Christians like to talk about church music and call it worship. Church music usually is a means by which Christians worship. But worship is much more than music. We even have our own “worship wars” in which we decide what “style” of worship is right, wrong, or most biblical. I still see the phrases “contemporary worship” and “traditional worship” plastered on church signs, as though worship can be defined by such descriptors.
In our debates about the biblical nature of worship, we usually ask questions that are fair enough…
- Is this about Jesus? Or is it about the performer?
- Are the lyrics theologically correct and deep? Or are they shallow?
- Are people participating? Or is this a one-way performance?
- Can we use drums? Smoke? Colored lights? Can it be loud?
- Is it still worship if we use drums, smoke, colored lights, and it’s really loud?
We’ve missed the point. When I read about acts of worship in the Bible, I find myself asking different questions…
- Are we increasing our adoration of King Jesus?
- Are we being real and authentic?
- Does my life back up what my lips offer up?
- Is this a witness to non-believers?
- Is there as much room for my brokenness in this act as there is for my joy?
We had only been in town a month or so to start planting Grace Hills when I first met our Worship Pastor, Neil Greenhaw. I sat at lunch with him and asked if he would consider leaving his role at a great, successful megachurch to start from scratch with no promise of success. I had never heard Neil sing or play guitar at that point, but I knew in his heart he wanted to lead people in authentically expressing their praise to God and raise up a generation of worshippers to impact our culture.
Thankfully, Neil said yes in response to God’s calling, and he’s taught me a great deal about worship. Consider the lyrics to one of his singles, Not Holding Back.
Hands raised high, reaching to the One I gave my heart, my life
Head held high, knowing that You love me and my sin I resign
Jesus is the King of Glory
I’m calling for You, my Savior
begging for You, and Your Spirit
waiting to move, I’m consumed by You
Not Holding Back, I’m giving it all to You
worshiping now, in spirit and truth
Your only Son is coming for us
Your Kingdom come, Your will be done
I’m Not Holding Back, I’m giving it all to You
Heart made right, only through the blood and power
Jesus Christ, crucified, now You’re alive
The heart of that song set the tone for one of our core values at Grace Hills. Namely,
We won’t hold back when it comes to worship. We will express our love for God freely so that our passion for him is obvious to a watching world. Jesus is worth it!
As we engage in worship corporately on Sunday, our atmosphere is one of freedom, but not of chaos. I often look around and see people standing and others sitting. Some are raising their hands with eyes closed while others are politely lip-syncing (and I’m sometimes among them). We never say things like “let’s all smile” or “leave your worries at the door.” We recognize that people worship from places of brokenness as well as places of triumph and we welcome both. Worship is our offering to God, but He uses the worship conversation as a time to minister to our needs.
The bottom line is, we try to spend very little time looking around and far more looking up. From our brokenness, we praise the Healer. From our sin-filled, forgiven past, we praise the Forgiver and Redeemer. And with our grace-appropriated, blood-bought future ahead, we praise the coming King. And all the while, we are thankful that such a holy, holy, holy God accepts and relishes in our authentic worship.