that, people still understood that they had to live 24/7 for Jesus as a response to God’s love for them? Would we fuss so much about terminology then?

  8. my first response to that, abi, is i wouldn’t..

    but then i’d think again… so grey .. so grey…

  9. @abihyp: we *might* still recognise the potential for confusion – just as people are now recognising that “church” needs redefining as well.

    as long as we box up “worship”, we’ll have problems in our teaching – and we’ll be constantly reminding people of what worship is – which we already spend unnecessary time doing. why unnecessary? because it’s our own fault.

    it’s really a *very* simple way of making things easier for ourselves – yet we don’t do it. to use an analogy – to keep pouring water in a bucket instead of mending the leak.

  10. Hey. Can’t help but agree. Worship is the way we live our lives in response to what God has done for us. Nothing to argue about. We’ve all got it wrong.

  11. So then, this begs to ask the question… is the song “Come now is the time to worship” theologically wrong? =)

  12. Well, let’s look at it this way. the song when it says ‘now is th time to worship’ worship – are you sure the writer meant – singing? could it be that he meant now is the time… now the day we are living, is the time (alwys) for us to worship him… worship him with our lifestyles, worship him in everything we do…
    just that we as the hearers of this song, take it as ‘now is the time to sing’ and worship leaders are guilty too of conveniently placing this song as first of the ‘set’ cos it makes sense!

    then again, why can’t singing be one of the ways in which we worship? i don’t think that’s wrong!

    in both cases, there is then nothing wrong with the song at all (in my opinion! “, ) does this make sense?

  13. @mag: i can see what you mean. although, just as there’s nothing inherently wrong with labelling the musicians “worship team” (after all, they *are* worshipping aren’t they?) it kinda gives the wrong impression about what worship is and should be.

    i’ve sung “come, now is the time to worship” at the *end* of the service before =)

  14. i think singing that song at the end of the service is brilliant actually.
    i think we’re guilty of doing the right things, but we fail to address the subtle nuances that each song/ the worship team implicates. for everything that we do, there will be an implication.

  15. i feel that teaching a proper concept of worship is important because it affects how people lead their lives.. i’m sure many know that we have to live our lives 24/7 for God, to varying extents (from just having a vague idea that God wants us not to sin, to really living a life of surrender, pleasing and acceptable to God)..

    A proper concept compels us to pursue God in our lives because we know that singing on sunday is totally meaningless IF there is no real relationship outside sunday service.

    in the past, during times when my life (emotionally or spiritually) was in a mess, i’d tell myself nevermind, i can still worship on sunday – but i was so so wrong. worship has to be a choice to honour God in the here and now, and singing on sunday to me is an extension/outward expression, or a reminder of the life we’re called to..

    whether the ‘come, now is the time to worship’, is theologically right or not depends on what the individual is thinking at the moment when he/she sings it right? haha.. it may be theologically right in the sense which the author meant it, but wrong in the way i mean it when i sing it.. which brings us back to:

    proper concepts being taught!! haha shucks la i tend to rant when i comment.

  16. no lah! not ranting! i agree! i think singing the song at the end makes perfect sense to us.. but i’d avoid doing that congregationally unless i do explain why we sing it at the end.., lest we confuse the people! haha.. here… proper concept being taught too!!

  17. @zhou: you should still “worship on Sunday” regardless of how your life is. simply because i believe there is power in professing with your mouth what you believe in and what you want to do in your life.

    I think we’ve properly established that there needs to be proper theological thought applied to the way we approach worship congregationally on sunday. so my question then is why are some worship leaders still choosing songs based on a “feeling” and what sounds good, without thought for progressive theological understanding in our worship of God in the songs themselves?

    mag, i know you know who i’m referring to and i don’t wish to address this out of malice or grudge, but i frankly find it difficult to accept the “entirely spirit led” approach. what if the “spirit” leads us to sing “up from the grave he arose” on good friday? if we approach our worship without thought about the implications, we quickly start to send subtle messages to the congregation of what is acceptable.

    i may sound anal about this thing, but i believe it is things like these that lead to bad discipleship in our Christian thought among the youth. Our theology and thought progression are very important in every aspect of our stand as Christians.

  18. ian, i don’t think the spirit, the Holy Spirit would lead us to sing such a song on gd friday haha… agreed.

    nothing wrong with being spirit lead, as long as we are clear we are not just going by ‘feeling’, & we know for sure that we have sought the Father for discernment. (Though sometimes how do we know tt we are indeed following the *Holy Spirit*?) I understand where you are coming from totally… and i guess the least we can do is to make sure we are doing it with the right heart. I think God honours that, and surely if we trust the Spirit that things will work out, what bad implications are there to talk about!

    I have no issues with and i absolutely respect the “entirely spirit led”! i have even more respect for them if they are spirit led *yet* respect the authority and restrictions given to them by the church leaders!

    There is no sure method or right way how to lead worship, and God blesses us with different gifts/abilities that may reach out to different people or the church at different times.

    With a proper concept of what our role is in the church as worship ministers, that’s a good and necessary foundation for a start. If we are ‘spirit led’ approchers, so be it, but listen to your elders! if we like order, so be it! There is anointing in our preparation i believe, and the Spirit will surely lead us as we plan, but we ought not to put God in a box too.

    I’m on the middle ground.. there is a fine balance!

  19. i respect your stand on that mag.
    i’m not pursuing this issue or demanding there be something done about this, but i read tim hughes’ here i am to worship last year before i entered TTC.
    in one of the chapters, he states that it’s easier for a “worship” to be spirit led when the “worship leader” plans everything. ironically enough…
    and i would also say that the Holy Spirit isn’t random in its nature or is it only manifested in the last minute… hardly so.

  20. Haha! agreed! (: random is a funny word to use ahah!

  21. @Ian,mag: interesting comments. Being “spirit-led” in the way you describe is pretty similar in structure to charismatic theology.

    In fact, we’re entering into the main paradox that most churches face now – 1/2 hour of singing with loud music is a distinctive part of the charismatic movement, because the timing “allows” the proper manifestation of the spirit through song/prophecy/tongues. In fact, this is where you have people recommending “20 minutes or more” for “proper worship” – which is often misunderstood by those outside the movement (that’s us).

    That’s also where you have the “praise” then “worship”, where, from the “outer courts” of “praise” we now enter into the “inner courts” of intimacy and “worship”. Of course, in our understanding, this doesn’t make sense. But it makes perfect sense to charismatics.

    Any thoughts?

  22. they also have the “let’s not fight the presence of God” theory… where if you are not a competent musician and you’re playing wrong stuff here and there, you are technically “fighting the presence of God”… and by playing well and competently as a band, you are “ushering in the presence of God”.

    of course the implication there is that we can control the presence of God through our playing. which is a very disturbing thought.

    as you’ve already pointed out, the proper worship theory, has the implication that a singing for 5 minutes is not “proper worship”

    the implication of the outer courts and inner courts issue is that then it means whenever we’re not singing in church, we are not within the courts or the holy of holies. and therefore it implies we are not in close communion with God if we’re not singing songs to Him. which goes against the whole idea of why the curtain was torn from top to bottom when Jesus died on the cross.

    very simply, these statements are bad theology. as in there isn’t much thought put into them before they are said. for us, growing up in church and having been discipled to a certain extent, alarm bells ring in our heads when these things are said because their implications go against our foundations as Christians.

  23. @Ian: i can understand your apprehension about charismatics, however, it must be said that it is responsible for much of the spread of christianity throughout Asia. Also, I’m sure you’re aware that Methodism has a rich history of displaying the gifts.

    i wouldn’t go so far as to say that they are “wrong”, rather, that they have a particular style of worship (as do we), which suits their church.

    of course, the inner and outer courts is a metaphor – its a way of demonstrating, and re-enacting that very entrance into the holy of holies. and quite effective too.

    so what i can gather from your comment, and my observations, is that we do not fully understand the thinking behind charismatic worship, yet we have adopted their format.

    unless of course you can point us to sources that say otherwise =)

  24. @Ian: also, re:music. I think that the physical state (i.e. busyness, fatigue) can affect the spiritual state. Sound, or music, which is of the physical, can affect the spiritual. therefore, a musician (if indeed he is called to play before others) should bear a responsibility to play the right notes, not to jar the ear, or distract, because, simply, it *will* affect the spiritual state.

  25. agreed… i didn’t say that i thought the charismatics were wrong. in fact i think we have plenty to learn from them…

    over the holidays, i was giving it some thought and when i came back to school, i asked some of my school mates and seniors about how they felt about me making the statement that perhaps the lack of thought in their theology is a necessary evil to have in order to reach the masses.
    here, i would like to point out that i’m not stereotyping the charismatics… i know that some of them do put in some thought into their theology… i’m just talking about the ones that we see that don’t do that.

    but my deduction after much conversation with some people is that yes, perhaps we need to have that necessary evil in order to make our faith accessible to the everyday person. like i said in the previous blog post comments… there needs to be a balance between the emotional and the intellectual… we need to close one eye at times to these things, yet at the same time we cannot neglect the fact that we are called to disciple people in the right way and not let them walk around as Christians with a blindfold over their eyes. therein lies why i say that there needs to be proper discipleship of how the congregation thinks theologically.

  26. as for the music thing… i believe so too… i remember going to a lutheran church for a visitation last semester… this guy was playing a 12 string guit, of which i think none of the strings were in tune… raymond and i were cringing throughout the entire service.

    it will affect the spiritual state, i definitely agree, but we cannot go as far as to say that we can control the presence of God.

  27. it’s funny we use the term affecting the ‘spiritual state’ … isn’t that getting a bit charismatic too? haha…

    about the ‘outer courts’ and then going into the ‘inner courts’… why do you say that it may not make sense? in what way, maybe you could explain for us! “,

    hahha oops, maybe i’m becomgin charismatic!

    i think it’s alright, that the 1/2 hour of singspiration (!) is in its outer/inner order… don’t htink it’s manipulative or an;ything, i think it’s drawing people’s attention slowly to God…

    that they may begin to lay down all the things and baggages they have, and then begin to see God clearly for who He is rather than having all our worries blocking our ‘view’. It’s like walking from the outside of the temple and as we walk in, the world fades behind us..

    hmm, true, now, the veil is torn, and there shoudln’t be any distinction between the inner and outer, but i feel that it enables us to put things into perspectives…

    haha was that too charismatic? :S

  28. it’s interesting when we say things like ‘affecting the spiritual state’ i’m not quite sure how though? is it more… like ti’s affecting our emotional state or even mental state? rather than ‘spiritual’ state? :S

  29. @mag… it’s like what jon said… it’s a physical/emotional/ mental state… but still it has spiritual repercussions in a sense, because they are kind of linked. a bit hard to talk about intangibles.

  30. um. i think the simple explaination is that its distracting. its just like how you wouldnt scream into someone’s ears when they’re reading the bible or praying. I mean, we’re only human right? also, if worship is to ascribe worth to, or to serve, then wouldnt playing wrongly just give people the impression that God isn’t worth rehearsing or playing well for?

    oh and um. i never really got the whole playing by the spirit thing. what exactly does that entail?

  31. […] NT Part II – Definition of Worship in the Church Part III – Definitions by Experts on Worship Part IV – Why it’s our fault Worship is all messed up Part V – Differences between Individual and Corporate Worship Part VI – Defining Worship & […]

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