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Put a group of Christians from various age groups and backgrounds and I guarantee that one subject that will quickly emerge will be WORSHIP.  And that may be the beginning (or the end!) of fellowship among those people.

In fact, that was the case just recently when a number of Christians found themselves unexpectedly linked together for a week as part of a holiday group. As their Christian "identity" began to emerge during the first day or so, talk of their respective churches also surfaced.  Predictably, their various personal preferences when it comes to worship style, volume, repetition etc. were quickly placed on the table.

DEFINING OUR TERMS

I deliberately use the term "music worship” because worship involves much more than music. We all pretty much agree with that distinction but we still persist in using the word “worship" to refer to the musical dimension of our faith. When I write about worship in this series of articles I will be referring primarily to music worship even though I affirm that worship goes way beyond music, musical instruments, lyrics, singers etc.

Maybe that distinction is a good place to start. What do I mean when I talk about worship in its wider application?  I believe the following:

Worship is the total response of our whole being to the revelation of God

Let me dismantle that definition so that my thinking on this subject might be a little clearer. I want to return to each of these dimensions as this series of articles unfolds but for now let me identify the various aspects and reserve the time to further explain them in due course.

Worship is……

a. "....the total response..."   

There is no aspect of our lives that can be excluded when we are talking about worship. Every response to life's opportunities, events, circumstances etc. is meant to be an expression or offering of worship.  Somewhere in my Methodist upbringing I recall the words of a beautiful hymn in which the last verse said,

                              So shall no part of day or night from sacredness be free

                              But my whole life, in every part, be fellowship with Thee

b. "..our whole being..."

We are called to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength (Mark 12/29-31). Worship is the same (even if it is possible to draw a distinction between worship and love). It's obvious that worship can be expressed through our body, through our thought life, through our emotions and through our spirit.

c. ".....to the revelation of God".

I believe that true worship is never an initiative that we take but it is a response that we make.

“……never an initiative that we take…..

“……..it is a response that we make…..”

Wherever humankind has taken an initiative and tried to reach out to God the result has invariably been the creation of false religions.

Only as God takes the initiative and reveals Himself can we respond in worship that is consistent with that revelation. God's self-revelation is indispensable. To try and worship God without that revelation will inevitably result in an aberration of true worship. 

  So they have no excuse for not knowing God.  Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused.  Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools.  And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles. (Romans 1:18-23 (NLT)

 We are not great "lovers" when it comes to our relationship with God. We western Christians are usually cerebral and ordered when it comes to how we express worship. "Passionate" is not a word that we would normally use in this regard. So, what are the factors that have been at work in our lives to shape and direct the way we experience and express worship? Maybe it's time to identify those factors.

1. Individual Upbringing.    +The past is a great shaper of perception. Our view of reality is rarely (if ever) unaffected by the way we have been moulded by family emphases, peer groups, adoption of social standards etc. Without realising it, these values have been transmitted to us and have lodged in the deepest part of our being.

2. Biblical Understanding   This is most likely the product of the church tradition in which we were raised. We adopt these standards because, having been raised in that tradition, they must be right! To question those traditions can be seen as some kind of betrayal.

3. Cultural Ethos    This is to say that our Cultural Ethos exerts a powerful influence. If we live in a culture that is unashamed to show emotion, then we might reasonably expect that this will be true in every area of life - including  worship. Some cultures are very expressive emotionally while others are more the "stiff upper lip" style.

4. Personal Preference    Differences in nature, temperament and personality should be recognized and accommodated. Variety needs to be handled with care. When it comes to one's taste in music, the range of personal preferences is enormous. Any movement away from what has been the accepted tradition within that group can be quite threatening. However the goal is not to eliminate differences but to harmonize them.

Question:   Can you recall the kind of worship style in the church where you were raised? Could you share with the group how that has influenced and shaped your style of worship to this day?

 

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