If you’ve been a Christian for any amount of time, you’re used to the many opinions flooding the church sanctuary. Especially those about worship.
Whether it’s the style, song choice, or people’s behavior — we all have an opinion on what worship looks like.
I’m not here to say that those are wrong. You should worship God in your own, individual way. He created you uniquely with the capacity to choose how you express worship.
Some might prefer to dance or sing loudly during worship. Others enjoy a quiet, meditative service. Some people like more order and structure, while others thrive in a free-flowing worship environment. Each style communicates a different aspect of the body of Christ.
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The problem starts when your preference becomes a rule for everyone to follow.
It’s so easy to do this. Here’s why.
As you grow in your relationship with God, you begin to figure out how you want to worship him. You may gravitate towards certain worship styles and songs. You might choose to incorporate physical acts like kneeling or lifting your hands. Or maybe you prefer to listen and meditate.
Those stylistic choices soon become your tradition — which is human and normal. But if you’re not careful, tradition can turn into an internal manual for how to worship God.
And this isn’t true worship.
In fact, true worship looks a lot different than what you may think.
“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” (John 4:23-24, NIV)
If your internal manual doesn’t resemble John’s words in these verses — it’s time to take a look at your definition of worship.
What is worship?
Worship begins with the revelation of who God is. This is the foundation of all truth. And to understand who he is, you have to read the book he inspired — The Bible.
The writers of each book in the Bible reveal who God is, what he’s done for us all, and how we are to respond to him. It’s all about Him and less about us. Worship follows the same logic.
Worship is about our response to Him and less about us.
We should celebrate all forms of worship.
Scripture gives us many different ways to worship God. In the book of Acts, Paul and his traveling companions worshiped through prayer and fasting (Acts 13:3, NIV). Joyful noise is used as an expression in Psalm 98:4. Singing, bowing, dancing, lifting hands, and silence are all forms of worship as well. (Psalm 47:6; 95:6; 149:3; 63:4; 63:6)
And worship doesn’t only happen within the four walls of the church.
A crucial aspect of worship is obedience to God.
God has always asked for obedience from his people (Isa 1:19; 1 Pet 1:14; 2 Cor 2:9). And if you have a true understanding of who God is and what he’s done for you, obedience should be your natural response.
There are many other forms of worship shown throughout Scripture, but it’s important to remember that we don’t get to dictate what worship looks like.
It’s easy to think that the loudest singers are worshiping more than those in quiet reflection. It’s also easy to think God must be moving more for in the lives of those who express more in worship. But be careful not to fall into this trap.
God is everywhere and moves how he pleases.
God decides what is worship and what isn’t. Practically, this means you should tear up that internal worship rule book.
If you don’t, your worship-style may end up putting God in a box. And putting God in a box means you’re dictating what he can and can’t do. Not only is this an elitist way of thinking, but it isn’t biblical.
We should be people that celebrate true worship in all forms.
Try exploring a new form of worship.
We all have our preferred styles of worship and is a great thing! Your worship should resemble the way he’s created you (Gen 1:26). So, it’s important you don’t stop doing this.
I want to encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and try a new form of worship. I’m a firm believer that different aspects of God’s character are revealed when we worship him in new ways.
Dancers — try sitting in silence and meditating. Singers — try a more liturgical style. Readers and intellectuals — try dancing and singing. Whatever you’re comfortable doing, try doing the opposite.
If you’re a person who already worships in various ways, attend a church service at a different denomination than yours. Push through any assumptions you may have made in the past. And try to observe how God is moving through their form of worship.
You’ll be surprised at what God shows you in the process.
Throw away the box and let God show you who he is!
God has so much to show you. Open yourself up to see how he’s moving in the people around you.