• What is worship anyway? (the feeling or expression of reverence and adoration for a deity) The Greek word most frequently used and translated “worship” in our English bibles is προσκυνέω / proskuneo (V) which is a combination of pros (motion or motion toward a place) & kuneo (to kiss) So literally, it means to move forward to kiss. I have read somewhere, and it has always stuck with me, that it means to move forward to kiss like a dog licking his master’s hand. I like that picture because it involves a bit of reckless abandon that a puppy would have. It’s a beautiful picture of the interaction that God desires that His children would have as an expression of love toward Him. Not as a means of pleasing Him as much as a response to His love demonstrated in Christ toward us.
• What is the best method of helping a congregation to worship? Worship of God cannot be confined to singing songs. We “worship” Him in many ways. Paul talks about our reasonable or spiritual service / worship that we present our whole body to Him in service, that is worship as well. Romans 12:1 But I would like to address congregational worship, that is the practice that the church has refined over the years, where a group spends a portion of their weekly service singing songs in worship of God.
What works to accomplish proskuneo, and what does not?
This is a controversial subject because the answer is subjective to each individual worshipper. Personally, I have had incredibly moving proskuneo on my own, in my own livingroom on the floor. I can remember crying out to the Lord in love, singing songs to Him and talking to him with a blanket over my head huddled up into a ball in front of the fire. Just me and Him in my own “prayer closet.” Some talk about being in nature and experiencing God that way. It certainly does happen. I have had intimate worship on a tractor, on a motorcycle (a personal favorite), in my car, and in many different locations. …I’m thinking Green eggs & Ham here 🙂
Worship, like prayer is not confined to any method because it is spiritual.
What about the practice of the church to assist both individuals and the group to experience worship? Our current church culture has a methodology of singing a series of songs intended to take the participants on a journey of the heart, to give expression in the spirit, of love and gratitude toward Jesus. -That was a long sentence, let me explain. As a pastor, it is my ambition to make sure that every week, as we gather, we take people to the Savior, to lead them to worship Him. To get their eyes off of themselves, their troubles, etc. and fix their eyes on Jesus. Now some would say that the current model doesn’t work and that it needs to be blown up and we need to start over. I don’t believe that, but I do believe however that the church in America needs a worship overhaul.
Here is what I think works, your mileage may vary.
– Jesus focus not man focus. There are many songs out there that refer more to man than to God, I think we need to be careful when choosing songs. Does this focus on me or Him. We need to focus on Him. The exception would be songs with choruses like “let’s forget about ourselves and magnify the Lord and worship Him” But we need to keep the focus on Him.
– Worshipfulness over skillfulness. There is a growing trend toward excellence in worship. Perhaps this is the result of more recorded worship music and the growth of contemporary christian music. But if the emphasis is on skill, and perfection, the organic and spiritual is taken away and worship becomes performance. The result is… “How could I worship the way that I sound?” “Our church does not have good worship because Matt Redman is not our leader.” Leaders need to be skilled, they need to be gifted, but more important to those things is that need to be worshippers of God first. Not worshippers of music. I read on a musicians website recently “music is life.” My answer to that is no, it is not. Jesus is life. We need to bring people to Jesus, not a performance. One of the ways that we can maintain this emphasis and keep the act of congregational worship from being a performance is to occasionally change things up, to make sure that younger, not-so-skilled guys get involved. This accomplishes two things. First, you train the church that it is not about performance, and second, you raise up the next generation of leaders.
– Shape the service like a journey. This part is more for the worship leader to be concerned about than the congregant. Think of it like a road trip. When we embark on a road trip, we begin with the excitement of departure. Begin with upbeat songs, clapping, enthusiasm, invite the people to participate. Next, settle in to the journey and enjoy the ride. See the sites. This part should be all about seeing Jesus in all His glory! Along the way the driver should pay attention to the road, the destination, and the fellow travelers. Make sure they are going with you. Worship, but lead. You cannot lead if no one is following. If the songs selection is too complicated for them to sing, you are either showing off, or they simply do not know the song. It’s my opinion that a good worship leader will not introduce more than one new song to a congregation during a set, otherwise you will never arrive at the desired destination with them. I like it when the finish is like the beginning, there should be a level of joy shaped by the journey, that the entire group experiences together. We have arrived, there he is, it’s Jesus! Also, keep in mind that worship is setting the table for the word. Not that worship is diminished in any way, but most often it is followed by teaching, and worship prepares hearts. typically at CCLS we have worship, the word, and end. Results of my recent poll indicate something that was already on my heart, -that it would be good to finish with a song or two. Something that a lot of churches already do. We will probably incorporate that soon.
– The devil distracts from Jesus’ glory, don’t help him. There are many things that distract people during congregational worship. Everything from a broken string, to lighting, to crying kids, can take away from what we seek to accomplish.
I think every church should have policies and practices to eliminate what they can that would distract. A lot of people like to stand during the entire worship set. That is neither wrong or right in my opinion. If you are of the opinion that it is wrong or right, you need to get out a bit. I have seen people worship in several countries from Russia to Nepal, these things are the result of culture and training. Whether we stand, sit, raise our hands, or fall on our knees (something we all need to do more of) those things will be determined by the leaders of the church depending upon doctrine and practice of the denomination or group. The main thing is to not distract from Jesus!
At CCLS, we don’t mind if people stand, but we would like them to stand in the rear as opposed to the front. If someone is standing in front of you and you are seated, you are blocking their view of the lyrics as well as being a focal point or distraction. This get really complicated with some folks and their “worship hip sway”… be expressive, but don’t distract. I can hear you say, “well, they should not be focused on me, but Jesus.” Great, to that I would say Amen. And, “consider others as more important than yourselves.” -gotcha!
The band or worship leader should not distract either. Guitar solos, drumming too loud for the room, monitor levels, volume (too loud or too quiet), complicated vocal inflections,… all might sound really good to the worship leaders,… but they again lend themselves to performance. In my opinion these things need to be strictly controlled or we will be worshipping the band before you know it.
Jim is a husband, and father of four, serving as a Pastor of Calvary Arlington in Arlington, WA. www.calvaryarlington.com Follow him on twitter as @jimjacobson, Instagram, or Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/jimjacobson64
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