As a worship leader for many years, I’ve pondered what the nature of worship might be, and I’ve tried to help others involved in worship ministry understand what they’re trying to achieve. One of the roadblocks to our understanding is the popular teaching that everything we do is worship, if done for God’s glory.
One problem with the “everything we do is worship” doctrine is the loss of the concept of specialness.
The sabbath was a concept of separateness, specialness, that is, holiness – set apart. The opposite of special is ordinary or common – our lives are made up of ordinary parts and special parts. But both are valuable to God and play a vital role in the overall nature of things. Our work is ordained by God and therefore valuable.
Our marriages have both ordinary and precious times. Every part, though, is about love and relationship. But some parts are valued highly, protected and not to be neglected, for example, date nights. The concept of sabbath is the basis for this and I’m convinced the principles of sabbath still apply today. God set aside the sabbath long before the law of Moses and proclaimed it holy. Holy just means special, set apart.
Our devotional and worship experiences with God, private or corporate, should be special. Our daily walk of obedience is the normal, ordinary life of a Christian but is still very valuable to God and is an outflow of this loving relationship.
There’s a higher responsibility and obligation in handling dedicated things such as offerings and land set aside for God’s purposes. The same could be said for our worship.
Worship examples in the Bible are always distinct events and therefore in the category of holy, set apart, dedicated times, like a sabbath. If we persist in calling our work, worship, we will gradually lose the uniqueness of praise and worship along with a diminishing of our understanding of what exactly we are doing in those situations. “What is worship?” is a question that needs to be answered. Saying everything is worship only confuses us. If we continue to proclaim that it’s just an attitude, then special, set aside times of worship will become merely singalongs.
Worship is not just an attitude, it’s a unique time with God to communicate more personal heart issues.
We touch hearts with God at a deeper level than during our ordinary lives where we’re concentrating on work, play, other people or even sport. Sport can be a valuable part of our lives but it doesn’t usually involve deep heart connection with God. We can pray, sure, but if you don’t concentrate fully on the game, you lose!
We don’t have to feel like we’re in conversation with God 24 hours a day – that’s right – relax , despite Brother Lawrence’s message of practicing the presence of God. There are degrees of connection with God, and worship happens to be one of the more focused and intense occasions. It doesn’t necessarily have to be on Sunday or even in church, but it does usually mean focused, tools-down time. We can commune with God while we work or drive, but there’s also a place for times of exclusive, total focus on God with everything else put aside.
We are not meant to be fervent all the time, but we need some intense time. It provides fuel for our relationship. We need it.