In an effort to get my point across with a splash, I’m going to be hyperbolic:
- Singing a hymn at church is not worship.
- Playing guitar at small group is not worship.
- Humming along to a song in your car is not worship.
- Raising your hands on Sunday morning is not worship.
- What the band does on stage is not worship.
These may be expressions of worship, but the worship itself takes place at the heart level. It’s my heart’s response to relationship with my Creator. It’s something I do “in spirit and in truth.” No sound waves are involved.
Without something taking place in the heart, the hymn and guitar and song and hands and band are simply noisy gongs or clanging cymbals, signifying nothing.
When our hearts worship the Lord — that is, when our wills are aligned with His, when we humbly concur with His judgments, when we are grateful for His lovingkindness, when we are overwhelmed with His holiness — then we might express this worship with our bodies.
We may give money to the local church or serve at a crisis pregnancy center. We may work diligently, even when the boss is not around. We may say no to extramarital sexual activity. We may ask forgiveness, and extend forgiveness.
These are all everyday expressions what’s going on in our hearts, all expressions of worship.
Or we may sing a song, we may strum a guitar, we may hum, we may raise our hands, we may rock with the band. But again, those activities are not necessarily worship: They’re merely symptoms of the worship that occurs within us toward God.
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So now I’m left wondering: If heart-level worship is behind all the activities of our Christian lives, if our work and our giving and our purity and our singing can be expressions of worship, why can’t our attitude — that mediator between our hearts and our actions — sometimes look the same from activity to activity?
For example, if my God-honoring hard work is punctuated by moments of light-heartedness with co-workers, why can’t an appropriate amount of light-heartedness be present when I’m with co-church attendees? Why do I have to express worship in such a “reverential” way in the church sanctuary, while I’m free to express my heart’s worship in a more “conversational” or “relational” way in other areas of my life?
The next time I’m singing in church, I’ll resist the urge to furrow my brow in concentration, I’ll resist the urge to have a pained “I’m worshiping” look on my face, I’ll resist the urge to work so hard to invoke the Spirit who is always among us.