Summary: A look at the Who, What, Where, When and Why of worship.


Sometimes you come across some information that you wish you would have seen before you took a given action, or moved in a certain direction. For instance, it wasn’t until just a few days ago that I came across these “Top Ten Questions to Ask Before Changing Your Churches Worship Style”.

10. Is it really possible to introduce pyrotechnics gradually?

9. Do rhinestones and choir gowns ever make a positive statement?

8. Never enlist a Worship Leader with a Marilyn Manson tattoo!

7. While drums can be a welcome addition to any worship service, is it really necessary to have them rise out of the platform?

6. Visual Aids such as LCD projectors and new lighting can add to the impact of any service, but do lava lamps really create the right atmosphere?

5. Is it wise to issue laser pens to all the ushers?

4. The participation of every member in the worship experience is not only biblical, it’s essential. Having said that, never hand out tambourines to the entire congregation!

3. While it’s true that instrumental variety really adds to the worship experience, kazoos should always be considered an acquired taste!

2. Can your preacher really pull off the gold lame suit?

And the number one question to ask before changing your worship style is:

1. Are the changes being made to please man, or encounter God?

Now, I’m not foolish enough to believe that there aren’t those of you out there thinking a number of things when you see that I’m about to preach for four weeks on worship. There are probably the more traditional thinkers that are saying, “Oh great. Four weeks of explanation of why his music is better than mine.” There may be some younger characters in the congregation thinking, “Oh great. I hope this is when he lets them have it, and we can get on with some rocking around here.”

There are probably some of you thinking, “What in the world could the Bible have to say about worship that could take four weeks?” And of course, there is probably at least one of you out there thinking, “I wonder if Ruby Tuesday’s has Mahi-Mahi on the menu today?” Okay. . .well, maybe not.

But undoubtedly there are plenty of personal opinions, and concerns within the church as we approach this topic of worship. So I want to start right off the bat by making sure we know what this is NOT about. Are you ready? Let’s dispel some concerns, apprehensions, fears, and whatever else may have you ready to pack up your purse or Bible and head out. . .

This series on worship is NOT about. . .

Music Styles and Selections

It is not about hymns versus praise choruses. Slow songs versus fast songs. Hymnals versus PowerPoints.

A young Christian went to his local church usually, but one weekend attended a small town church. He came home and his wife asked him how it was. "Well," said the young man, "It was good. They did something different however. They sang hymns instead of regular songs." "Hymns," said his wife, "what are those?" ”Oh, they’re okay. They’re sort of like regular songs, only different," said the young man. "Well, what’s the difference?” Asked his wife.

The young man said, "Well it’s like this: If I were to say to you, ‘Martha, the cows are in the corn,’ well that would be a regular song. If, on the other hand, I were to say to you: ‘Oh Martha, dear Martha, hear thou my cry. Inclinest thine ear to the words of my mouth. Turn thou thy whole wondrous ear by and by, To the righteous, inimitable, glorious truth. For the way of the animals who can explain? There in their heads is no shadow of sense, Harkenest they in God’s sun or his rain Unless from the mild, tempting corn they are fenced. Yea those cows in glad bovine, rebellious delight, Have broke free their shackles, their warm pens eschewed. Then goaded by minions of darkness and night They all my mild Chilliwack sweet corn have chewed. So look to that bright shining day by and by, Where all foul corruptions of earth are reborn. Where no vicious animal makes my soul cry, and I no longer see those foul cows in the corn. AMEN!

"Then, if I were to do only verses one, two, and four and do a key change on the last verse, well that would be a hymn."

Well. . .in the name of equal time. . .

An old farmer went to the city one weekend and attended the big city church. He came home and his wife asked him how it was. "Well," said the farmer, "it was good. They did something different, however. They sang praise choruses instead of hymns." "Praise choruses?" said his wife, "What are those?" "Oh they’re okay. They’re sort of like hymns, only different," said the farmer. "Well, what’s the difference?" asked the wife.

The farmer said, "Well it’s like this - If I were to say to you: ‘Martha, the cows are in the corn,’ well that would be a hymn. If, on the other hand, I were to say to you: ‘Martha, Martha, Martha, Oh, Martha, Martha, MARTHA MARTHA, the cows, the big cows, the brown cows, the black cows, the white cows, the black and white cows, the COWS, COWS, COWS are in the corn, are in the corn, are in the corn, are in the corn, the CORN, CORN, CORN’!!! ‘Oh, Oh, Ooooooooh, yes, it’s true, the whole herd is in the awesome corn, yes, it’s true, the whole herd is in the awesome corn, --- weeell, it’s true, the whole herd is in the awesome corn!!! Alleluia! - That would be a praise chorus."...

Praise Choruses. . .Hymns. . .Music Styles and Selections. . .that’s not what this is about.

What else is this not about. . .it is NOT about. . .

Instruments and Volume Levels

There is a worship D.J. named Andy Hunter. Andy comes out of the Rave scene in England. He is still a D.J. at secular raves, but he also leads worship using his turn tables. He calls it “worship off the decks.” You might think “How could anyone worship with that type of music?” or, “How could he bring such a profane instrument into the Church?” People said the same about Martin Luther when he brought into the church a profane instrument that was used in the pubs for drinking songs. They asked “How can we worship God with such a profane instrument as a Pipe Organ?

No. . .this is not about instruments and volume levels. Nor is it about. . .

Orders of Worship

A pastor changed the order of worship so that the sermon was given before the offering was taken. This upset a four year old who asked her mother, "Why is he talking before he gets paid?"

It’s not about orders of worship. . .too much singing, not enough singing, singing in the wrong places, not singing in the wrong places.

A little boy attended church for the first time and was asked how it went? He replied, "The music was nice but the commercial was too long." I guess this is the commercial.

It’s not about that. And one more important thing that we looked at just two week ago. . .this series on worship is NOT about . . .

Me or You

And that may be one of the toughest lessons for all of us to learn during this month together. Because I have music I love. I have an atmosphere of worship that I would love to defend, and that Satan would love to sit back and watch become a wedge between groups of us. He would find no greater joy during this month than to watch our focus on worship be about me, or you. . .them or us.

But that’s not what it’s about.

A man tells the story of he and his wife going on vacation, and says that “As is our habit we brought along a camera and several rolls of film. Upon our return my wife began proudly showing off our latest set of vacation photos, and then each day she’d relate her coworkers’ reactions to me. After a few days of this I noticed a recurring theme in her friends’ reactions. Invariably, people would say, "Wow, your husband must have a really nice camera!"

“Even though people liked my photos, I was disappointed. I wanted them to acknowledge what a good photographer I am, not what a good camera I have. After a week of this I ranted to my wife: "Why do people do this? Nobody looks at a painting and says, ’Nice brushes!’ Nobody looks at a skyscraper and says, ’Nice drafting table!’ Nobody looks at a sculpture and says, ’Nice chisel!’ What’s wrong with these people?"

“It felt good to get that off my chest. Until my wife reminded me, "So, how often do you look at creation and say, ’Nice work, God’?”

It’s not about us. In fact, when we all look deep down inside, I think we know what it is supposed to be about.

(Song - The Heart of Worship)

It’s all about Him. That’s the heart of worship. When I was attending Point Loma Nazarene College, working on my communications degree, I got involved in journalism. Eventually become the editor for the sports page of the weekly campus paper. And there is an old lesson in journalism for every story. If you want to investigate a story, tell a story, communicate something to your readership, you need to answer the five “W”s. Who, What, Where, When and Why.

Well for the five “W”s of worship. . .God is the Who. It’s all about Him. He is the heart of worship.

Who – God

That may sound obvious to many of you. . .but according to the Barna Institute, less than three out of ten, just 29% of church-going adults indicated that they view worship as something that is focused primarily on God. 47% indicated that they felt that worship was something undertaken for their personal benefit. But that is not the heart of worship. At the heart of worship, it is all about Him. God is the who.

This was established way back in the days of the early covenant between God and Israel. It says in II Kings, “When the LORD made a covenant with the Israelites, he commanded them: ‘Do not worship any other gods or bow down to them, serve them or sacrifice to them. But the LORD, who brought you up out of Egypt with mighty power and outstretched arm, is the one you must worship. To him you shall bow down and to him offer sacrifices. You must always be careful to keep the decrees and ordinances, the laws and commands he wrote for you. Do not worship other gods. Do not forget the covenant I have made with you, and do not worship other gods. Rather, worship the LORD your God; it is he who will deliver you from the hand of all your enemies.’

Psalm 29:2 says, “Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.”

It is put like this in The Purpose Driven Life, “If you have ever said, ‘I didn’t get anything out of worship today,’ you worshiped for the wrong reason. Worship isn’t for you. It is for God. Of course, most ‘worship’ services also include elements of fellowship, edification, and evangelism, and there are benefits to worship, but we don’t worship to please ourselves. Our motive is to bring glory and pleasure to our Creator.”

So if God is the who of worship, what is worship?

Romans 12:1 (read). Or as it says in the New International Version, “this is your spiritual act of worship.” Our sacrifice, our service, our worship is surrender. Giving ourselves wholly to Him. In simplest terms. . .what is worship? Surrender.

What - Surrender

Rick Warren writes, “In today’s competitive culture we are taught to never give up and never give in – so we don’t hear much about surrendering. If winning is everything, surrendering is unthinkable. We would rather talk about winning, succeeding, overcoming, and conquering than yielding, submitting, obeying, and surrendering. But surrendering to God is the heart of worship. It is the natural response to God’s amazing love and mercy. We give ourselves to him, not out of fear or duty, but in love, ‘Because he first loved us.’”

(Song - I Surrender All)

So now we are getting to what worship is all about. We are getting the answers to our five Ws of worship. The Who is? (God) The What is? (Surrender)

So where does this take place. Where does our worship, our surrender to God occur?

Well, this isn’t a new question. In fact, it was asked of Jesus 2,000 years ago by a Samaritan woman. John 4:19 (read through verse 20).

Quick history lesson for you. This woman says that her fathers worshiped on “this mountain.” Likely referring to Mt. Gerizim which is where the Samaritans had built a temple. But what is important to know about this temple is that it was pretty much built as a rival place of worship. Because the Samaritans were not welcome in the temple in Jerusalem. So they built their own temple out on this mountain and that is where they worshiped. But see how the origins of that worship is already convoluted and distorted. Originated as some kind of rivalry or statement against the temple in Jerusalem.

Verse 21 (read through 24) Worship takes place in spirit and in truth. . .which means in a physical sense, the where for worship can be everywhere! Where do you worship? Everywhere.

Where – Everywhere

You know. . .worshiping God in here is great. . .but that isn’t what the world needs. They need people who are about worshiping God out there. Surrendering their lives to Him everywhere.

I recently had the opportunity to hear one of my favorite preachers of all time. Asbury Seminary was hosting Tony Campolo for a Lexington Leadership breakfast. And Mr. Campolo recounted a story which he has written about in a book called “The Kingdom of God is a Party.” I kind of like that. “The Kingdom of God is a Party.”

In chapter one, he tells the story of a trip to Honolulu in the mid 80’s. Having crossed far too many time zones from Philadelphia to Hawaii, he found himself awake and needing breakfast at 3:30 a.m. local time. He ended up in a greasy, divvy place ordering a donut and a coffee, and while consuming this wholesome breakfast in walks 8 or 9 prostitutes. The place is small, Campolo is surrounded, and like most of us decides the best thing to do is to get out of there.

Then he overhears one of them say, “Tomorrow is my birthday; I’ll be 39.” Somebody else tears into her. “So?? Whadya want me to do about it?? Want me to throw you a party, bake you a cake, sing “happy birthday???” The first shot back, “Come on! Why do you have to be so mean? I’m just telling you, you don’t have to put me down. I don’t want anything. I’ve never had a birthday party my whole life, why should you give me one, why should I have one now. I’m just saying. Tomorrow is my birthday”

Campolo hangs around till they leave, then asks the guy who runs the place if those people come in every night. They do, so Campolo asks if he could throw that one prostitute a big birthday party that next night. They get excited about the idea, make all the arrangements – Campolo decorates the diner, the chef bakes a cake, somebody gets the word out on the street. This is how Campolo describes the scene:

“By 3:15 [in the morning] every prostitute in Honolulu was in the place. It was wall-to-wall prostitutes… and me! At 3:30 on the dot, the door of the diner swung open and in came Agnes and her friend. I have everybody ready (after all, I was kind of the M.C. of the affair) and when they came in we all screamed, “Happy birthday!” Never have I seen a person so flabbergasted … so stunned … so shaken. Her mouth fell open. Her legs seemed to buckle a bit. Her friend grabbed her arm to steady her. As she was led to one of the stools along the counter we all sang “Happy Birthday” to her. As we came to the end of our singing with “happy birthday dear Agnes, happy birthday to you,” her eyes moistened. Then, when the cake was carried out with all the candles on it, she lost it and just openly cried.”

”She couldn’t blow out the candles. She couldn’t cut the cake. In fact, she was so overwhelmed that she asked if she could just keep the cake for a little while. The gruff chef said, “It’s your cake. Go ahead.” And so Agnes picked the cake up and carried it home as if it were the most precious thing imaginable.”

The crowd was stunned into silence. Not knowing what else to do, Campolo said; “what do you say we pray?” And he did. He prayed for Agnes, for her salvation, for God to turn her life around. At the end, the chef turned to him with a trace of hostility in his voice and said, “You never told me you were a preacher. What kind of church do you belong to?” Campolo thought for a moment, then replied, “I belong to a church that throws birthday parties for whores at 3:30 in the morning.”

What kind of church are we? Is it all about surrender to Him taking place not merely for an hour on Sunday, but everywhere we go? Even in a diner in Hawaii at 3:30 in the morning.

In the book The God Chasers, Tommy Tenney writes, "I don’t know about you, but I am tired of just being ‘another somebody’ to the lost around me. I have made a decision. I made up my mind and set my heart to declare, ‘I am going to pursue the presence of God in my life. I am going to get so close to God that when I walk into secular and public places, people will meet Him.’ They may not know that I’m there, but they will definitely know that He is there. I want to be so saturated with God’s presence that when I take a seat on a plane, then everyone near me will suddenly feel uncomfortable if they’re not right with God – even though I haven’t said a word."

Imagine living a life of worship. . .solely focused on God, expressing your heart felt sense of adoration and awe at every turn you make in your life. Imagine a life so engrossed in worship surrendered to God that when you have been with people, they know that God has been there. Imagine a life of worship where God becomes the very air that you breathe.

(Song - Breathe)

So if we worship God everywhere. . .when should we worship Him? How about. . .Always.

When – Always

Have you ever eaten at an expensive restaurant for a special occasion? There you are, all dressed up, with three different forks, fine china and crystal. You are very careful to not embarrass yourself by spilling anything, or doing anything inappropriate.

Now compare that to eating a meal at home. There you are in comfortable clothes, you definitely only have one fork! You may even be eating your meal on the coffee table while watching TV. There is no fine china or crystal. If you drop something on the floor, you wait to see if the dog will eat it. Obviously, you are relaxed and comfortable.

God didn’t design worship simply to be an expensive meal at a fancy restaurant. He designed worship to be a family meal, a time to come together in a comfortable setting, with your brothers and sisters. Something you can always do.

Psalm 27:4 says, “One thing I have desired of the Lord. That will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord. And to inquire in His temple.”

One thing I have desired. One thing will I seek. That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life. . .always with Him.

(Song - One Desire)

So we come to our final W. Why? Maybe the best question of all. Why in the world would people make it all about someone other than themselves? Why would they surrender themselves to someone else. . .let alone someone they can’t even see? Why would they want to spend their lives, everywhere they go. . .at all times, worshiping God?

It’s is maybe the best question of all. . .and maybe the easiest to answer. . .

Why – Because He is Worthy

“Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:

"You are worthy, our Lord and God,

to receive glory and honor and power,

for you created all things,

and by your will they were created

and have their being." (Revelation 4:9-11)

Revelation 5:12, “In a loud voice they sang:

"Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,

to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength

and honor and glory and praise!"

God is worthy of our worship. Think about all the things in our world that our worshiped, but are so unworthy of such adoration.

A woman entered a Haagen-Dazs store on the Kansas City Plaza for an ice-cream cone. After making her selection, she turned and found herself face to face with Paul Newman. He was in town filming the movie Mr. and Mrs. Bridge. Newman’s blue eyes caused her knees to buckle. She managed to pay for her cone, then left the shop, heart pounding. When she gained her composure, she realized she didn’t have her cone. She started back to the store to get it and met Newman at the door. "Are you looking for your ice-cream cone?" he asked. She nodded, unable to speak. "You put it in your purse with your change."

When was the last time the presence of God quickened your pulse? You know, He is worthy.

Back in 1992 when the Dallas Cowboys were preparing to play the San Francisco 49rs for the NFC Championship in San Francisco, the Cowboys had a pep-rally at Texas Stadium. The audience cheered wildly for each player when he was introduced. The fans carried banners. They painted their faces and proudly wore blue- and white outfits. They tried to get autographs. Not one fan walked away saying, “That event was a dud. It did nothing for me.”

The event was a success, not because the performance was great (they didn’t play any football at all). It wasn’t a success because the players’ speeches were inspiring (most of them weren’t very good speakers), but because everyone understood why they were there. The purpose was not to please the fans but to honor the team.

So why are we here? Not just in the sense, why are we here at Stonewall Wesleyan Church on Sunday mornings, but from a greater sense. . .why are we here, in this city, on this planet at this time? We are here to worship God. The only true God, who is worthy of honor. We are not hear to please ourselves, and to impress others. . .we are here to honor our King. To declare that He is Lord! To declare to You God. . .that You are Lord.

(Song - You Are/You Are Lord)

One week down. Three to go. But throughout this series. . .keep in mind the Five Ws of Worship. Say them with me:

Who do we worship – God

What is worship – Surrender

Where can we worship – Everywhere

When should we worship – Always

Why do we worship – Because He Is Worthy

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.