worship: something that music is just a part of

Written by Mark Lafler

B.A., Global University; M.C.S., Regent College I am currently serving as a youth minister at our church in Sarasota, FL. I am married to Tera (15 Years +) and we have 3 beautiful daughters.

November 14, 2012

artist, worship

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?

13 Comments

  1. Crystal Rowe

    I love this! I think music is a crucial part of worship … in fact, I find I worship God best through music … but it’s not music alone that is worship. There are so many other pieces that makeup a worship service. And so many other ways to worship. I have often caught myself in the biggest acts of worship while staring at God’s incredible handiwork. Sometimes that’s a beautiful tree, other times it’s a beautiful interaction between people. Regardless … we complete miss it if we relegate “worship” to music only.

    Reply
    • Mark Lafler

      Music is so important in worship and perhaps you are right that worship through music is the best; but we should always be careful not to equate worship with music. Thanks for sharing.

      Reply
  2. Cara Sexton

    I found myself in the dictionary for the same purpose not to long ago, when someone commented on my blog post, a snapshot into a very painful encounter I was having with God, and called it worship. It derailed me for a minute to think of painful honesty before God as worship but the more settled into the true nature of worship I became, the more I could see it as nothing but this. Thanks for reminding us that worship has many forms.

    Reply
    • Mark Lafler

      Thank you for sharing so transparently.

      Reply
  3. DS

    Yes, yes. Amen.

    Reply
    • Mark Lafler

      Thank you for the comments.

      Reply
  4. Andy Carlson

    VERY Good Mark…excellent consideration “thought provoker”. Maybe not unlike the frog not knowing when the cold water becomes hot…..when he notices, it is too late. I have found myself (in the last 24 hours) asking folks ” what part of your service is worship”? To a person the response is “music”. I then follow up with the question, “then what do you call the Pastor’s “part”? (each time there has been total silence and no response except a blank stare). “It is simply a “sermon” or is it worship too?” “Who is leading the service (aside for the obvious – Holy Spirit)…the music or the Pastor?”….”Does the pastor’s not bring Glory and Honor to the Lord – worship?”. It is time we rethink or re define or re clarify what part music plays in a service…is it “the service” or does in complement the purpose of the meeting? What is that purpose? VERY GOOD AND PROVOCATIVE CONSIDERATION.

    Reply
    • Mark Lafler

      Good Feedback Andy. Thank you for the comments.

      Reply
  5. Wes Knadle (Sr)

    Yes, we have “watered” down the word and action of “worship”. I see it as reverential or consecrated exaltation of (and to) the God (Triune God) of the universe. Music is certainly a way of worship but it is only one way…and often times our “worship” songs are about getting or receiving from Him instead of a loving heart desire to praise Him for all He is and all that He has done for us.

    Reply
    • Mark Lafler

      Very good comments. I agree that many of our songs are about getting/receiving instead of pure praise. Thanks for sharing.

      Reply
  6. Bill L

    This is one of the great treasures the Christian stream from John Calvin has helped us understand – that all of life is worship and corresponding all of the Sunday service is training us for life. Part of losing the fullness has come from the contemporary audience mentality which has led the congregation to only be engaged during the music and then become passive observers listeners during the pastor talking. This could be addressed by more interactive discussion during the ‘sermon’ times. Another aspect that has helped me is understanding that how I welcome and greet those meeting together is foundational for worship. There are times for personal quiet and being alone but when we come together the worship (form me) includeds welcoming everyone (especially those I don’t know). Even when I don’t feel like it but then engage in welcoming others, somehow it enriches the whole service. As someone once said going to church is not for me but for me to minister to others. Who would not be greeted if I’m not there to do it?

    Reply
    • Mark Lafler

      So true. The worship service is about serving others (which brings praise to God) and not about “What can I get out of the service?” You give a good reminder of the importance of the assembly as the assembly (ekklesia). Thanks for your comments.

      Reply
  7. Tom Wilhoit

    I couldn’t agree more Mark! We forget that even giving our offerings in a service is a part of worship as well as the fellowship, the teaching, and responding to the Holy Spirit. We also seem to often think that “worship”is confined to the 4 walls of a church. But most of Jesus’ ministry was in the marketplace. The church served as a place to strengthen the people and they left that place and entered into their own mission fields. So it is with us, all week we all have the opportunity to worship God by blessing others, praising His name, reading His Word and enjoying life as God intended. God searches the earth to and fro to find those whose hearts are completely His. To those, He delights in showing His love to them in practical ways. May God help us all to worship our God in many ways each and every day!

    Reply

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worship: something that music is just a part of

by Mark Lafler time to read: 2 min
13