We have been experiencing great changes in our churches. The worship experiences have transitioned from traditional to contemporary worship styles. This has caused many rifts in churches, the older Christians vs. the younger Christians. We now hire full time professional musicians and worship leaders to lead these worship services. We sing along to professionally arranged music that seemed to usher us into the very presence of God. Everyone seemed to have entered into his or her own worship experience with God. By all account the worship seemed to be right on target. Let us first define worship. What is worship, according to The Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible?
Worship: that is, worthiness, dignity, or merit, thus the recognition accorded or due to someone, the paying of homage or respect. In the religious world the term is used for the reverent devotion, service, or honor paid to God, whether public or individual. The church building is a place of worship and the forms of divine service followed by various Christian groups or congregations are forms of worship.
For the past couple of years my spirit has been troubled by what I am witnessing in the world of “Praise and Worship”. For the record I am musician at heart, I love good music and I admire worship teams that are well rehearsed. I enjoy a well-put together worship experience. I strongly believe that praise team and worship leaders must spent quality time in preparation for the worship experience. I even teach my church that the praise team and worship leaders are held to the same standard as the pastor is with regard to preparation and readiness. For some it seem that worship is just the time of praise and as soon as it is time for prayer and the sermon they are turn off, some even sleep.
I submit to you that we can get a similar feeling or experience of euphoria and emotional high in sports arenas or in secular concerts as we sometimes feel in the worship services. What are the distinctions between the two experiences? These are some questions that have resulted from my concern and my internal questioning:
- I am concern and I wonder aloud are lives been changed for the better or are we aiding and abetting people in their sins?
- Does the type of worship we offer, a direct reflection of our relationship with God?
- Are our services allowing for people to identify their sins and provide a place for confession of their sins, before, during and after these services?
- I am concern that all we do might not be acceptable to God. I have to keep asking myself is God pleased with our presentation today?
- Are lives being changed during the time of worship?
- Does our lives activities during the weekdays reflecting of a true worshiper?
- Do we live the same way during the rest of the week as we do for the 30 to 40 minutes we sing and participate in what we call “Praise & Worship”?
- Do we tend to sleep just as the pastor is giving the sermon but we are wide-awake during the praise and worship segment?
- Can a person live a different lifestyle during the week and come before God in worship on Sunday?
- How do we know that what we are feeling or experiencing is the presence of the Holy Spirit?
- Some songs are sometimes written with a crossover appeal versus those that are written solely unto God. How do we know the difference?
- Can those songs written with a crossover appeal be acceptable unto God?
- Can worship that incorporate secular singers be acceptable to God?
- Do we still need to gather at a central place in order for worship to take place or can we just ignore church communal worship?
- A person can leave a worship session and would get involve in a fight by the “drop of a hat.” Many worshiped and go right back into the same sinful lifestyle they were in before. Attitudes seemed to not being affected by what we are calling “Praise & Worship”. Is God really please with our Worship Experience?
The scriptures declared in John 4:24, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” And also, in 1Cor. 6:15-17, Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of a harlot? God forbid. Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” ESV
It is now acceptable to intermingle different forms of worship from other religions with that of Christian Worship Experiences. Many are ignorant of those things and have gladly accepted this and I have to wonder if God is please. I have been drawn into this desire to find out more of what God wants and what are the requirements for worship. Let us spend the next two to three months and examine this this theme: “The Art of Worship”. As I examined the Old Testament (OT) for clues into the requirements of worship what I am discovering and being reminded about humbles me. Clearly the religions of the day have similar rituals and practices, as did those of the people chosen by God. Therefore, rituals and feelings do not provide clear unequivocal evidences of the Divine presence of God in our worship services.
Here are some points that I have noticed in reviewing the scriptures concerning a worship experience that pleased God.
God desires to have full-unhindered fellowship with His creation.
- In Genesis we see God would come down on a daily basis to have fellowship with Adam at a certain place at a certain time.
- God is expecting us to be at a certain place at a certain time.
- God who is omnipresent allow himself to be revealed in a certain place so that we can know more about and develop a relationship with us.
- He came down and met the patriarchs of old; they did not have to ascend up into heaven to worship God. Those who ascended into heaven their earthly worship were completed.
- He came down to the Children of Israel in the Tabernacle and the Temple and allowed his presence to be seen at times confined to the mercy seat.
- He sent His Son down to earth to die for us as the perfect sacrifice; He fulfilled all the requirements of the law and paid the penalty for sin.
- He came down to the Apostles and the brethren on the day of Pentecost and left His Holy Spirit with us.
- He still desires to dwell among us on a daily basis.
God is not expecting us to ascend into heaven to worship Him; He is waiting for us to prepare our lives and a place so He can come to us. In the process of preparation we should consider what are God’s requirements for a genuine worship experience. Here are some points to consider as we seek to understand what God wants or requires for those that seek to worship Him:
- A place to fellowship with his people in Worship.
- A people to have fellowship with Him in Worship.
- Like the Children of Israel our approach to worship has to be different than that of our neighbors, the world.
- God requires preparation of the worshipper for worship: the worshipper’s attitude and his offering should be in a position that is acceptable unto God.
- There is a process that God requires when worshipping Him; it is not just a “free for all”, according to Gaebelein, Morris, Burdick et al., made these points in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. 
- When we enter into a worship experience we must recognize who we are worshipping; we are having and encounter with the Supreme Holy God – (Exodus 3:1–6)
- God clearly set forth through Holy Scriptures that Worship is reserve for him alone – (Exodus 34:14)
- The process of worship requires us to ascribe God all the glory that is due to him – (Psalm 29:1–2)
- Our worship should be motivated by the fact of the sacrificial demonstration of love by Jesus Christ on the cross – (Hebrews 10:1–10)
- There must be a posture of reverence and fear when we enter our worship experience – (Hebrews 12:28)
- If we desire to have a personal encounter with God then we must deliberately draw near to God in return he will draw near to us – James 4:8).
One writer said that worship is to the audience of one that is God. God said that He would never share His Glory with another. Therefore, we must be very careful not to allow worship to be about ourselves or to please the worshippers. We can see many OT shadows of what God ultimately requires of those that desire to worship Him. God does take worship seriously. When we examine the OT we can see how specific and very detail God was in His requirements for worship.
We notice this from the first sacrifice in the Garden of Eden for the sins of Adam and Eve to the sacrifices in the magnificent Solomon’s temple. God left nothing to the imagination, from the specification of measurements, the type of materials, the food and sacrifices, times and process all were detailed by God and given to His people.
Are we planning our time of worship around what we desire or what God requires?
It is in the NT that we see the fulfillments of those symbols that were in the OT. Through Jesus Christ and His work here on earth we see him as the perfect sacrifice, the ultimate high priest and the soon coming King. He left us with a personal aid, our helper the Holy Spirit, who will guide us into what God the Father is expecting from us. John put it this way, in the Gospel of John 16:13, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future.” ESV
Believers God’s expectations of us are clearly outlined in scriptures we do not have to turn to a professional to write directions for us. The scriptures have detailed God’s requirements. God’s has a constant desire to have fellowship with us. He desires a people that will worship Him in Spirit and in truth.
For the next couple of post I will look to identify the principles of worship as laid out in the Scriptures. As a guide in this journey I will look at the Letter to the Hebrews as well as to the Corinthians while collate it with the instructions given to Moses for the Tabernacle worship and extended to Solomon for the Temple worship. I strongly believe that if we can make the connection and understand the nature and expectations of the God we worship then our worship experience will be different.
Join me on this journey as we rediscover the Art of Worship. The next post will examine the Tabernacle worship experiences and relate it to our current time.
 Moisés Silva and Merrill Chapin Tenney, The Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible, Volume 5, Q-Z, Revised, Full-Color Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: The Zondervan Corporation, 2009), 1126.
 Frank E. Gaebelein, Leon Morris, Donald W. Burdick et al., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 12: Hebrews Through Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 21.