It’s unfortunate really! When Christians gather, the assumption is often
“we are singing, therefore we are worshiping.”
This idea is reinforced as we refer to the worship team, worship CD’s and “thank-you Jo and team for that wonderful time of worship.”
Those realizing the confusion in these statements, counter with the common phrase, “worship is more than singing songs” and then perhaps take a huge leap into “it’s everything we do.”
In the Bible, worship is hardly ever connected with singing. That’s difficult for us to understand because we’re so ingrained with “worship equals singing”. The Bible is full of references to music, but mostly it refers to singing praise or thanksgiving. These two words are often ignored in the multitudes of sermons, teaching and writing on Christian music and song.
We’ve made a theology of worship by bundling thanks, praise, and exhortation, in fact, anything sung, into this one word meaning “all of the above.”
The Bible doesn’t do this! It uses separate words for a reason – there’s prayer songs, praise songs, lamenting songs, encouragement songs and combinations of these, all through the Bible. There’s even worship songs!
Now I think it’s probably OK to call our singing time worship, it’s become a standard, but there is a huge downside. By doing this, we destroy any notion of what the Bible describes as worship.
If we continue to assume worship is singing, we have, maybe without even thinking about it, defined worship by it’s format rather than by it’s message. Jesus stresses in John 4 that God is not as interested in the format, as he is the message delivered from our hearts.
Perhaps one of the reasons the worship wars exist, is that we’ve defined worship by the way we do things, not by what we are communicating. Therefore we assume worship is singing (a method), rather than worship as a special, focussed expression of submission, loyalty, awe, honor, respect or loving devotion (a message) to God.
There are many things we can say to God as we sing. Do a study of the Psalms’ lyrics and see how many types of communication there are. Things like encouragement (or exhortation), thanks (remembering what God has done), praise (saying what God is like), lament (pouring our hearts out to God), just to name a few.
If we understand the content or message of the songs we sing, we are better able to be real and genuine as we offer these words to God. Words are powerful, but they lose their power if we are unaware of what we’re saying.
Let’s dig out the truth in our songs, so we can wholeheartedly connect our mouth to our head and heart. God is pleased and blessed when we mean what we sing (heart), understand what we sing (mind) and then open our mouths and express it (voice).
Worship is just one of the messages we can sing. There’s so much more. Look at the content of the songs you sing and see if you can understand whether it’s exhortation, praise, thanks, prayer or combinations. When your heart connects with the truth in those lyrics, your singing becomes a powerful weapon in the fight against the lies that separate us from God.
If we feel we’re being unjustly treated, rather than being mad with God and blaming him, we can declare with conviction that God is just and good, all the time. Rather than complaining to our friends, it’s way more powerful and useful to pour your heart out to God, affirming his goodness. I’ve tried this, it works!
There’s more to singing songs than worship, let’s not forget that the Bible talks about more than worship when mentioning songs. We’ll look at things like praise and thanksgiving in upcoming posts.