The Heart of Worship
Worship can seem like an elusive and confusing concept for many. Depending on what faith tradition you grew up in, worship during a gathering of believers might look very different. Special garments, traditions, songs, chants, and rituals are all involved in the various expressions of worship across the global Church. In the Pentecostal world, the movement to which our church and church network belong, we sometimes hear the words “experience”, “encounter”, and “presence” in a worship context. All of these practices and language can be confusing. My goal is to make worship simple.
Worship is Love
The most simple way to explain worship is this: Worship is loving God. When Jesus was asked, “which is the greatest commandment in the law?” He replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:36-38 ESV). In Koine Greek (the language of the New Testament) there are more words for “love” than we have in English. The word used in this passage in Greek is “ἀγαπάω”(Agapéõ) . In contrast to Greek concepts of brotherly love or erotic love, ἀγαπάω is the highest form of love: unconditional, selfless, persistent regardless of circumstance, principled, and rooted in promise and covenant. It is a love that is chosen before it is felt. God loves us that way: having chosen us on the cross. This love is His very nature, and is the kind of love God asks from us in return.
The Reasonable Response
In his letter to the churches in Rome, the Apostle Paul says this about worship: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your [rational, reasonable] worship” (Romans 12:1 ESV1). Paul is making his main argument of his letter in this verse, and giving us practical application for the deep theology presented in the first half of the book of Romans: We are fallen, God chose to give us a way out of the just consequence of our rebellion by beautiful grace through faith, therefore the reasonable response to the grace we’ve been shown is worship. The rational and reasonable response to a Love that chose you on the cross is choosing love in return.
Plain and Simple
A simple and biblical understanding of worship gives us freedom in worship. Worship isn’t robes, pews, and traditions. Worship isn’t a stage, lights, or music: worship is a life offered to the Lord in faith and love. While I’m passionate about congregational worship and singing songs to the Lord together, I’m much more concerned with people choosing to honor God in their everyday lives. Worship is the way I eat, the online content I choose to consume, the way I treat my wife, the things I choose to spend my money on, my priorities, my focus, how I deal with my own ambition and pride, how I honor God and people with my words, how I manage my time, my attitude: I have the opportunity to worship with every thought I have and decision I make! As a worshiper, my goal everyday is to love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, and mind. This is the heart of worship.