What is Worship?

And how do we do it in the church?

It seems we’ve argued for decades about the nature of worship. From the revival tunes of the 19th century to the Jesus movement in the 1960’s, to the wave of contemporary Christian music that still permeates much of Christian worship today. But all of that is about music, time signatures, instrumentation and so forth. And while these things have a psychological effect that can lead us to worship, those are no substitute for it.

It is the moving of the heart towards God. It is emotional. It is relational. It is motivational. It is transformational.

Worship is emotional. Worship calls for feeling: joy, awe, happiness, sorrow, but there ought always to be feeling in worship. It ought to make you feel something. Worship without feeling is cold and emotionless, and really isn’t worship so much as following time signatures and carrying a tune. Worship ought to elevate your presence in a “hypnogogic” state, a state of semi-prayer, where your awareness is elevated into the presence of God. That ought to cause some kind of emotional reaction, if only fear. Without emotion, worship is dead.

Worship is relational. Worship is a response to God’s own work in us. He has called us to Himself, to be His people, to follow His word! Worship comes out of this relationship. That’s why most of the work of worship needs to be done throughout the week. We pray and read the Scriptures. We fellowship together, participate in acts of service for one another, and help the needy, feed the poor, etc. All of these things we do because we have a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Worship is motivational. Worship ought to inspire us to do. We ought to leave the worship motivated to participate in the body life of the church. We ought to want to draw closer to than before because we want more, and Jesus is the wellspring of the water of life. The more we draw, the more we want. Worship ought to be a conduit for that.

Worship is transformational. It should change us. Outwardly we are wasting away, but inwardly we are being renewed day by day. In Jesus our hearts change. We become more peaceful, more gracious, more self-controlled, more joyful, more patient and so on.

It is our obligation as believers to worship the Lord. A Christian who does not worship is what? Proud? Stubborn? Disconnected? Worship ought to be as natural as breathing for the believer. And yet many Christians today are struggling with worship. I count myself among them.

For a couple years I have been attending a church which practices what I call the “Hillsong” method of worship, which basically emphasizes quantity over quality. So many of the new worship songs that come out are designed for worship bands, not worshiping Christians. They have difficult melodies which require much practice to get right, often have vapid lyrics which emphasize feeling over substance, and are performed only a few times until the band moves onto the next new song. Old favorites are rarely sung again. Songs we we worked so hard to learn over the four weeks we heard them are tossed into the dustbin in favor the the latest and greatest. There is something to be said for keeping current, but it is often at the expense of worship, and the “worship service” becomes a weekly concert of Christian music, and this you have to listen closely to, since it often sounds like any other kind of love songs you hear on the radio.

So I have been challenged in my ability to worship personally. I’ve turned back to some of the old hymns that my heart knows. I’ve re-examined these old familiar lyrics and found fresh meaning in them, something that growing up I never really took the time to think about. I think you can do that when you reflect on those old hymns.

When we all get to heaven,

What a day of rejoicing that will be.

When we all see Jesus,

We’ll sing and shout the victory. (When We All Get To Heaven)

This is an old hymn I’ve sung a thousand times, but just rushed through the words just to sing them. But think about them for a moment. It will be a great day of rejoicing when we get to heaven. It will be the most important day of our lives. And then we will all see Jesus, the One who died for us, Who rose for us, and bears even now the scars of His sacrifice. We will get to see Him, His face. Just … wow. Then we will sing and shout the victory over sin and death, over temptation and the devil. We will sing and we will enjoy the most powerful worship we will ever experiences. Can we sit still at that thought?

In the picture below, I’ve attempted to put some of these thoughts together. We tend to think of worship in one of three ways. Worship as its own thing, the singing of music, and prayers of worship. In subtle ways, these three aspects overlap. When worship and singing overlap, they become songs of praise. When worship and prayer overlap, they become like the spoken Psalms. And when singing and prayer overlap, they become deeply spiritual songs, and for my part, tend to bring out tears. But it is at the combination of all three that I see hymns, those old traditional pieces that have been so rooted in the heart that their words are like prayer, their complexity calls for skill in singing, but their intent is pure worship.

That’s not to say that hymns remain a static group, since many of the hymns in the hymnbooks were not and are still not popular today. I believe in a great settling period for Christian music. There are some hymns that we will always sing (Amazing Grace, Just as I Am, to name a couple), and there is always new music being produced. I predict that many of the songs produced today will be someone’s “growing up” music, and they too will revisit them later on, rediscovering their sense of worship. These too will be added as “hymns” at some point. (A hymn is a piece of music that both encourages worship, and teaches important theological truth in a memorable fashion, for people will more likely remember a hymn as they will a Scripture.) Hymn music ought to say something about God. Hymns (and good worship music) ought to praise God, not how we feel about Him. It ought to be God-directed, not man-focused, and this is the error I feel a lot of “worship” services tend to take today. I want to encourage all of our worship leaders to really put some thought into how they worship and bring others into that space. It really and truly matters to a lot of people.

If I was leading worship, I would work to find the best of the best of the old and the best of the new. Every generation has music that speaks to them. As a leader of worship, it would be my privilege of bringing everyone, as far as possible, to the presence of Jesus through music, depending on them to present themselves in worship to the Lord.

But that’s just my two cents.

Season of Singing

With the outlook of Corona looking as bleak as it does, it seems odd to put forth this idea of singing. I usually reserve singing for times of joy, or singing along with musicals. Yes, I’ve been known to watch the occasional musical. I also sing at church, but only when I get a feel for the song put forth as worship.

I’ve gotten really tired of singing a new song every week. I really wouldn’t mind going back and singing a new song from a year ago. But I guess I’m used to singing the same 50 songs from the hymnbook and trying to rearrange them every week into a good combination of five. I remember when introducing a new song every month caused consternation and complaints about not being able to worship. Now the shoe is on the other foot for me. Whereas once I tried to introduce a new chorus, now they are being introduced to me.

I am resistant to change, and I’ll freely admit that it is because I am getting older. I miss the church of my youth, when I didn’t know as much as I do now. I used to not know how things worked behind the scenes. I guess ignorance is bliss after all. I didn’t know about the how playing the music required a lot of practice to make it look easy. Of how picking the songs and even how the songs were played caused a lot of blow back if it wasn’t done “correctly” or as folks remember it being played. So, here I am suffering from what others have decided is good worship, and I am the one silently complaining about how songs ought to be played.

As a result, I haven’t done much worship. Oh I could break out my guitar and play a few songs for myself, but in a house of six people, there’s rarely a place just to be myself. Even now I share my office with my daughter who is also working on important things at the moment. She’s in high school so she has many important projects underway.

So I guess I haven’t felt much like singing, and I miss it. When I’m struggling with music at my home church, I’ve been attending church conducting in-person services just down the road. They have a worship leader there familiar with older material, but likes to take liberties with it. The Church of Christ down the street also sings the older songs, but at a cadence I’m not familiar with, and without instrumentation.

I guess this one is just me complaining I guess. I really don’t have anyone to blame but myself, and I guess that is the point. I don’t know how many of you have been in the same boat, but in truth, the only one at fault for not worshiping is yourself. You can control your time and your spirit. If you can’t worship in singing, worship in listening to others sing. Almost everyone has access to personal music devices anymore. How hard is it to fire up your favorite worship music?

I think it is a hard truth that no one will play worship music in a church setting exactly the way you want it. That’s not what church is about. Church is not tailored to your specific likes and dislikes. If it did, it would be the church of YOU, not of Christ. I believe that in every church service, in every church, there is something there for you, just as there is for everyone else present. And Church really isn’t about what you want, but what you bring to it. If you bring a scornful heart, you will receive nothing but scorn. If you bring a complaining heart, that’s all you will receive. But if you bring a worshipful heart, a happy heart, and soul longing for the presence of Jesus, then that is what you will receive at Church. Even when they don’t realize it, the fact that everyone is present at church offers a presence of Jesus that is unavailable by yourself.

“For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there among them.”
(Mat 18:20)

I think that is something we are all missing right now.

Dear Lord, I repent of my lack of worship and my scornful heart. I have not acquitted myself well of the spirit of Jesus that is within me. I have been unfairly critical of others, and my need for worship my way, and forgotten the maxim, “submit yourself to one another.” Father, please forgive my complaining and murmuring against your people, many of whom are blessed by the word and music they have received. Help me to find my place of worship, my heart of worship again, so that I may rejoice in Your Holy Name as I once did. I pray this in Jesus’ Name, Amen.



What fills you with the desire to worship? What so moves you to fill the air with song raised in worship of the Almighty? What brings you to awe? I have to admit few times in my life have I recognized that feeling. It’s a feeling that overwhelms you, as if you are standing at the very foot of the throne of grace.

Back in 1997, when the Promise Keepers movement was circulating through American churches, I attended a stadium event in Indianapolis. I will never forget standing and singing with about 40,000 other men hymns of praise. I felt in that that moment that this is what the heavenly choir must be like, maybe even a little bit.

A few weeks ago, my home church had finally played a song that spoke to me, and I responded in praise. I can usually tell because I feel my heart swell and my eyes tear up, because I am truly feeling the praise flow from me to Him, my Lord. These moments feel like they are far more rare than they ought to be, but I am also grateful to the Holy Spirit within me to grant them to me. I couldn’t possibly feel this without His presence.

I hope you have known that feeling too, whether in your own worship time with God, or in the presence of a host all singing and praising with their hearts. May God fill you to overflowing.

Worship and Singing


What does worship look like? Does it look like singing? I think it can look like singing. It I also believe that singing can often masquerade as worship. Singing can also satisfy the ego and contribute to worship of self.

I remember years ago thinking this when I was hearing a performance of “special music” at church when I was a teenager. As I listened to the performer song her song, it felt too professional, to much like a concert celebrating her skill and talent than worship. Being a kid, what do I know, it I am certain this is a danger many musicians face in making “worship” music.

It seems to be that singing, done with lips and mind seems to rarely come from the heart anymore. For it to truly come from the heart, it needs to be sung, learned, and felt. There are songs we learn, new songs, and many of those too often, always being inundated with new music because the industry is always trying to make new music to make more money. I don’t blame them for trying to make money, and some music will affect some more than others. But at my church, it seems it new music week every week. I can’t learn it fast enough and thus is doesn’t touch me because I’m still trying to decide as I learn it, it is theologically sound? It is something I can sing truthfully? Or is this someone else’s experience I’m trying to ape for the sake of singing a worship song? A lot of worship music is someone else’s experience of worship, not necessarily mine.

On the flip side, I’ve been in churches where the music is too familiar. We’ve sung it every week so that my mind and lips and song without accessing the heart. Those songs near little resemblance to my modern context. They are often filled with words that I don’t use in my everyday, so that “raise my ebenezer” doesn’t mean anything to me. Granted there are many good old songs, but hearing them played by discount musicians or whoever “we could get to play this morning” often leaves me wanting.

I guess I am particular about my worship, or maybe it’s worship fatigue. Church tried very hard to pass music off as worship that we don’t know what else is worship, like silent meditation in God’s word, prayer, reading aloud the psalms, or seeing God’s glorious handiwork. We have become so accustomed to music as worship that we haven’t given room to much else. Is singing worship? It can be. But singing a Christian song doesn’t make it worship. Worship comes from the heart.

Help me dear Lord offer worship today that comes from my spirit, not just my lips and my mind. Help me to worship, even to use words when necessary. You alone are worthy of my praise and honor. Help me Lord to give glory to You in all things. I pray this in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

All-Day Praise


Is there a bad time to praise? Apparently not, since from dawn to dusk appears to be a good time for worship. Does that rule out the night-time. Nah. Nights are good for meditating in His precepts, or for, you know, sleep. Really there isn’t a bad time to praise the Lord and that’s a good thing.

All around the world, people are praising the Lord. It is daylight somewhere on the earth at all times. I think that’s why God wanted Noah’s children to scatter over the face of the earth. Someone somewhere is praising the Lord, and the sun does not go down on His Name.

So what could you do today to make today a day of worship? How could you approach your work or tasks today to offer then before the Father as acts of service to the Name? Maybe you could dedicate each act, each work as unto the Lord. Maybe each hour could be heralded with prayer. Perhaps even right now could be a moment of worship even as you read.

Heavenly Father, please remind me to worship today as I go about my daily tasks. Help me to see the holy work in which I engage because each day is Yours and I am working for you. In Jesus’ Name I pray, Amen.

True Worship


“Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship.”

‭‭Romans‬ ‭12:1‬ ‭CSB‬‬


What is true worship? Do you try and capture it on Sunday morning as the instruments play and the bodies sway in time? Is it when the worship leader says, ”Everybody stand!” or when she says to the band, ”Let’a just song this without the music now” and we don’t acapella, with just the power of our own voices?

None of these things seem to be in view of the text. Rather it seems true worship takes place everyday in little moments. While you are working and eating, thinking and serving, worship can take place. True worship dossn’t need a name. It needs a heart devoted to God so that even in the mundane, there is God.

What would you have for worship like that? What would it be worth to make every opportunity a place of worship? Apparently the cost is also included here, make your bodies a living sacrifice. It costs you to worship Him who spent His life and blood on you. It is a more than even exchange. All of Him for all of you. What can you offer Him today?

LORD, help my everyday be the Lord’s day. Make my every waking moment be yours, for I am yours. Help me to remember throughout my busyness that this world is not my home. That greater things are coming that this, and that I can endure all these things for You give me strength. Lord help me remember today that I am not my own. In Jesus Name, help me to worship you today. Amen.

New Songs and Old


I love it when an old song comes on the radio that I know. I hear the first few notes and I am taken back to when that song plucked my heartstrings, and the song’s power comes back in all its glory in memory and joy. New songs don’t do that, because new songs emerge in the present, with my present circumstances. It takes a bit for new songs to become familiar and find their context that make them memorable.

But here is the things about songs and worship. Old worship songs you can sing by heart. You can also sing them without thinking about them. Because you know them so well, you can “go through the motions” of singing it without really feeling it. New worship songs don’t do that. They require concentration, effort, conscious thought. It is nerve-wracking when your church decides to sing several new songs every week. But it also forces you to concentrate and not go on worship “auto-pilot.”

I like a nice mix of the familiar and the new. Give me some old songs that I know so that I can feel confident when I sing that I know the words. But also give me a new song to force me to think and engage my mind and heart together. Sing unto the Lord a new song. Song Him an old song. But sing from your heart, and not your lips alone.

May God bless you today as you continue to serve and bless His kingdom.

Praise in the Sanctuary


Nestled in a much longer psalm, David extols the joy of this new commission of worship leaders in Asaph and his cohort. Above all, God is to be praised. His love endures forever.

So this strikes me as odd. Sunday is more the mountaintop of worship. Wednesday is the midweek hump. Today Is Tuesday. Maybe you have a tradition where Tuesday is a day of worship, but sadly I do not. Is there cause for praise on a Tuesday?

Do I hear a resounding ”YES!”?

If you can’t find a reason to praise Him on a Tuesday, you’re not paying attention. If you are in a funk please praise Him. Have you ever received good from His hand? Praise Him. Have we ever received good instead of judgment? Let us praise Him. Blessed be the name of the Lord, on a Tuesday. God bless you today.

Of you would, please pray for Kentucky today. The Election Day is today, and we have much to be in prayer for.

With One Another


Have you tried living as a Christian all on your own? Actually, I’ve heard many try this, saying that they can worship God anywhere. Some prefer especially during deer season, to take their New Testament up into the deer stand with them. There they have solitude and quiet in their peaceful worship of God. Sounds great, doesn’t it? I don’t know why more people don’t do that?

Others prefer to stay home, watching church on TV. For some, I’ll agree this is a necessity, as they are physically unable to go anymore. Many are unable to leave home for health reasons. But many of these same people will find a way to the doctor’s office, the Walmart and whatever else. I have waited in the doctor’s office longer than I’ve been in church.

But what’s so wrong about people wanting to experience God on their own terms or in the comfort of their home? I would hope that people are seeking God in their own home. But that isn’t Christianity. It’s a part of their work as Christians, their personal work in seeking His face and in prayer. That is a private work, but it not the whole.

The main work of Christianity is body life. We exist as part of a body of Christians. None of us exists to himself. Going to the deer stand on Sunday morning or sitting in your living room watching TV church does not qualify as going to church. Why is going to church so important? Because that is where the body is. You encourage others and are encouraged in return. You support others and are supported in return. The primary intent of attending church is being the church to one another. It is finding our connections in flesh and blood people who believe and serve the same God. We need social interaction and support. (And we need to be mindful of that for our elderly population).

We not only need it, but we are commanded to it, even by the verse quoted above. It isn’t just our own voice lifted up in praise to the King of Heaven that He wants to wants to hear. He wants a concert of voices. He wants to hear our song combined into one multi-layered sound. If it is not good for “man to be alone” it is certainly not good for a Christian to worship alone, to be alone, to be faithful alone.

I know this will hit some of you in the wrong place, because you’ve tried it. You’ve tried to be that encouraging voice in the church. You’ve tried to be a peacemaker, and you’ve received the sharp stick of Christian discouragement. You’ve tried going to church, and you’ve only received pain. That is not a church God wants you to attend. Find another one. As Hebrews 10:25 says, “don’t give up meeting together.” Don’t give up. Part of your Christian walk and faith is the harmony and synchronicity you find with other believers. You can’t do that on your own. Going to a church is not a suggestion. Staying home and watching it online or on TV is not a solution. You need interaction with real people. You need others to fellowship with, to study with, to share ideas with and struggles with. Is it a sin not to go to church? Is disobedience to a clear and direct command from God a sin? Then yes, and heaping sin upon yourself in wilful refusal with not help your walk or your prayer life. GO TO CHURCH!

God bless you today.

Praise All Day


is there a bad time to praise the Lord? If you wanted to take this verse literally, you might be off the hook overnight. Taken figuratively, as long as you are awake, it’s a good time to praise the Lord.

And it’s not like you have to keep inventing reasons to praise, because you are literally surrounded by some very good reasons to praise the Lord and those often.

I praise the Lord because I have a loving wife of 24 years who had not abandoned me but confessed her love for me everyday. I have four talented amazing children who surprise me everyday with their insights. I worship at s great church, have a rewarding career. I am literally surrounded by blessings everyday.

And I still get down.

I still mope that I don’t have everything i want. 🙁 I still find reasons to complain. 🤨 And the importance of this verse is not lost on me today. I needed this one today too.

May I simply send out this reminder that praising the Lord is part of our necessary work every day. God would not have us dwell on our sorrows and become sour, but dwell on His praises and remind us of our future. We have every reason, every day to praise the Lord. So let us Praise the Lord!

God bless you today.