Core Value #4 – Worship
As we continue to look at the core values at Calvary Chapel we now want to address worship. First off I want to acknowledge that the public worship of the church and the music and style of it is quickly becoming a flash point for many churches. What is sad about this statement is that there is no universal music style that can be claimed by anyone as more “biblical” than another. Worship is solely about giving glory, honor, worth, and praise to God Himself for Who He is and what He has done. Worship is about singing to God out of love and obedience as we give Him the glory that He is due. Worship is singing about God to each other and the world around us so that their thoughts can be lifted to worship Him as well. But worship is about so much more than just music and singing.
A Biblical view of worship recognizes an understanding of Romans 12:1-2 as absolutely essential. This passages reads as follows:
“Therefore I urge you brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good, acceptable, and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2, NASB)
What we learn from these verses is that worship – a true spiritual service of worship to God goes way beyond what you sing on any given Sunday. It goes way beyond singing altogether. What we read here is that worship involves our entire way of living. Our entire bodies should be presented to God every day as living, holy sacrifices. When we live like that – giving all of ourselves to God daily – then we are doing what we should logically do. The word for “spiritual” in Romans 12:1 is the Greek word “logikos,” from which we get our word logic. The only logical way to live when we understand the gospel – is as a 24/7/365 sacrifice of worship to God. This is in everything we do – everything we say – even everything we eat, drink, or anything we ever do. We learn this in 1 Corinthians 10:31 – whatever we do is to be done to the glory of God. Therefore worship goes far beyond the 15-30 minutes we spend singing in a service. It is something we do with our entire lives as we live for the glory of God.
Having addressed that worship is a way of life, I also want to address how worship is viewed when we gather together on a typical Sunday morning to worship God corporately. First off, our corporate worship should not exceed our private worship. Some come and worship on a Sunday morning nothing like how they are worshipping God during the week. What I mean when I reference private worship is what we are doing as we seek God during our time alone with Him each day. There is an inherent danger that comes with times of corporate singing. We sing songs that are celebratory – and that in themselves can incite us to excitement. But are we ever excited about God, about the work of Christ, about the gospel, about the work of the Holy Spirit, or about God’s faithfulness? I know this is a difficult question to answer – but do we even think about such things much during the week? Can we go a week with little or no thought to God, His greatness, and His glory – and then come into a worship service and find ourselves singing with great excitement and passion? There is something very wrong with that kind of picture and practice.
God warned His people about public worship that does not match private devotion. In Isaiah 1 He asks Israel why they needlessly trample into His temple for “their” sacrifices and worship. He found it offensive that they were one thing in public worship – and yet quite another in private life. If we truly worship God – it should be that our public worship is little more than the overflow of our private devotion to God. If things regularly go beyond this – it is honestly not worship – it is hypocrisy. That is why at times I grieve over my own heart and its readiness to get all excited in a public venue – when my private devotion has severely been lacking. What should we do when this is the case? In Joshua, when Achan had sinned and grieved God, Joshua called upon him to “give glory to God” in a confession of his sin. You see, God was most glorified in Achan’s life, not in some public display that did not match his private life, God was most glorified when Achan stopped everything else and took the time to confess and repent of his sin. Saints, there may be times when the best worship service ever – would be little more than us stopping our usual routine – and gathering to a time of getting on our knees or faces and confessing sin in our lives.
Let me make a few comments on music in worship. Unfortunately there are often as many tastes in music as there are people in a congregation. That is because what style of music you enjoy has far more to do with your personal tastes than it does any particular command of God. What I find is the following kinds of scriptural commands when it comes to worshipping God in song.
- Sing to the Lord
- Sing to Him, Sing praises to Him; Speak of all His wonders
- Sing to the Lord all the earth
- I will sing praises to Your name
- We will sing and praise Your power
- Sing to Him with a harp of ten strings
- Sing to Him a new song; play skillfully with a shout of joy
- I shall sing of your strength
- I shall joyfully sing of your lovingkindness in the morning
- Sing the glory of His name; make His praise glorious
- Sing for joy to God our strength; Shout joyfully to the God of Jacob
- My heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God
- I will sing for joy at the work of Your hands
- O come let us sing for joy to the Lord, Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation.
- I will sing of lovingkindness and justice
- I will sings praises to You among the nations
- Let my tongue sing of Your Word
There are 88 different times when we are called, actually many times commanded to sing to the Lord. Therefore, regardless of what style you may prefer, it is a given that we need to – no – actually we are commanded to sing to God. Often that singing is connected with joy – in fact more often than not it is connected with joy of God Himself or some work He has done that should be stimulating us to joy. And – how important this is – God absolutely is to be the focus of our singing. Just about every command that involves singing – calls us to sing TO Him. Therefore, we are absolutely, unequivocally committed to singing to God in our worship services. We want to work hard to make sure that we do not distract from this fundamental focus of worship as we sing. That is why we also make certain choices to make the vast majority of our singing – congregational in nature. It is also why we shun any kind of performance in our music. We want our worship teams and any individual who leads in worship – to focus themselves on God as they sing to Him. Their leadership is first by example as they themselves are worshipping God. Then we ask them to lead us as we join together with them to worship God.
This is also why we want to be very careful about anything that might begin to turn our corporate worship into more of a concert than an opportunity for the body of Christ to give God the glory, honor, and praise that He is due. Some have made their stages very elaborate – using light shows and having different kinds of moving backgrounds behind the words that are projected on the screen. This, in itself, is not evil – but we avoid it because we do not want to distract from God being the focus. As your pastor I personally think that the more ostentatious we become in our staging, the more likely we are going to get away from worship being simply singing to God and telling Him how utterly magnificent, beautiful, majestic, holy . . . and the list can go on forever and ever!
There is another reason why I ask our worship teams to remain low key as they worship God and lead us to join them in it. Jesus said in John chapter 4 that God seeks worshippers who worship Him in Spirit and in truth. Worship is something that is inherently spiritual. God forbade men making images of Him in the Old Testament. Any picture we try to make of God is going to fall infinitely short of Who He is. He is Spirit, He is everywhere at once, and He is infinitely present and powerful in the everywhere He is all at once. The more we make our worship something physical, the more danger there is in us falling into idolatry by making God less than He is. Thus the focus needs to be on the truth of Who He is – not on the show going on around the singing. Worship in Spirit and truth focuses on Who God has revealed Himself to be in Scripture. That is the greatest and most trustworthy revelation we have. That is why we put such a great focus on the Word of God in our worship service.
Worship, true worship incites us to greater, grander, more glorious thoughts of God. These thoughts are driven by what God has said about Himself in the Word. This is also why we try very hard to sing what is Scriptural about God. That is hard to do – because too often we get more excited about the music than we do the lyrics. The danger that is once again inherent due to this is that we sing “really cool songs” or “very reverent songs” or “very moving songs” whose lyrics actually do not accurately represent Who God is scripturally. Worship that is not singing “truth” about God – is actually idolatry – since it is singing about who we would like God to be rather than Who He actually is according to His revelation of Himself in the Word of God. Too be perfectly honest with you as your pastor, I am concerned more and more that the songs of today are so theologically light – and more “this is how I feel.” The other concern I have is that too many of our songs are turning to how God is making much of us – rather than true worship which is us making as much of God as we possibly can.
Worship is about God – living for Him – singing to Him – and as I just said at the end of the last paragraph – making as much of Him as we possibly can. We cannot overdo true worship – because we can never give God all the glory that He is due. But it is my desire as your pastor to encourage you first by example and then by precept to give everything you have, every day God allows you to live, and in everything you do to glorify God. Just as God says to us in His Word, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)