Summary: Architecture, music and art are not worship, but they may lift us to engage in worship.
What Are You Looking For?
There are many kinds of churches. There simply have to be. God uses a wide variety of vehicles to carry us into His Kingdom, and if those vehicles are from God, then they are equally sanctified by God. Yet, there’s much confusion today between the vehicle we ride in – and the fuel that powers it – Worship.
Ben Merold said this about worship: “In most churches we have the preacher performing, with God as the prompter, and the people as the audience. In truth, worship should be the people performing, with the preacher as the prompter, and God as the audience.”
When we read the Books of Genesis and Exodus, we see the core qualities of “worship”. For instance, “Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God.” The words “just” and “perfect” used together mean “genuine righteousness.” The phrase “walked with God” indicates consistency. Noah was consistent, and his worship was constant.
In the case of Abraham, we find little mention of Abraham worshipping as we might think of it – except that he obeyed each of God’s instructions. He may not have always made wise choices, but when directed by God, he obeyed. Our obedience reflects the condition of our hearts toward God. This too is worship.
In today’s era of praise and worship music, many have brought into the church things that society finds pleasing, but they may not be helping much beyond entertainment. As a consequence, many are distracted and confused about what worship really is.
Worship isn’t found in our choice of music, although our choice of music can inspire our worship. Worship isn’t defined by the architecture of our churches, but the architecture can help lift our thoughts above our mundane lives. All the artistic energies ever spent on Christian themes have never produced a single convert to faith in Jesus Christ. But some have helped us to change our minds about how we live and think.
Worship is not a communal experience – although many may worship together.
Worship is an individual encounter with a single, triune God.
Worship is not a place you go, a hymn you sing, or a video you watch. Worship is what you do . . . in your heart!
We heard the words of Jesus in this morning’s scripture: “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
What makes for worship are not the ornate features; what makes worship is not this podium or the organ which fills this room with a sense of holiness; what makes worship is not the fact that we have carpet or the fact that we have lights, a sound system and electricity.
What makes worship is when we set our spirits properly to allow the presence of God to become alive within us. Worship is when God’s presence and glory fills us and fills the place where we reside.
Consider in the Book of Chronicles where Jehoshaphat was preparing for battle. The Bible says that when he prayed for God’s guidance, the prophet Jahaziel told him not to go out as an army but as worshipers of God. He was told NOT to put the military in the front line because God told him, “Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s.” (2 Chron. 20:15)
So Jehoshaphat stood before his army and declared, “Believe in the LORD your God, and you shall be established; believe His prophets, and you shall prosper.” And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed those who should sing to the LORD, and who should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army and were saying: ‘Praise the LORD, For His mercy endures forever.’”
That’s right. He put his CHOIR at the front of his army. . . . And just in case you’ve got the wrong idea, he actually liked his choir!
Here’s the rest of the story. “Now when they began to sing and to praise, the LORD set ambushes against the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; and they were defeated. For the people of Ammon and Moab (turned) against the inhabitants of Mount Seir to (completely) kill and destroy them. And when they had (destroyed) the inhabitants of Seir, they (turned on one another and were destroyed.)
24 So when Judah came to a place overlooking the wilderness, they looked toward the multitude; and there were their dead bodies, fallen on the earth. No one had escaped.” (2 Chron. 20:22-24)