Have you noticed the subtle change in MTN’s advertising? Its usual slogan is “MTN Everywhere You Go,” but now it is “MTN Everywhere You Stay”. That tiny coronavirus changes everything!
For those who have reduced “worship” to mean merely “singing in church”, the current national lockdown forces us to recover the wider and deeper meaning of worship as it is portrayed in Scripture.
In church, we are often told to “stand and worship” as a prelude to singing a sequence of songs. But Genesis 24: 26, 48 tell how Abraham’s servant bowed down to worship and praise the Lord. And Exodus 4:31 says “they bowed down and worshipped”. In the Bible, “bowing” was not the polite Japanese bow, but was more like the Muslim practice of prostrating oneself on the ground. The Three Wise Men didn’t know or sing any songs when they found the new king in Bethlehem, but they did know to “bow down and worship Him” (Matthew 2:11). It demonstrates “the humble acknowledgement of God’s authority with a reverent prostrate position” (Matthew 28:9, Revelation 5:14, Baker Bible Dictionary, pg 1731). Of course, it is the humble attitude of our hearts that really counts – and that can be real, whether one is standing, sitting or prostrate.
Contrast this with some of the “worship singing” we see on TV. I watched as the worshippers sang well, but their actions and body language demonstrated self-conscious showing off before the cameras. They sang worship songs, but did not worship the One they sang about. After watching one such performance, I was not surprised to see the credits reflect it as an “entertainment” channel.
Worship can be expressed in song and/or in prayer. What follows applies to the usual gathering of people for a public church service, as well as to a virtual service streamed to people isolated in their homes during lockdown.
True worship is supremely God-conscious. Whatever the venue or body posture, the true worshipper worships the Father “in spirit and in truth” — John 4:24. That is why worship can take place anywhere, whether in a sanctuary or a home. God is constantly on the lookout for such worship, for such worshippers – lockdown or no lockdown.
There are many songs that clearly express our thanksgiving, praise and worship. Other songs confess our sins to God, and yet others are sung prayers of intercession for others, for the church and for the nation. All these are “vertical” and rightly fall under the general category of “worship songs” – songs directed from our humble hearts to God’s sovereign heart.
Spoken prayers also include heartfelt worship. Beware of the tendency to rush into God’s presence with our current shopping list of requests (“Father, we want to bring our needs to you …1…2…3…4″). Whether our prayers are private or public, they should all begin with a recognition of the “worth” of our God into whose holy and loving presence we come. Such prayers will be prayers of true “worthship”. As we describe God and His attributes, and as we praise Him for Who He intrinsically is, so we align our minds and hearts with His mind and heart. We become more God-conscious. He is bigger than we are. His will becomes more important than our will.
God is rich in the mysterious multiplicity of His Being: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We may freely give glory to the Father and to the Son. But remember that when we give glory to the Holy Spirit, he quickly shunts the glory to Jesus! (John 16:14 teaches that the Spirit’s role-description is to “glorify Jesus”.)
When praying to one of the Persons in the Trinity, try to avoid a common trap of mixing up the pronouns “You” and “He”. Worship must be intelligent, as Jesus said when He spoke of worship in “truth”.
When compiling a song list for a service, be conscious of the lyrics of each song. Some so-called “worship songs” lack intelligent meaning when you think about the lyrics. Avoid those, for they are not worthy of the all-wise God we worship.
But not all songs are “worship” songs. God intends many of our songs to “teach and admonish” people, to educate them and correct them (Colossians 3:16). The song leader should be aware of these and consciously select them to fit into an appropriate place in the church service, whether it is a streamed or live event. Just as the leader will say, “Let us worship God in this song …”, he/she should also be free to say, “let this song teach us about …” or “let’s sing a song that will correct us and direct us on how to behave as Christians …”
As we all get used to “stay-at-home-worship”, let us use this opportunity to pay more meditative attention to worshipping in spirit and in truth. Our God is worthy of our loving, adoring, intelligent, humble “worthship”!