This post is by Courtney Cohen.
Growing up as a musician, embracing the common idea that worship equates with the musical portion of a weekend service wasn’t a difficult thing to do. After all, worship through musical expression is all over Scripture! Singing, playing instruments, and clapping hands flood the psalms with their invitations to worship God musically.
I was raised in a denomination which worships God through moderately conservative postures and tools: hymnals, choir robes, standing strong and tall, and singing every verse (except for the oft-rejected third verse, of course). Over the years I have been blessed to encounter varying styles of Christian worship from liturgical structures and Gregorian chants to waving flags and conga lines. And, now, our beloved church of the past thirteen years is quite expressive with raised hands, passionate singing, and a few kneeling down while others shed tears of joy. Striving to live as the unified Body of Christ, what can we make of it all when our preferences and styles vary so widely?
Let’s consider this first: What is worship anyway? At its foundation, what does it mean to worship? Worship is truly the giving of ourselves; the giving of something sacrificial. Worship goes so far beyond musical expression.
In my favorite book on worship, How to Worship a King by Pastor Zach Neese, Neese points to Exodus 19:5-6 and 1 Peter 2:5 to articulate our collective and individual callings as priests.
Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation… (Exodus 19:5-6a, ESV)
You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:5, ESV)
The priesthood isn’t simply intended to include selected people who stand as mediators for us. If you are a believer in and follower of Jesus Christ, you are a priest! Worship is intended to be our primary occupation. Neese states, “Priests are meant to worship God and to help other people worship God…Priests court the heart of God.”
Perhaps the greatest illustration I’ve heard expressing this role of worshiping priests is this: a priest takes the hand of God and the hand of the person who needs to connect with God and brings them together, then steps out of the way. It’s never about the priest; it is all about connecting with God and helping others do the same.
This can be done with or without music. Though music remains key in my worshipful expressions towards God, the greatest shift in my understanding of authentic worship came when music was stripped away for a season.
Connecting with God and helping others connect with Him can be done as we walk through our individual lives, living submitted to Him, living full of gratitude for His goodness in our lives, living fully trusting in His provision, living in ongoing awe of who He is and what He does. This is all encompassed within the topic of worship.
Let us move beyond considering how to worship God in a weekend service and consider how to worship God through our very lives. Through liturgical prayer or tearful kneeling, through thoughtful consideration of others’ needs or personal introspection of God’s nearness, through cooking dinner or helping kids with homework; through it all, may we lift our hearts fully up to the only One worthy of the totality of our worship.
Speaker and author of The Sacred Shadow, Courtney Cohen passionately helps people encounter the reality and nearness of God in everyday life. Courtney and her husband, Steve, co-founded and serve together at Now Found Ministries. Along with their three children, Courtney and Steve live in Texas. Stay in touch with Courtney at www.nowfound.org.
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