Thursday, May 30, 2013

Lecture: The Premise and Philosophy of Worship

I originally meant for the ideas here to be part of a future post for my ongoing “Analysis of Christianity” series.  However, I was asked to give a lecture on worship for our church’s music ministry seminar, so I had to write my analysis on worship sooner than intended.  Below is the final draft for my lecture.  I did not deliver it in verbatim during the actual lecture, of course, because I had to deliver it in “Taglish” for clarity and impact purposes – nonetheless, all thought remained the same.   

Good morning. 

Before we go on with the clinics on different worship instruments, I will be delivering first a short lecture about the premise and philosophy of worship. 


Let us define “worship”: 
A slide during lecture
That is, however, a broad and cold definition (as expected of a dictionary).  Let me analyze “worship” as how it’s significant to our spirituality. 

Worship is not only about music and singing, but every component – from start to finish – of corporate worship.  Some people mistakenly define and associate worship with just the part of the church service where the congregation sings hymns or praise and worship songs.  We should not limit worship to merely singing.  The sermon, offering, prayer, etc. – any activity during the service – is part of the worship.  In fact, if we need to determine what is the “most important” segment of corporate worship, it’s not the singing and music, but the sermon or the delivery of God’s Word.  The “praise and worship” segment is merely the “front act” for the sermon segment which is the “main event.”  The “praise and worship” segment is merely the “appetizer” and the Word is the “main course.” 

Worship is a lifestyle. When we do things for the primary purpose of pleasing God, even if it’s “secular” work like being a banker or carpenter, or studying hard as a student; or eating and drinking; or a small chore or task like sweeping the floor; then that is worship. When we are obeying God’s commands and are seeking God’s will, then that is worship. Whenever we glorify God with our lives, that is worship.

To worship God is the foremost purpose of Creation.  Thus, when Creation fails to fulfill its purpose, then that is an act of rebellion against the Creator.  Let us consider the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism:

Q: What is the chief end of man?
A: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

It is our chief end to “give glory to God.”  But not only that, but we should also “enjoy” God forever!   To “glorify God” and to “enjoy God” always go together – it’s the same thing!  Take note that it’s “chief end”, and not “chief ends.”  You can’t have one without the other.  Thus, enjoying God always goes hand-in-hand with worship.  Whenever delight is absent, it ceases to be worship.  Our worship is only acceptable to God if it is a sincere and automatic response due to that fact that our delight is derived in Him.  When we “worship” out of mere sense of duty, it won’t honor God at all.    

Consider also that if we don’t enjoy God and worshipping him, then what would our eternity in Heaven be when our activity in Heaven is worshipping God for all eternity?  Think about it: even if – hypothetically speaking – both worshippers and non-worshippers will go to Heaven, only the true worshippers will really think of Heaven as Heaven because they are with the One that gives them excitement and joy and they won’t ever tire in worshipping Him.  The non-worshippers will actually have “Hell” even if they are in Heaven because they will be required to do something that they take no delight in (i.e. worshipping) for all eternity; they will have eternal boredom rather than eternal thrill.      
Only Christians can truly worship God.  Why is this so?  Two reasons:
a.) The glory of God has been revealed to them.  Thus, they see that He is a God that is more than worthy of their worship.      
b.)  They love God, and they draw their delight and thrill in him.        

Since only Christians have been equipped (by God’s grace) to worship God, then they are the only ones that can accomplish “the chief end of man”, as what was established by the Westminster Shorter Catechism.

Worship is spontaneous.  Just as someone who has been impressed and moved by a singer’s performance will automatically applaud the singer, so will someone who sees God’s overwhelming attractiveness and splendor will automatically worship Him.    

We worship God because we love him.  The emotions of thrill and joy are always present when we love.  When we love, those feelings of thrill and joy that are contained in our hearts would surely explode, pushing us to express our love by doing things that would please the object of our love.  Thus, if we really love God, the by-products of love – thrill and joy – will compel us to worship Him.  I said a while ago that worship is spontaneous.  And the love that we have for God is a major catalyst in the spontaneity of our worship.      


Based on the analysis of worship we had in Part 1, we can derive this train of logic:
A slide during lecture
The more we know God, the deeper we fall in love with Him.  The more we love God, the more delight and thrill we feel for God.  The more intense our feeling of excitement and joy are, the more impulsive our acts of worship are and the more sincerely glad we are when we are doing them.    

Moreover, through these acts of worship, God will continue to reveal himself to us.  


Being part of the music ministry is a great honor.  Be proud and humbled when you become/are part of the music ministry.  As part of the music ministry, I find that it’s through music and songs in which worship to God can be effortlessly articulated.  Expressing adoration, thanksgiving, and praise are easily done through the lyrics and the mood and spirit are easily moved into a worshipful state by the music.  Music and lyrics are great tools in easy establishment of a direct connection with God and feeling his presence.  Therefore, as part of the music ministry that leads the congregation in this special experience, I consider it a great privilege to be in the frontlines.     

Every member of the music ministry – both singers and instrumentalists – is a worship leader.  And as worship leaders, it is imperative for music ministry members to maintain a lifestyle of a worshipper – to not only be an effective worshipper in the music ministry, but also in other acts of worship as well, especially in living a holy life.  Worship leaders should not only be leading the congregation in singing to God, but should also lead the congregation in the worship of God through the obedience of His Words.  Worship leaders have the responsibility to be the “role models” of the church.       

Practice well.  Making mistakes when playing instruments or singing is okay since we are human after all.   What is important is our heart.  However, this should not be used as an excuse for making mistakes. Any mistake made that could have been avoided if you had practiced well is dishonoring God.  Mistake happens but any mistake should have not been due to laziness in practicing.  If we gave it our best and had practiced hard, but still made a mistake, then that’s okay (but we should do our best to avoid making the same mistake the next time).  Nonetheless, we should always keep in mind the necessity to pursue excellence since we will be performing for the King of Kings, who is deserving of the best quality of music and worship possible!    

Repent our sins before leading the worship.  This is self-explanatory.  In fact, every Christian should do this before attending or joining the corporate worship.  Truly, when we are full of sin, God won’t accept our worship.  If we attempt to worship without repentance, that is hypocrisy in our part.  So asking forgiveness for our sins is an imperative SOP (standard operating procedure) before the start of worship.

We are not rock stars.  Music ministry members should remain humble; we should instead be thankful for the talent and privilege that God has given us.  We are not performing in a concert, we are leading the congregation in worshipping God.  We are not the stars; the glory is not for us.  The best worship leaders are those that can effectively direct all available glory towards God.  John 3:30 – “He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” – should be our mantra and slogan.  

This quote from the main character of the anime Kuroko No Basuke also perfectly articulated the proper philosophy of a worship leader:
A slide during lecture
God is our Light, and we worship leaders are His shadow.  Just as Tetsuya directs attention away from himself to make his teammates better, so we must make ourselves less and less that God would become greater and greater.  As the shadow, let us be “darker” that “the white of the Light will stand out.”  Once again, let me repeat this for emphasis: The best worship leaders are those that can effectively direct all available glory towards God.

We are all called to be worshippers, but not all of us are called to be worship leaders.  Both heart and talent are needed to become worship leaders.  Heart is, of course, more important than talent.  And I totally believe that when you are really called for the music ministry, God will grant you the heart.  And when you have the heart, the talent is guaranteed to follow.     

I find it annoying when people claim that the “heart” is enough, that the talent is unnecessary.  I don’t believe that.  If one truly has the heart, then he will also have the talent.   HOWEVER – take note! – it doesn’t mean that when one has the talent, then that is an immediate evidence of that he has the heart.  All that have the heart will ALWAYS have the talent, but not all that have the talent have the heart. 

I have this experience in one youth summer camp when I was still a teenager.  The worship leader – a woman – in one particular service was so hilariously out of tune that one can’t help but guffaw, even if you try to stop yourself.  Noticing that most of the campers – especially the boys – were laughing, giggling, and chuckling, she justified herself after one song that “what’s important is her ‘heart to worship lead’ and her inability to sing in tune is a non-factor.” 

I beg to differ with her opinion.  Yes, as long as you have a sincere worshipful heart, even if you are unable to sing in tune, your song will be acceptable to God.  But that is far as being a worshipper in the congregation is concerned.  That is even applicable if you are doing a special song number for the Lord.  But not when you’re a worship leader.  In the case with being a worship leader – capability in singing is required.  If you can’t sing, then don’t worship lead by singing.  When you worship lead, you should have the ability to effectively draw the congregation into a worshipful state and lead them into glorifying God.  You would need talent.  “Heart” is not enough.  If you are distracting the congregation instead of leading them into worship because you are singing out of tune, you are failing as a worship leader and you are not at all glorifying God with your “heart”.  In fact, this could reflect that you really don’t have a sincere heart of worship, and that “heart” you are claiming to have is merely your own selfish desire to sing or perform in front of the congregation. 

Thus, it is very important to evaluate ourselves if we are truly called to be worship leaders.  Let us determine if the “heart” we have are truly His calling or merely our own will to glorify ourselves.  Pray and fast for it.  We should seek His will.  Let us not insist ourselves to go into a ministry that God didn’t call us to be. If God truly called us, he will equip us.  Besides, since we are all called to be worshippers, it might be that though we can’t be worship leaders or part of the music ministry, we can be more blessed worshippers in some other ministry – a ministry that God has ordained for us.   
I can still remember how I learned to play the guitar.  I prayed that if God will give me the talent, I will dedicate it primarily for ministry.   And God answered my prayer; sometime later, I learned the guitar.  And through that answered prayer, I understood that I’m truly called to glorify God through the music ministry.   

My prayer is that today, you won’t only improve in skills but that you would also come into recognition of what is God’s will for you as a worshipper.  Thank you and all glory be to God. 

No comments: