What is the essence of worship?
A.W. Tozer wonders whether "true spiritual worship" is at its lowest ebb even though the Truth of the Word is more accessible than ever. He rightly observes,
To great sections of the Church the art of worship has been lost entirely, and in its place has come that strange and foreign thing called the "program." This word has been borrowed from the stage and applied with sad wisdom to the type of public service which now passes for worship among us. (Tozer, The Pursuit of God, NookBook edition, 3)
Ouch. Yet how often do we substitute the word "worship" for "music" when we attend services--even at sound Bible-teaching churches. Is it really worship to stand and sing with a congregation? The type of music doesn't matter--traditional hymns, contemporary choruses, or percussion-driven bands complete with lighting effects. It isn't worship to read lyrics from a screen or music from a hymnal. When we limit our idea of worship to the music at a service, we may as well be at any secular concert for the good it does our hearts.
Worship isn't an emotional response, either. I think part of the reson people so easily equate music to worship is that music elicits an emotional response. God certainly designed music to promote worship. It calms us. It elevates us. It inspires us. Us. Us. US. And therein lies the primary issue.
In his book, The Air I Breathe, Louie Giglio reminds us that we are made by God and made FOR God. The Psalmist wrote, "Know then, that the LORD is God. It is He that made us and we are His." (Psalm 100:3) We are created by God, the Almighty One, Himself. In all of creation, only man is made in the image of God. Our entire beings are designed for fellowship with Him. We are made to reflect the holiness of God to the world. Rick Warren said it best: It's not about me. It's not about you. It's not about US.
How easy it is for forget that the essence of worship has nothing to do with pleasing US. It is everything to do with pleasing GOD. And because of that, worship is EVERYTHING we do. All day. Every day. In that light, the music of Sunday morning is almost irrelevant. It's not worship to stand and sing. It IS worship to sing and make music when our goal is to honor and glorify His name above all.
But it's so much more. Worship is digging into the Word and learning as much as possible. Worship is loving the unlovable. Worship is helping a neighbor. Worship is offering a shoulder to cry on or a hug to someone who needs it. Worship is feeding the poor, teaching the lost, building the Church.
Worship is silently listening to hear His voice. Worship is looking to see His hand at work. Worship is tasting to see His goodness. Worship absorbs the fragrance of His creation. Working is touching others, not because it makes us feel good, but because it gives Him glory.
Worship is everything we do. The key thing to recognize is that the essence of worship is the Holy God, Creator of all things, who alone is worthy of our every thought, actions, and word.