man and decisions  One of the blessings I receive from spending time with worship leadership teams is being challenged to think more deeply about those obstacles that get in the way of Biblical worship.  Sometimes an even bigger challenge comes from just trying to find words to articulate spiritual concepts and meaning associated with worship.  My general rule is, when in doubt trust the Word.  Since the nature of Christian worship is spiritual to begin with, it just makes sense to trust the Book in which we find the very revelation of the God we claim to worship.

Of all the misconceptions about worship in our day, one of the most prominent seems to be the misconception that worship is ultimately about our inspiration. New Orleans Seminary professor and friend, Ed Steele, addresses this issue in his new book, Worship Heartcries.  He notes the confusion between entertainment and inspiration, but goes on to note that with inspiration “It may or may not be spiritual in nature; as in the inspiration received watching the Olympics and the fruit of hard discipline and practice.”  Ed’s discussion further demonstrates to me the trap of our own thinking related to inspiration when comparing it to entertainment.  Indeed, it seems to me that either one may lead to the other.  An entertaining song, sermon, or even prayer may inspire us.  Likewise, an inspiring message, song, or other action in the worship setting may well be entertaining, and thus hold our attention.  The discussion in these matters can go round and round.  Although inspiration may sound more holy than entertainment, the end of each still tends to center in the “I” who is entertained or inspired.  I would concur with Ed Steele that while there is confusion in these matters, it is wiser to err on the side of caution, and maintain that “worship finds its center in and on God Himself, His nature and character and what He has done.[1]

A good test for worship is to ask, “Where is the controlling point?”  That is to say, “Is God subject and object in this action?”  “Is the Lord revealed and/or responded to in this act of worship?”  To consider such questions certainly takes a measure of faith.  This is indeed appropriate to worship, as we are reminded from scripture that “without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Heb 11:6)  Precisely because worship is spiritual in nature, it is difficult to identify or assess.  Impossible, perhaps, apart from the biblical truth offered to guide us.  Scripture also reminds us “The heart is deceitful above all things.” (Jer 17:9)  While we might disagree on the interpretation of scripture, we are still on more firm ground, even if we are disagreeing over exact meaning of words from the Bible, than if we are lost in meaningless arguments over whether something inspires or entertains, when the point of either inspiration or entertainment rests in what is meaningful to me/us, rather than what is pleasing to God.  He is Lord, not my amusement or need for inspirational motivation.  Often the cry of our heart may be as that of the father of the boy with an unclean spirit in scripture, “Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24)

Anyone who has truly worshiped the Triune God knows that encounters with the Almighty often result in a re-centering of our motivations and attitudes.  As such, we are frequently inspired, sometimes sensing deep emotional response whether visibly demonstrated or not.  Our faith in God who is Provider, Savior, Comforter, our All in All, is the very root of our side of the worship equation.  What a blessing to know the subject and object of that faith is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, not my own inspiration or entertainment.

What a blessedness, what a peace is mine

             Leaning on the Everlasting Arms 


[1] Ed Steele Worship Heartcries: Personal Preparation for Corporate Worship, p.111


Explore posts in the same categories: Choir Ministry, Church Music, Congregational Singing, Leading Worship, Music Ministry, Private Worship, Singing Worship, Spiritual formation through singing, Worship Leaders, Worship Pastors, Worship Reminders, Worship theology, Worship thoughts, Youth Worship

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