To worship is to simply give something the highest honour we can. The object we worship takes up more space and time in our lives than anything else. It can influence our world view, our opinions and our reactions. It has the casting vote. It cannot be replaced with anything else, at least, not easily, because it simply has no equal. It may be an ideal, a philosophy, a football team, an eating regime, what your stylist says you should wear, your career…the options are endless. Most of us have the tendency to worship something or someone. When we’re young we may adore our parents, and if not we certainly find other people or other things to fill the void. It may be celebrities, or gurus, or self-made millionaires. Any live concert shows that the idea of worship is not exclusively religious.
A friend recently asked me what I thought about styles of worship in the Christian church these days. She found the contemporary soft-rock style favoured at the moment distracting, derivative and predictable. A poor impression of pop music. On the other hand, she felt that more traditional, classical church music was more appropriate for the job. I heard myself say that the style didn’t really matter too much, because worship was essentially an internal, private affair between the heart of the believer and God; the moment of worship in a church gathering is a weird combination of a corporate and intensely personal event. The corporate singing of a congregation joins the church on earth to heaven, where angels worship God directly. It is an expression of continuity with that realm. It is also uniquely personal, because worship cannot be performed on your behalf; it is the only thing a human being can give to God, her or his individual expression of love and adoration. It can’t be done by proxy because it is a matter of the heart. It would be like getting someone else to write a love letter for you which contains none of your own feelings, words or your reasons for loving that person.
Styles of music are irrelevant in my view; I can connect or disconnect in any setting with any genre of music and that can be as much about my own level of engagement with God as anything else. I think that debates about worship music are distractions. Worship has nothing to do with music. It’s about giving God honour. It’s about putting him first. For that I don’t need music. A book I read long ago by David Watson (called, strangely enough, Worship) came to the conclusion that worship was much, much wider than mere music and was actually about the entire orientation of one’s life towards God and his values.
Makes sense to me at least. One of my objects of worship, or to call it by its real name, idols, was the opinion of others. Not Looking A Fool. Yes, I dedicated many hours to that particular false god, and it is taking a while to unlearn all the postures necessary to prostrate myself before it. Now I am working on making room for What Will Please God. This means learning to value some things I didn’t before, and to discard others I once held in high regard. It’s challenging, to put it mildly. Like finishing this alphabet before year’s end. Like finishing it at all. Like this whole blog.