I sat at my chair and read the dictionary definition of worship tonight. Some words stood out to me: reverence; rites; ceremony; adoration; devotion. However, one popular word was missing – music. It was not in the dictionary definition.
Nothing too complicated here, but it is a bit surprising when one considers contemporary semantics in the church world.
In many churches today the word worship is synonymous with music. People may suggest that their church service has three major parts: the preaching, the announcements, and the worship (in other words the music). In fact, in many traditional denominations if you wanted to find out when the parish or congregation meets you would ask to see the worship times. In many contemporary churches you would normally ask when the service or church services are.
Semantics? Yes, but it is my belief that semantics over time change understanding.
You see, perhaps you and I know the difference between worship and music, but if the two words continue to be used interchangeably a generation in the future will struggle with the difference. If we judge by the way most Christians study the scriptures today that generation might already be with us. We teach with our words – semantics are important.
Do you need more thoughts on this issue?
- How about a journal/magazine devoted to the music leader in the church. What is it called? Worship Leader Magazine
- Go to Bing or Google and click on images and search for worship leader – What does the worship leader look like – the pastor or a musician?
- When was the last time you heard someone suggest, “I just want some good worship…” and then proceed to listen to Biblical teaching or join some local Christian group for fellowship?
- Have you every heard someone celebrate because the music part of the service was so good that they cancelled the sermon and “just” worshipped?
What is Christian worship? It is devotion and adoration toward God. It may come in the form of preaching, loving one’s neighbor, loving God, Christian fellowship, obeying God, giving money, prayer, contemplation, the sacraments; expressing our God given talents through sports, the arts, intellectual pursuits, music, etc. – Yes, music is there, but it is only a part.
Don’t get me wrong. Music is an important part of worship – especially Sunday morning worship. Songs were sung in the early church. There is plenty of Biblical evidence to support corporate singing and instrument playing. The heavenly hosts are often expressed in a type of musical genre. Music is a very substantial and important element of worship.
But worship does not equal music and (unfortunately) it is usually expressed as so.
I wonder how many Christian people would explain what worship is without using music?