Worship – 4

Is Worship about Describing God or Encountering him?

I have been thinking about worship recently and it occurred to me that for some people worship is about describing and focusing on who God is whilst for others it is about meeting with and encountering God.

Sometimes, these two views are talked about like they are opposites that are mutually exclusive but I think that the reality is that we need both elements in worship.

For those who emphasize worship as a description, you need to realize that knowing who God is must lead to the conclusion that He wants to be in a relationship with us. God describes Himself as our Father, Jesus says He is with us always and the Holy Spirit lives inside every disciple of Jesus. As we emphasize who God truly is, it should drive us to want to encounter and to have a genuine and real relationship with Him.

For those who emphasize worship as an encounter, we need to be sure that we are connecting with who God really is. The church is described as the Bride of Christ, but do we see ourselves in a relationship with God where we are committed ‘for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health’? Do we see our intimacy with God as being in a committed relationship or is it more like a one night stand (or a Sunday morning stand?) where we seek intimacy on or terms to get what we need? Are we willing to encounter the real God rather than just the bits of him that we like?

Jesus said ‘true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way’ (John 4.23).

The Holy Spirit could be simply described as God in relationship with humanity and this relational aspect is half of what Jesus described as true worship.

Focusing on the truth of who God is and also the truth of who we are and how we are in relationship with Him is the other half of what Jesus described as true worship.

God wants us to know and encounter Him but He wants us to know the real Him. He isn’t like Father Christmas who just gives us good stuff once a year, He wants to help us to grow in our faith and as human beings. He isn’t just a divine bodyguard who will always keep us safe from all harm, sickness and suffering. He isn’t a vending machine that we approach to push buttons to get stuff.

God wants us to know who He is. He is a relational God who created humanity to know Him but He is also the all powerful creator of the whole universe! He is described as Holy which literally means set apart or different and He lives in unapproachable light (1 Timothy 6.16). When we understand how far above us and far removed from us that God is, it makes His relationship with us all the more meaningful and amazing! The God who wants to know us but who was too far removed sent his son into the world to take on flesh. While Jesus was here on humanity sacrificed Him on the cross and God used this act of sacrifice and death to destroy the barrier between us and Him. We can approach the unapproachable God because of what Jesus has done!

So what is worship for you?

Is it about describing or encountering God?

If it is strongly one or the other, how will we go about becoming true worshipers as we focus on both.

Oh, and in case you think I am just talking about singing in church you can think again. The Bible teaches us that the offering of the whole of our lives is a spiritual act of worship (Romans 12.1). As we live for Jesus in the real world, we need to know who He really is and we also need to know His presence guiding us.

Sometimes Christians get disappointed with God in life because  our experience doesn’t match up with the PR spun god who is sometimes presented to us in worship. As we live life in the world, things go wrong and we feel pain but in these moments we can know that God is still good and that He is with us. In these moments of confusion and disorientation, we need to seek God that He might be at work in and through us more powerfully which is what He wants to do in every situation.

True worshipers encounter God through the Spirit but they also understand the truth of who He is.

Graeme Ross – Minister, Orchard Baptist Church, Colchester


Worship – 3

With churches using electronic musical instruments, video and other technology on an increasing scale, have we ever considered the impact this has on the environment?

We talk about trying to decrease greenhouse gases, but churches often, inadvertently, are part of the problem. Especially as we are using electricity on an ever-increasing scale, and often getting it from non-green sources.

I believe we need to do several things – one is to use only green electricity and two, find ways of reducing the amount of energy we use for worship. Worship is about focusing on God, not the worship team. Also, there are many creative ways of worshipping which do not use electricity.

There is also another aspect and that is the cost of using so many ‘electronic gadgets’ that which should be a simple affair, becomes expensive. We should be thinking about how we are using our money to see every people group holistically discipled in our lifetime so that Jesus will come back sooner than later (Matthew 24:14). Worship is crucial to this, as a foundation from which we disciple, but are we making it too complicated and sophisticated?

Worship – 2


In the Bible, there are many ‘models of worship’.  The following is not an exhaustive list, but provides a framework to understand how worship develops:

Family/patriarchical Worship

In the pre-Sinai model of worship, the patriarchs are priests to their own families.  They built altars, offered sacrifices, and gathered their families together in worship.  Their worship was done in the context of everyday living.

Pauline Worship

In this model, we sense the dynamics of improvisation, Spirit-guided unity, the maximum participation possible in small groups, and the special intimacy that transpires in a home setting.  “When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation” 1 Corinthians 14:26.

Synagogue Worship

This model, basic to many Protestant churches, emphasises structured liturgy and accords a prominent place to prayer, Scripture reading and biblical exposition.

Tabernacle-Temple Worship

Here we often see drama, movement, symbolism, the fine arts, and Davidic praise.  Often this is found when many large and small churches come together, usually with inter-church groups facilitating worship.

Revelation Worship

Here all elements of the previous four models are included, but relates most to the Tabernacle-Temple model, yet on a huge scale, beyond understanding.  For, this is when all Christians, from the past, now and in the future, will be together in worshipping God in all His glory in perfect harmony.

Worship – 1

There has been much written about modern worship music, saying much of it is bland.  The real issues are not the songs and hymns that we use, but more the individual church’s approach to worship.  In ‘charismatic’ churches, it can become like a ‘concert’, and in a ‘traditional’ church, the hymns can simply be part of a ‘fixed diet’. We not only need to go back to the Scriptures to discover God’s theology of worship, but also to discover the sheer richness of styles used!  Let us be creative and not get stuck in a rut.

The New Testament Greek word for worship basically means to prostrate oneself and crawl towards the King to kiss Him on the hand.  A picture of humility, honour, respect and reverence!

We need to identify those in the congregation/fellowship who are gifted/talented in helping others and themselves to worship God (for that is who it is for, if we have forgotten!!).  But, I don’t just mean from a musical point of view.  There are many different ways of bringing worship to God, For example, we could use the Scriptures in imaginative ways; we could create prayers that could be led by the children; then there are banners, silence and prayer stations – the list is endless! We don’t need to use music everytime. I now that is radical!  The more different forms we use, the more we can use everyone in the church to help lead worship. Worship should be the centre of the service and become part of our daily lives, 24/7.  What we learn at ‘church’ should be used in the small group and the home.

I look forward to the day when I hear people saying that after the ‘worship bit’ of a service, they are so in awe of God, that the service cannot continue, as everyone is totally immersed in worshipping God and the whole thing is transforming people that they are so changed that others will notice it in the coming weeks at work, in the pub and in the home!  They may even want some of that!

Do let me know of the different ways you worship which help you focus on God and not on how you feel.

May I suggest a book – ‘The 3 Colors of Spirituality’ by Christian Schwarz, available from Natural Church Development – http://www.ncd-uk.com/ as a starter to think through these issues and then to read ‘People in the Presence of God’ by Barry Liesch, available through CLC, a primer on the theology of worship.