What is Worship? Part II
Are you being impacted by Christ or just your ideas of praise and worship?
"I will praise you, O LORD, with all my heart; before the gods I will sing your praise. I will bow down toward your holy temple and will praise your name for your love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word. When I called, you answered me; you made me bold and stouthearted. May all the kings of the earth praise you, O LORD, when they hear the words of your mouth." Psalm 138:1-4
The word "impact" classically means something that has been "fixed or packed in," and colloquially as "a power of making a strong, immediate impression." For us, His impact means He has "fixed" us and "packed" Himself in us. He has not just left His impression or influence, rather His impact is wedged in us so He is more and we are less; thus, we are solely influenced and impressed by His power and work.
Impacting worship simply means that God is impacting you and you are letting Him know so, so He can continue to impact you and others around you. We are an offering to Him, an acknowledgment of His sovereignty and Lordship over our personal lives and over us as a church. It is experiencing His greatness come upon us and our response of praise that enables us to see Him for who He is and what He has done. In so doing, we can come to a place in our faith journey where we can increase our faith by the increase of our understanding of Him and the exercise of our ability and diligence to glorify Him.
Impacting worship is a relationship with God, a covenant with Him that stresses what and who He is and our response to Him. This is to have a most significant bearing upon every aspect of our lives, in that we are impressed by His work as He leads our church and us in synergy as we impact one another. The key to this is ever so simple, yet so hard for us to do. We must let God be God and His presence be connecting and influencing us so we are changed and renewed. This means we acknowledge His Lordship over our lives personally by the surrender of our will, and collectively as a church by focusing on His preeminence and sufficiency. This comes down to realizing He chose us; so, why should we not choose to know Him more and serve Him and His children (Psalm 24:4; John 3:30; Rom. 12; Gal. 2:20-21; Phil 3; Col. 3:17)?
Being Impacted by Christ
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God玆this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is玆his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:1-2
We are called to be a living sacrifice, which means we are to be living in Christ, growing, and performing as agents of His. In worship, we are being impacted by what Christ has done for us and then letting Him know about it. The ancient Jews praised God as a continual lifestyle of worship. As this practice continues, it also refers to the fact that we belong solely to God, not to ourselves or anyone or anything else (Rom. ; -17; ; John -15; 37-38; 1 John ), because His shed blood paid for us! We make our commitment to His election and truly dedicate our right to ourselves over to Christ. The bottom line is that we give Him our all. We live for Him. Consider that it is easy to die for a cause, but are we willing to live for one, to live for Him? It would mean living for Him as a tool, a life that is in perfect obedience we are poured out to Him and Him alone. So, is your strength gone over to Him? Do you trust and rely on Him? Do we acknowledge His holiness by our reverence and obedience (Psalm 96:9; 103)?
Overwhelmed? Do not fret; we are not alone in this essential matter. As Christians, the Spirit transforms us completely, including all we are, all that we are to be and do, our will, our plans and our opportunities are all His玆and He even gives us the ability to do this (2 Cor. 3:18). However, we cannot do it unless we give up our selfish will to His (John 3:30; Gal. 2:20-21; Phil. 3:1-14)! The incentive for our surrender to Christ is that His Way is better than ours. His plans are better than ours. He gave us a gift we cannot fathom, the gift of grace and eternal life, so why would we not seek to please our Living, Loving Lord by offering our worship to Him (Isaiah 1:12-13; 29:13; Jer. 6:19-20; Amos 5:21-23)?
Impacting worship is about how and how much we are offering up to God, giving back to Him what He has so graciously given us. This is the essence of how we are to manage our lives as Christians. This is how we must live. His Gospel is the transforming and converting power of His work in us. He transforms our fallen sinful nature into being acceptable and pleasing to God. This has outcomes and effects on all of us; it is the sum total of all of our attitudes, mindsets, and even personalities. His impact upon us will "affect" (influence) us to have "effects" (results); His work will achieve noticeable, positive results upon our social relationships by virtue of the dynamics of His love upon us, overflowing to those around us. His love is the fulfillment of the law in us, and working out all of our being. The Gospel is the transformation of our entirety, including our relationships, first with Him, then with ourselves, and then with others. Our Worship reflects this. It is our Christianity becoming an offering in love and service to others, in gratitude for what Christ has done in us. This impact is leading us to create the response in why we worship Him. No Christian, no matter what the education and/or job title is, can grow, mature, and lead purpose driven lives if we do not have a correct and reverent view of God (Eph. 1:3-14; Heb. 11:6; 1 John 1:7).
Impacting worship comes from the application of our faith in Christ. From our willingness to take His Gospel to a humble heart and a seeking mind, so we make and take our spiritual formation seriously. Impacting worship is how I decide how I shall live in my faith, from doctrine to duty. We are never to separate theology from practice because who our Lord is and what He has done is theology! Theology is the "who" and "why" that translates into the "do" and "be" of life. The question is, will we be dedicated to our Lord, or to ourselves? Remember that the Bible never separates the doctrine from our duty, or faith from our practice of life. When we are living sacrifices, we are being affected to be effective. Impacting worship is real and a practical aspect of the Gospel being used and displayed in us. We have been saved, not because of any effort or reason on our part except the faith that points to God's glory. So, what do we do with it now? How do we tell Him so? How we live to others and ourselves enables us to take it to our church and to the streets of our lives (1 Cor. ).
The problem is that most Christians respond to His impact with a "rear end" firmly planted in a pew that goes nowhere in service or glory to Christ. They hold on to a will that will not allow conviction or change to their routine or life. Their doctrines do not translate to duty or to life. Thus, church is just a club for comfort and not a "huddle" to strategize and put forward how to play the game of the Christian life after receiving orders from our Coach. Worship, then, is not "real," or, it is all about what we expect and want, unwilling to give what God wants. Impacting worship will see a change from the emphasis of "anthropocentric," which is serving ourselves by how we worship God, to the emphasis of "Christocentric" worship, which is really worshiping God by placing Him first and foremost. This will help us go from our personal quest for prominence and position to seeking His glory and preeminence (Psalm 115:1; Isa. 42:8). Thus, impacting worship also sees the supremacy and sufficiency of Jesus Christ as our Lord. There will be an application that creates change as we go from being prideful, hardened, and judgmental to being poured out to Him and exercising the Fruits to others (1 Cor. 13; Gal. 5:19-22; 2 Pet 1: 5-11).
We need to know that Christ calls us to change our minds like we change the oil in the car. This is what Romans 12 is about¾to be a "devotee" to Christ. In other words, we are to be changed persons so we can be authentic, impacting worshipers so we can be change agents to others. Being a living sacrifice is a key aspect of our growth and maturity in the faith. The purpose of knowing God's principles and the study of His Word is not just the knowledge we gain (which is very important), but our supreme goal is what we do with that knowledge. His work in us is to be applied, not just studied¾or ignored. Our devotion to Christ must be rooted in our minds, then allow the doctrine to translate it to our feet and the rest of our bodies in between. Our impacting worship will influence the body, both our individual human body as well as a body of believers in relation to all those around us. It is our duty.
We have to realize that pleasing ourselves (as so many of us pursue) is not the goal of the Christian life either. Rather, we are to follow Christ and be imitators of His character, letting it transform our character. We are to do this through love and the acceptance of others as Christ did with us, even though we did not deserve it.
God, of course, does not need our permission or will to impact us; He does this by His election. But, our continued commitment and worship of Him requires our extended efforts that He rarely overwrites. Being a living sacrifice is something we do; it is our share in our covenant with Him. He help us, but we must put in effort, and not just wait for Him or His overwrite. He overwrites our will for our conversion, then He seeds us with faith and opportunities; it is up to us to grow in and with it. So, we need to take His impact and grow it further so we are worshiping Him.
The problem with many of my associates in ministry is that they think Christ impacting is just emotional or something we do not need to work on. They see impacting worship as how piercing the music is and measure the quality of our services by technical standards. Worship becomes the procedural of the staff so it is pleasing to the congregation, and thus we ignore its prime purpose. Worship becomes about how it feels, how it is bearing to our members emotions and outlooks, not about how we are impacted by Christ so we are changing and thus praising Christ for what He has done in us. Real impacting worship will help us connect to God, then to one another, and then to the community. When we are not impacted, we are not worshiping rightly, and thus our connections with God and others will be skewed and messed up.
The Key to Worship is not Preference or Style
The key to worship is not how or where we do it, as long as we come as humble, contrite people poured out before His Majesty. Impacting worship is our aptitude and attitude from what He gives that seeks His glory as the reason for our worship. It is not about methodologies or liturgies or ritual or the substances of worship. It is honoring The Substance, Christ as our Lord, personally, collectively, and passionately in truth. Worship is to be lived out in our lives, attitudes, and relationships. For our worship to be impacting, Christ must be impacting us. The key is, He already is impacting you if you are a real, authentic Christian, one whose faith is in Christ. Thus, we must bend our will to allow His impact to reach us more deeply and more fervently, especially as we "run" our churches. He is to be our top priority, not how the choir is arranged or what song or hymn is our favorite. Christ can be glorified and worshiped in a dusty basement or in a magnificent cathedral, and He can be blasphemed in these same places. It is our capacity for and attitude toward worship that shows our true worship, and that also points others to Him.
Remember that the essential element in worship is that all who proclaim God as Lord must also be devoted to Him. Worship is the attitude of our hearts in fellowship with Him, and is the result of our gratefulness for who our Lord Jesus Christ is, what He has done for you and me, and our commitment to express these essential qualities with an attitude of gratitude in both our daily lives and our church services. True worship is allowing His Spirit to penetrate us so we are meeting with Him, our heart pouring out to His (Gen. 12:8; Rom. -27; Phil. 2:5).
The key to impacting worship is not about style or preference. It is not to be rushed or coerced. It is not reciting empty platitudes, nor is it manipulating or a chore. What I mean by impacting is not style; it is our involvement in and with The Substance behind it. It is the passion and power from the Spirit that moves people from the desire to please themselves toward a desire to please God and praise Him. It is living a holy lifestyle to and for Him. It is giving God the best of what we have because He has given us the best that He has. It is the moving of our preferences of seeking what we want and what is exciting to us to being excited for who Christ is. What does this mean in a church service? You can fully engage in the pipe organ, have a full 100-piece orchestra, have a guitar and keyboard, or have no music at all. The style and instruments are not the key; it is the heart, approach, and passion behind it. The people, you and me, worshiping Christ must see it as a glorious duty by gratitude. The worship leaders must be there for our Lord and for no other reason. Impacting worship is not about preference or pretence; rather, it is seeking His presence. People must be willing and able to be play to the Lord, not to please an audience. Worship that impacts is an offering by praising Christ collectively for what He has done in us all.
There are, of course, many different styles of worship in music and arrangement. There are as many ways to engage in church-centered worship as one can count. Each denomination has its own distinctions and each church its own variations. There are also new contemporary ways that keep coming out. Some of the ways are more popular than others. For example, more and more people are becoming attracted to a contemporary praise band, replacing the organ. But that does not mean the organ is bad, or that we should stop using it. Nor does it mean that doing whatever the current trends are is the right thing to do. What it does mean is that we need to look at starting and providing a service that is primarily focused on pleasing and worshiping God, and secondary to be focused on attracting people.
The main focus is to be our love and passion for Christ as our Lord, and what He has done for us fervently being made known. We are to pour out our hearts and minds with gratitude and adoration. The object of the worship experience is our Lord. And, I cannot make this point any clearer: the object is not arrangements, talent, or personalities. The object is not is the style or the people who are singing and playing the instruments. We are not putting on a performance just to entertain others; we are performing for our Lord. The worship experience must never be just a show. Yes, we are to perform our best for His glory, but not by the sacrifice of the main thing!
Worship is not just music. It is a tool that we use to express our love and devotion to Him. Worship also consists of reading Scripture, prayer, preaching and even the sacraments. If you leave out prayer, you are leaving out a vital component. If you are not using Scripture and only sing songs, you are not worshipping God with the best that He has given you. It would be like making a sandwich with cheese and mayonnaise and leaving out the bread and meat. Music is one component and tool that we can use to express our love for Him. Music is very important as it has the power to move us emotionally that the other components may not do. We are created as emotional beings. Expressing our emotions in worship is important, as long as we do it with order and out of gratitude (1 Cor. 14). Worship is about what God has done for us; it is not about putting on a show.
Remember, it is not about style. I'm always running into young people who like various things such as the gothic and liturgical style as well as the contemporary. At first a desire for what is traditional amazed me, as I did not like that stuff when I was young. So you need to find your church's personality and distinction and express yourself accordingly. Find out what your people want. What are their needs? What style are you able to do? And, also make sure you educate them on the principle reasons of why we worship. Most Christians just do not know and that is why we have so many aberrant ways of doing it. You may need to have two distinct services to appeal to more people as long as the primary focus is maintained.
Traditionally there are five main "styles" into which most of today's and yesterday's worship formats fit.
There is the "Traditional" that incorporates more classical music such as hymns, choir or Psalter (signing of Psalms), and a formal order in which each service follows. There are certain prayers, liturgies, and parts of the service that are repetitious each week. These services have an organ and piano and rarely would have any more modern instruments. They are rooted in Scripture, tradition, and usually follow denominational and theological guidelines.
The 'Liturgical' style is seemingly even more rigid. It incorporates formal hymns and readings from a prayer book or missal. Robes, incense, and perhaps "alter boys" all contribute to the service. These first two styles have a distinction of a sense of majesty and honor to God, a sense of holiness that provides the worshipping congregation with the impression that they are in the presence of God, as worship is meant to do. One of the reasons some people do not like this form is that it also creates a sense of over-separation between God and the people. They feel they are not a part of it; the distance is too vast for them to comprehend and worship with a cheerful heart. This is the perspective from various people's feelings and experiences. However, the traditional service can be just as impacting as a contemporary-orientated one if the heart and passion are there¾perhaps even more so.
The Praise and Worship style has less formality and more of a free flowing, upbeat atmosphere. Newer forms of music, arrangements, and instruments provide the tone. They may incorporate some of the same aspects as a traditional service but be more personal. A sense of closeness is given to the congregation. Thus, people tend to think this form of worship is more pleasing to God because they feel better in it. In actuality however, this form, though it has great merit to it, may miss many key, essential elements of what God requires (to be discussed in Part Three, coming in the Fall). Multi-media may be used, such as PowerPoint instead of hymnals. The congregation does most of the singing instead of a choir; there may be a few praise/song leaders.
One of the newer formats is called the Seeker-Sensitive service. Its distinction is even more of a casual atmosphere than the praise style. Some churches may have only a few songs with the addition of drama. The choice of songs tends to be secular to create familiarity with the new churchgoer, and then gradually flows into more Christian music. It is viewed as a cushion that prepares people who are far, far from Him to worship God. These people may never have even set foot in a church, and the seeker service is more conducive in getting them ready so they are not culturally shocked away from the church. However, the ongoing research we have been doing at Into Thy Word Ministries has not found any credible credence to this theory; rather, people are attracted to a church, not by its style or song choice, but by the people who are there. It is about being hospitable, treating others with respect in love, being authentic, and quality, and uncompromising Bible teaching. When the Bible is watered down, more people may be attracted, but disciples are not made, nor is authentic faith built that Christ called us to. Even with the best teaching and worship, if you ignore people, treat them as second class citizens, or are judgmental, you will soon be in a pew all by yourself (Matt. 28:18-20).
Sometimes in the Seeker-Sensitive service, the congregation does not sing at all, and a performance style or "concert" feel takes that place as if they were at a play or in a theater. This is also done to attract the un-churched who might feel more comfortable in a less formal setting. When this style is properly designed (by not compromising the Word), it gradually generates trust with new people and then filters them into small groups or other services or adult classes with more "meat." One of the drawbacks to this style is seemingly a loss of holiness and awe that the more traditional forms yield.
The last category is a "Blended" style that incorporates two or more of the previous styles. This form is becoming more popular as smaller churches are sometimes unable to have more than one service, so they create a combination service to accommodate more needs in their congregation. These services tend to be more spontaneous, with a hymn and then a praise chorus accompanied by an organ and a guitar. This can be a phenomenally great way to worship God (as my church does a great job at doing), or it can be a mess.
A lot of these styles will overlap and vary between denominations and churches. I'm not saying one is better than another. Some styles are better suited to a particular congregation at a particular time. Some people feel closer to God in a liturgical setting, and others prefer the closeness they receive from a contemporary service. You are dealing with feelings and perceptions based on experiences and what people feel comfortable with in their views and understandings together with what they think worship is about (again, this is why it is very important that you and your congregation know what God seeks in worship.) Ultimately, people will come, grow, and worship when the main purpose of pouring self out to God is the central theme and not just accommodating a style or putting on a performance.
Find your niche, do it with love and passion, and be uncompromising in His precepts. I once did a church plant with a top Church Growth "guru." We had the finest musicians, a band from a famous music group. Yet, the church down the street with amateur keyboards and a guitar attracted more people because their hearts were in the right place; ours was not. We were putting on a performance; they were praising God. What is your church doing? Are you praising the Holy God of the universe? Are you expressing your love to Christ? This is what impacting worship is all about.
Impacting Worship is a Responsibility
As church leaders, we are called to inspire people to worship Christ as Lord. We are to show our people that God is real in our lives, and that He has a tangible effect upon us so they will have a model and an inspiration to follow. This is what it means to lead, to show the way-His Way-by living it and venturing there first. We must have encountered God first and foremost before we can ask others to do the same. The impact of Christ in our lives cannot be pretended or manipulated, nor can it be an obligation or a show. Impacting worship must be in and from us first. It must be real, and we must first be surrendered to Christ as "Lord" and not "lord" before we expect it to come upon those we lead. We are to show and demonstrate to those who think this is too hard or scary that this impact is a real joy; it is a pleasure to grow in Christ. We are to show we are not limited; we are liberated in Him, and He is our joyfulness and our Lord. Our success as a church is not who or how many come; it is determined by what we do with those who do come. Leading others to encounter Christ and experience His presence in a deeper, more impacting way is paramount. Motivating them into His Way and being living sacrifices is what a church and its worship are designed for (Rom. -36; 2 Thess. -14; Rev. 5:12).
The result for us is that our worship must not be childish mutterings. We must realize the supremacy and nature of our Lord and direct our worship to the One we honor. So, the individual Christian and the church should be in committed prayer and practicing authentic impacting worship. Our call is to have our personal and collective worship go way beyond blind repetitions and trivial offerings or faulty desires, so we are led by the Spirit into the mysteries and prevalence of our Lord, which will grow the church closer and tighter to Christ and it will be more open and caring to those around us. This we do with boldness and confidence, and without any selfish ambitions. Coming before our Lord this way was a privilege to the ancient Jewish high priest. It was done by one person, once a year only, and now is available to any believer who walks the way of our Lord (Psalm 50:21; 1 Cor. 2:13-16).
Impacting worship helps us to manifest forgiveness to each other, which translates into our accountability to God and our mutual accountability to one another. Therefore, we acknowledge and hold each other to our promises and to our relationships. We need not go to a Priest, but to God directly, Whom we can trust with our authentic confession; our profession and repentance is our claim of our righteousness, who we are in Christ.
The person who engages in impacting worship is the Christian who is surrendered to the Lordship of Christ and has a full understanding of prayer. This person practices prayer so that it affects them and then impacts the lives of others because of his or her worship, devotion, and prayer. These specific acts of worship and prayer are crucial for the church to be its best for God's glory. We are to be our best to carry out the true purpose of the church rather than warming the pews with our rears and then ignoring our neighborhoods and call! Christ needs us to be on fire with passion and conviction that flows from our personal growth and the Spirit using our worship, learning, prayer, and study life. Then, our churches will be filled with Christ's children worshipping and caring for one another, the community, and the world. Christ does not need gossipmongers and hypocrites who feel their self-righteousness is exempt from His call. Christ wants you and me to be in Him; so, let's go out and prepare ourselves to be better servants for His people!
Getting our Church to "Get It!"
First of all, the purpose of these articles is to show you from God's percepts what worship is, so you can know and then teach your people to know too. You can also start to educate your church about true worship by stopping for a couple of weeks what you normally do and just meet with God in simplicity. Stop the PowerPoint, stop the organ, stop the praise band, stop the symphony and just come together simply in prayer, then sing some hymns or praise songs without compliment of instruments or just with a guitar or piano. After the first song, stop for a short explanation of what worship is, and experience His presence, practice His presence, and savor His presence and His goodness. Then pray, and resume the service. Do this a few times a year as a reminder that worship is not about the services and song, it is about our hearts pouring out to His! Then, come together with your leadership and pray! Commit to structure your worship for God, to please and glorify Him rather than doing what you or others want (Psalm -23; 138:2; John 4:23-24; Acts 2:42; Phil. 2:10-11; 3:3).
Impacting worship knows that our primary purpose, as our confessions state, is "to glorify God and worship Him forever." That means we are transformed by God's grace for His glory (Job 40:6-41:34; Psalm 29:1-2; Jer. -24). You may know this, but do the people in your church? Do they know that Jesus extends His hand of grace to us, who do not deserve it? Do they realize His sacrificial death by being crucified, and His resurrection? Do they realize He intercedes for us and pays our debt of sin before the Father? Do they realize we receive His grace apart from any merit or worth on our part? Do they realize what a privilege we have been given in that closeness to Him that the Prophets of old so passionately desired? Do they know that we should feel gratitude for what Christ has done and praise Him accordingly? Do they know we are to come to Him in humbleness and surrender to His Supremacy and wonder? This is what we celebrate when we come to worship at church (Matt. 4:17, 7:13-27, 9:13, 16:24-26; Luke 14:26-33; John 1:12-13; Acts 20:27; Rom. 3-5, 10:9-10; 1 Cor. 2:2, 9:16; 2 Cor. 4:5, 7:10; Gal. 1:6-8; Eph. 2:8-9; Heb. 2:9-18; 1 John 2:22-23, 4:1-4, 5:1-3)!
Real, heartfelt, God-exalting adoration must be the focus of the worship service. It must never lift up the leaders or be a performance for entertainment. It is God who is the audience and we are the people who are to praise and glorify Him! We are still to make our services friendly and innovative, as there is nothing wrong with being creative¾even using drama and contemporary themes¾as long as the service glorifies Christ and is not just a medium meant to entertain the people. Remember, the congregation is the performer, the worship team is the leader, and God is the audience! Don't mix these up! Many of my colleagues get this skewed as they look to business paradigms and trends for church growth principles and negate God's percepts (Isa. 29:13; Matt. 15:7-9; Gal. 10: 1-10; 1 Thess. 2:4). You need to focus on Him, not what others have to say. The focal point¾the reason for discipleship and maturity¾is to lift up Christ and not be afraid to offend those who do not "get it." All that we do in the church--from faith, fellowship, and outreach to facilities--come to this point and reason: TO WORSHIP CHRIST (Psalm 138:1-4)!
Richard Joseph Krejcir is the Founder and Director of Into Thy Word Ministries, a missions and discipling ministry. He is the author of several books including Into Thy Word, A Field Guide to Healthy Relationships and Net-Work. He is also a pastor, teacher, and speaker. He is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary in
© Richard .J. Krejcir Ph.D. 2006 Into Thy Word Ministries www.intothyword.org