Every worship ministry that I have ever led has learned these verses intimately. They are my philosophy of worship verses. Ironically, these verses were also the theme of the worship ministry that Beth and I were part of for the past year.
It’s obvious that these verses are talking about worship. However, to the casual reader there may very well be an unanswered question left to wrestle with.
There are typically two very distinct camps when it comes to worship. The first camp is all about the experience. There is a connection that worship makes to the heart of the participant that cannot be denied. Worship evokes emotion into us. It can be almost primal at times. This is not a bad thing as it is in these moments that it becomes quite possibly our most honest expression of worship. To quote a popular song it is worship that is coming ‘from the inside out.’ We will call this worshipping in spirit.
There is also an inherent danger to this type of worship when it stands alone. It can easily become all about having your emotions dictated by music, lighting, aesthetics, and all sorts of outside influences rather than remaining centered on Jesus. My previous blog talked extensively about the importance of being God-focused when we worship.
I am a musician. I understand that music is emotional. Take a second and be honest with yourself. How many times has a key change, or a drum break, or a screaming tenor note brought you to your feet? Take it one step further and ask yourself if your response to that musical device was about God or about the music. Those are hard questions to answer and responsible worship pastors wrestle every single week with the balance between good sounding music and musical manipulation.
This leads us to the other camp. This camp believes that worship engages the mind rather than the heart. These folks think about every word and phrase in a song and expect the theology to be spot on. They often find the repetitive nature of modern worship music to be shallow at best and often times they find no theological value in singing those songs. We will call this worshipping in truth.
There is also an inherent danger to this when it stands alone as well. It completely discounts the value of the heart of a worshipper. Maybe it is from a fear of falling into the trap that I mentioned earlier, or maybe it is just the way they’ve always worshipped. Either way, disengaging the heart from worship is just as dangerous as disengaging the mind.
I absolutley love that Jesus said that true worshippers would worship Him in spirit (heart) AND in truth (mind). This implies that a balance between the two is not only possible to experience, but it is necessary to achieve.
God created us as both intellectual and emotional beings. If we are truly to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, then all of those need to be engaged in our worship. Worship can and should be envigorating, exhilarating, engaging, and exhausting.
When you enter into your worship time, whether privately or corporately, let Jesus words from John 4:23-24 challenge you. If you are emotional in your worship, allow your mind to engage as well. If you are intellectual in worship, don’t be afraid of your emotions in the process as well.
Be the kind of worshipper that the Father seeks.