Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Rethinking 'Worship'

The comments on the What is Church? post by Nicole prompted me to write this post. It actually gave me an opportunity to do a little learning on the topic called - worship. I am going to ramble on my thoughts here and it is perfectly okay to disagree!

Have you heard statements such as ‘I was late and missed the worship today’, ‘for tomorrow’s meeting we have a special 15 minutes worship’, ‘the worship leader is on vacation so we canceled the worship’?

Jesus revealed one of the profound truths of the history to the Samaritan women at the well, ‘You must worship your God in truth and Spirit’. When we look at a little bit of background there, she was talking about doing the ‘worship’ in a particular mountain or place.

“Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem." (I wonder how people worship, if they can’t climb the mountain!)

But this was Jesus’ response:

"Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.” “The true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."

In other words, there comes a time when you don't worship God this place or that place. Or worship is not tied to a particular place or a particular style. Jesus was revealing one of the revolutionary principle of New Covenant which is much better than the Old Covenant.

God is Spirit and you must worship Him in truth and spirit. Worship him in truth. I think it’s about being real. Just being real with Him for who you are. He imputed His righteousness to me and I have absolutely no righteousness to stand on. That realization within our heart generates the love required to worship Him. Worship Him in Spirit. I think it is the Spirit who lives in us prompts us or enables us to worship Him. It is a little outrageous to think that the Spirit will prompt us to worship in truth sharp at 10.00 every Sunday morning. It didn't really work for me when I was in the church. I remember standing there numb while the people around me 'worshiping' like crazy. I have also seen pastors and worship leaders struggling hard to stir the people up to bring an 'atmosphere of worship'.

If you have a church background similar to mine, you might have already seen some interesting definitions of worship in churches. For some people it is raising ‘holy’ hands and singing. For some it is speaking in tongues, for some it is dancing, for some it is screaming, for some it is laughing (holy laugh?), for some it is being ‘slain’ in the spirit. If you see all of these different styles of worshiping, you will see one thing in common. All of them have one or more physical components – hands, mouth, legs, body etc. It is something about me or us. Also, people come up statements such as 'there is power in corporate worship'. My only problem with that is, such concepts are not there in New Testament. New Testament do not have such an emphasis on the so called worship what we see in the churches today.

Some churches have dress codes for 'worship'. Does God really care whether I wear suit or jeans when I 'worship'? Does God really care what comes out of my mouth or does He care about the attitude of my heart? When it is a mere fact that using my mouth I can speak something totally contrary to what I have in my heart, why would God see the 'many words' and 'meaningless repetitions' coming out of my mouth? . I think God is more concerned about my heart than my mouth.

We often forget that we worship a God who lives in us. We often forget the union we have with Christ Jesus. We often forget that we are indwelled by the Spirit who is actually the object of our worship (or faith. I will get to that later). We often forget that we are seated in the heavenlies with Christ Jesus. Like Bob George says, so sometimes we have to look down, not look up. We have books on ‘how to worship’, we have sermons on tips to become a great worshiper. We (evangelicals) blame Catholics about their ritualistic worship, but what we do is replacing that ritual with another ritual. Yes, we have no priests, but we have pastors. Yes, we have no Cathedrals, but we have ‘house of the worship’s. Yes, we have no bowing to images, but we have raising of hands.

I checked the concordance portion of my Bible for the word ‘worship’ and found only 5 references (3 from New Testament where it is actually addressing the worship topic. There are many other passive references though.)

1. People coming to worship Jesus when He was born.
2. Jesus talking about worship to the Samatian woman.
3. Romans 12:1.

Here is Romans 12:1, which tells me a lot about the New Covenant way of worshiping:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.

It is talking about offering our body (members of our body) as a living sacrifice. Oh… it’s about physical? No it is not! Offering the members of our body is an attitude of our heart. Offering our body for the very purpose of God so that His son can live His life through our body and accomplish His purposes! He can use our eyes, mouth, hands, legs etc. In effect, it is nothing but living by faith. Thats is the worship according to New Testament.

I checked the word ‘faith’ in my concordance and found more than 100 references to it and most of them from the New Testament. That tells me something, that the New Covenant life is all about walking by faith in the Son of God who lives in me. Bible says, without faith we cannot please God. That’s a huge principle to me. It didn’t say without worship we cannot please God. In fact, If we are walking by faith we are worshiping God.

I am not against to using our body to express our joy towards God. I think it is perfectly alright. But I can't call it an act of worship according to Romans 12:1. Act of worship is an attitude of our heart, totally surrendering the members of our body for the glorious work of Christ in and through us.


Aida said...

Hi Bino,

Some great thoughts on worship. True worship like everything else has been hijacked by religion and given a meaning that can be measured . . . how loud we sing, how fast we dance, how many instruments are involved, do we pray in tongues. These are all things that can be measured with the natural eye and can look really good to the observer.

True worship, however, is of the heart and often is only visible to Father. It's between him and the worshipper. I don't see corporate worship mentioned in the scriptures and certainly not in the way it is used today.

I really like the Romans 12:1 scripture you gave. I've never noticed that it gives a clear definition of what true worship is. Thanks for sharing that.

While I don't particularly care about singing too much, I tend to be a little hyper at times so I love to dance. The group that I hang out with call themselves Presbyterians so they're a pretty quiet group. They're also pretty tolerant so they I get positive comments because I get out in the aisle and dance although no one joins me.

In other words, I'm pretty physical during the music part but I understand that's not really worship. For me, it's more celebration and enjoyment and it is one of the ways, I sense Father more easily. I also know it's easy to go through the motions with the wrong motives. However, people tend to think I'm spiritual because I dance.

I think it's great to celebrate together but because we haven't understood that's not necessarily worship, we have once again come short of experiencing true worship.

"According to Romans 12:1, act of worship is an attitude of our heart, totally surrendering the members of our body for the glorious work of Christ in and through us." This is a great definition and I think it says it all.


Nicole's Godblog said...


Hey, what you have expressed here is where my heart is exactly. Except you know how to word it better than I could. Amen to all of it! When reading your post, I was overwhelmed with how unfortunate it was to grow up 'worshipping', hardly and rarely touching the surface of Father. I can remember in the services always having a weird feeling during 'praise and worship' people staring at me the whole time and always having an awkward feeling of not being able to be intimate enough with Father, if that makes sense. I could always sense that something was missing or something was never really right. Now its so clear to me that having a relationship with Father doesn’t mean that I have to or should spent my time with Father worshipping in front of all these people! To me, it becomes more about people than Father, the focus seems a bit off in some experiences I have had. Another thing that got under my skin and now just trying to let it go is the dress code. I could go on and on about this one because it has been a huge angst in my life for years, even when I was still involved in attendance. I remember specifically being ‘taken aside’ when I was younger, not by my parents but by some of the elders and pastors wives, that wearing shorts was not aloud. I was eight or nine years old. Need I say more? Yikes.

(Okay now let it go Nicole)

I am so blessed that you took this subject and got down to the heart of the matter. It has helped me realize what worship is all about, and it is having a heart to heart fellowship with our Father and so much more than I can comprehend.

In Freedom, Nicole!

Bino B. Manjasseril said...

Aida and Nicole,

Thank you for the comments.

What matters in a new covenant Christian walk is 'faith expressing itself through love' (Gal 5:6). Nothing else. Nothing we do or don't do matters. I have seen people striving to reach out to God in the so called worship services. We can't reach out to God, instead he reached out to us in love. Now as His children, we are to walk in faith, in a trust relationship with Christ. Thats a moment by moment basis and it is an act of spiritual worship. It is simple, beautiful and practical! We humans don't like simplicity so make things complicated and messy.

In many such worship services as I mentioned in the blog, what is happening is nothing but emotional mysticism. It is a deception. It has all the focus on 'sight', miracles, supernatural manifestations. When we are looking for such, are we walking by faith?
Faith in the fact that He has already done everything needed on our behalf and we are now given everything we need for life and godliness in Christ.

bob said...

I wrote a comment and lost it all, so all I will say is that I agree with you.

Worshipping Him

Bino B. Manjasseril said...


It's bad that you lost it.But again, Thanks for reading and encouraging!