The Right Way to Worship?
Q. At a church camp this summer, I noticed that other kids worship differently than I do. We even debated different definitions of worship. Are there right and wrong ways to worship?
A. Isn't it amazing how differently people worship? Some are loud and expressive. Some are quiet and solemn. Some kneel, some stand the whole service, some dance, others just sit. Some sing praise songs, others sing hymns, others sing only psalms, others chant. Some read their prayers, others write their prayers, others tell God whatever pops into their minds at the moment, others speak in unknown languages. Some take Communion every week, others once a month, or even less often. Some worship in beautiful church buildings, others in storefronts, others in homes. For some, preaching is the centerpiece of worship, for others it's only a minor part.
Are there right and wrong ways to worship? Certainly. But what makes worship right or wrong is not your posture, your music, or whether you raise your hands, clap your hands, or fold your hands. When a woman asked Jesus about different ways of worshiping, Jesus replied, "A time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth" (John 4:23, NIV).
Worshiping "in spirit" means that you mean it; that you're worshiping inside out, not just going through the motions.
Worshiping "in truth" means that you're worshiping the true God and not some idol you've created. And it means you're being truthful with your words and thoughts that you bring to worship; you're not trying to put on a religious act to impress someone.
Throughout history, Christians have agreed that several key elements are important in worship:
1) Praise. Giving honor and glory to God with words, songs or art.
2) Confession. Worship means acknowledging who God is (holy and good) and who we are (not so holy and not so good) in relation to him. This means admitting and confessing our sin, and accepting God's forgiveness.
3) Prayer. In worship, we speak directly to God about what's on our minds (our needs and the needs of others) and what's on God's mind (his desire for love and justice and redemption in the world).
4) Hearing God's Word. This means reading the Scripture. It also means listening for what God is saying to you through the music, the sermon and everything that happens in worship.
5) Remembering Christ's sacrifice. This is most clearly done by taking Communion. Thinking about how God saved us from sin is at the very center of our worship.
6) Responding to God's love. Worship doesn't end when the service is over. Worship means we leave the service so aware of God's greatness that we find ways to obey and honor and serve him throughout the week.
Marshall, a former pastor, is editor of Leadership, a magazine for pastors.
Copyright © 2007 by the author or Christianity Today/Ignite Your Faith magazine.
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