“Worship is man’s full reason for existence. Worship is why we are born and why we are born again. Worship is the reason for our genesis in the first place and our regenesis that we call regeneration. Worship is why there is church, the assembly of the Redeemed, in the first place.” (1)
Worship theology! Why is that biblical concept so crucial for us as Salvation Army local officers to grasp? Why bother? Isn’t that essential only for those who are attending the training college? Can’t we just lead our corps congregations through the hymn tunes and contemporary songs we choose for corporate worship every Sunday – isn’t that enough? Remember, we do not get paid for this; the effort we put in each week should be enough since we are volunteers, right? Ever had these and other questions cross your mind? Have you ever misunderstood worship to be only associated with ‘praise and worship’ during corporate worship? You are not alone. I found myself with those same questions a few years ago – I was theologically dry, spiritually frustrated, and burned out as a local officer. If you can relate, then I pray that this article will help you realize what authentic worship is and how you fit in as a worship leader in God’s Kingdom.
Dr. Vernon Whaley, Dean of the School of Music at Liberty University, states the following regarding what true worship is not.
True worship is not measured by the songs we sing; by the atmosphere, space, or environment we create in which to worship; by the number of Scriptures we read; or by the technology we deem important for facilitating worship. Worship is not determined by our preference for praise band, pipe organ, orchestra, or acoustic instruments. It is not defined by vocal selections (a cappella or with accompaniment) or by a musician’s instrumental skill. In fact, musical expressions may not be essential for biblical worship at all. (2)
What is true biblical worship then? I believe an understanding of worship theology will help us answer that question. Comprehending the why, what, and how of biblical worship is imperative to recognize how our role as worship leaders function. Furthermore, it will help us to stay away from false worship – “It is possible to have an experience of worship, but not according to the will of God and, consequently, unacceptable with God, because God hates idolatry. Idolatry is simply worship directed in any direction but Gods’…” (3)
Let us begin with the ‘why’ of worship? – Why were we created? What is our purpose? To love, adore, glorify, magnify and give all praises to our God. Author Daniel I. Block said it best, “To be human is to worship.” (4)
Adely Charles is a first-generation Salvationist. He serves as the divisional music director of The Salvation Army Florida Division. With his team, they provide music and arts education as well as discipleship and mentoring of the local leaders and Salvationist artists in Florida. He has been a guest instructor and performer at music camps in Mexico, Jamaica, Bolivia, Argentina, and, most recently, Romania. Adely received a Bachelor of Arts with an emphasis in classical guitar performance, a Master of Arts in Biblical Studies and currently is finishing a doctorate in worship studies at Liberty University.
A.W. Tozer agrees and mentions, “By nature man has to admire something. Within his very being he has to adore, and if he loses his ability to adore in his spirit and soar in his heart, he will find some other way to do it. He will get out there somehow. Because of how he was created, man is drawn to mystery wherever he finds it. Some mystery creates within a sense of awe, and when he finds it, he will worship.” (5) God desires that we worship Him, and Him alone. He longs to have a relationship with you; one that is not superficial, not just a Sunday event. He longs to have intimate communion with His greatest creation – you and I, His image-bearers (Genesis 1:26a, 27 NLT). He deserves it all, “And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.” (Mark 12:30) That’s the purpose of our worship!
Subsequently, what is worship? It is our wholehearted love, adoration, and devotion given to our Holy, Majestic, Just, Loving, Omniscient, Omnipotent, Omnipresent, Unfailing, Immutable, Faithful, Gracious and the list of attributes goes on and on – GOD. We love God because of who He is. Authentic worship is what Adam and Eve exemplified briefly in the garden before the Fall. Their focus and purpose was to do that which God created them for – His worship through an intimate relationship. Tozer cites, “Adam and Eve’s unique purpose in the garden was to bring pleasure, joy and fellowship to God, which is the foundation of all genuine worship.”(6) Jesus Christ has made this pursuit of authentic worship evidenced in Eden possible today because of His personal sacrifice for us sinners (Romans 5:8). “Great is the Lord, He is most worthy of praise! He is to be feared above all gods.” (Psalm 96:4) He alone is our proper object of worship.
Last but not least, how do we worship? “Through Christ, we have access to the Father by the Spirit…” (7) We worship God through our faith in Jesus Christ by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Paul says in Romans 3:22, “We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.” With the Spirit’s help, we will worship God in spirit and in truth, “For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24) The methodology of worship is displayed in His Word and by His Spirit’s leading,
we will learn to worship Him like Jesus. Dr. Vernon
Whaley shares, “When we worship ‘in spirit,’ we yield to the Holy Spirit, we are led by the Holy Spirit, and we submit to the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. Worship in spirit also involves our emotions, our inner feeling, our
passions, our motives, our ambitions, and the deepest desires of our hearts – all totally dedicated to honoring Jesus.” (8)
How does all that relate to leading worship at the corps? Through our proper understanding of biblical worship, we will lead others in authentic worship. Knowing who God truly is will thrust our right praise of who He is. Worship is formational (2 Corinthians 3:18), transformational (2 Corinthians 5:17), relational (vertical/God, horizontal/one another), missional (Matthew 28:18-20) and reproducible. As worship leaders, we are storytellers of God’s Love Story – His perfect creation, our rebellion in the Fall, His redemption through Jesus Christ, and ultimately His consummation (Ephesians 1:10, Revelation 21-22). If what we believe is not biblical, we are putting ourselves and the congregation we lead in eternal danger. We cannot lead others to worship God whom we don’t know personally.
Whether you are a songster leader, bandmaster, pianist or worship team leader at the corps, you must immerse yourself in God’s Word to not only learn about who He is, but also teach what you’ve learned in private to the community of faith. That’s the next topic I hope to share with you in the next article. “Here is the very heart of biblical worship: God speaks, and we respond…” (9)
1 A.W. Tozer, The Purpose of Man: Designed to Worship, ed. James L. Snyder (Grand Rapids, MI: Bethany House Publishers, 2009), 26-27.
2 Elmer L. Towns and Vernon M. Whaley, Worship through the Ages: How the Great Awakenings Shape Evangelical Worship (Nashville: B & H Academic, 2012), 12.
3 A.W. Tozer, The Purpose of Man: Designed to Worship, ed. James L. Snyder (Grand Rapids, MI: Bethany House Publishers, 2009), 32.
4 Daniel Isaac Block, For the Glory of God: Recovering a Biblical Theology of Worship (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, a division of Baker Publishing Group, 2014), 1.
5 A.W. Tozer, The Purpose of Man: Designed to Worship, ed. James L. Snyder (Grand Rapids, MI: Bethany House Publishers, 2009), 44.
6 A.W. Tozer, The Purpose of Man: Designed to Worship, ed. James L. Snyder (Grand Rapids, MI: Bethany House Publishers, 2009), 15.
7 Matt Boswell, How the Gospel Forms the Worship Leader: Doxology (Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing Group, 2013), 53.
8 Elmer L. Towns and Vernon M. Whaley, Worship through the Ages: How the Great Awakenings Shape Evangelical Worship (Nashville: B & H Academic, 2012), 13.
9 Tozer, A.W. The Purpose of Man: Designed to Worship. Edited by James L. Snyder. Grand Rapids, MI: Bethany House Publishers, 2009.