The Worship Challenge

Here’s a question I’ve wondered about: in heaven, would I feel any of the restrained feelings I have here about expressing worship?


Even when some of us say that worship is not our primary pathway to connecting with God, I wonder: is that an option? And if I make the case that a particular style of worship (pop band…or choir…or pipe organ…or ?) is not the particular method that floats my boat, then what is it that would make me throw my hands up, sing at the top of my lungs:

“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise! To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”

...and then fall on my face? Apparently, that’s what’s happening in heaven according to John the Revelator. And is it really that I struggle with what my pre-Christian neighbor would think if they stumbled into a setting like that with me, or am I afraid to admit my self-consciousness…or even my lack of faith, because I rarely do that even at home alone? The topic of worship forces a lot of dross to the surface. We used to teach that there were three primary worship-words used for ascribing worth to God: “worship”, “praise”, and “rejoice”. As I understand it, each has three-to-five different expressive Greek or Hebrew words. We can create a continuum, perhaps somewhat arbitrarily, of the full spectrum of expression that God gives us to use.


At one end, the word we translate worship may have more to do with quietness or stillness. There may be bowing involved. The most commonly used Greek word in the New Testament is proskuneo—it literally means to kiss or to come close or come toward and kiss. It’s a submissive expression of intimacy. Along the arrow we come to the expression praise. In the Old Testament alone, there are at least three different Hebrew words each with different meanings that we simply translate as praise. There is the word halal, the root word of hallelujah. It means to brag, or to boast. Another word is yadah, implying to worship with your hands extended. The psalmist talks about lifting our hands in His name as an act of worship. Still another Hebrew word translated as praise is zamar. That literally means to strike a stringed instrument with your fingers. Maybe that’s a case for Stratocasters and Les Pauls in church. But It obviously suggests we’re to have music involved with our worship. Lastly, we have the expression rejoice. There are lots of Hebrew and Greek words translated as rejoice, but they mostly mean to shout, jump or dance. It means to take full expressive pleasure in God. Rejoicing is electric, unrestrained joy. Now if we were honest, we could write on either end of the graphic: “I’m comfortable with this” and “I’m not so sure about this…this borders on weirdness.”


So where are you personally on that spectrum? And how do we as leaders lead our people into a full range of worship? I’m not suggesting a methodology, but rather a challenge. And real leaders always love a challenge!


Dave Workman | Elemental Churches


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