Music has always been a large of my church experience and my interaction with God, especially as a musician, but it has taken me a long time and a lot of teaching to fully understand that true worship goes far beyond singing songs. Hymns and praises are significant and meaningful as corporate expressions of our love for and devotion to God, but they make up only a portion of what it means to be a true worshiper. My pastor, Pastor Joe McKelvey of Christian Faith Fellowship Family Church in Middletown, New York, articulated well what it really means to worship, drawing on two key texts, John 4:23 and Numbers 16. He says, and I agree, that true worship results from knowing God and following his ways; it does not consist of empty ceremony.
The sixteenth chapter of Numbers tells the story of Korah, who tried to exalt himself above Moses and Aaron as leaders of the Israelites. Korah and his followers tried to bring an offering of incense to the Lord, but their offering was not sincere and they did not truly know God. This empty offering did not please God but made Him angry, and this resulted in the deaths of Korah and his followers. What we can learn from this story is that the motions of worship; the songs, the dances, the half-raised hands; are not what gives God glory. There must be more to worship than the motions that it involves.
John chapter 4 recounts Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well. When Jesus says that “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (verse 6, ESV), he is dispelling the notion that God can only be truly worshiped in Jerusalem by the Jews. He is making clear that everyone has the ability and opportunity to worship God, no matter where they are located. Many people believe that worship can only be done in the church when the band is playing. This is far from the truth. Whenever we evangelize, pray, fellowship, or do anything in obedience to God, we are in the act of worship. Our every-day lives can and should continually bring Him glory.
Worship is far too vast to fit neatly into a musical number. It is a mindset, a state of being, and a lifestyle. We should not limit our worship to lyrics and chords; we need to live lives that honor God and give him glory. That is how to be a true worshiper.