The Westminster Shorter Catechism opens with a simple yet profound question: “What is the chief end of man?” The answer given to this question is equally profound: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.” Sounds like worship to me. Our English word worship literally means to “attribute worth” to something. When we worship we are attributing worth to God. We are acknowledging his greatness, his power, his glory, and so much more.
Historical worship is traditionally divided into two parts with each having two sub-parts. Part One would be the Word with two sub-parts; we enter into God’s presence and we hear God speak. Part Two would be the Table and its sub-parts; we respond with thanksgiving and we are dismissed to love and serve. All this sounds simple, yet worship is one of the most misunderstood words used in churches. For many people, the biggest area of concern is music. However, music is a means to enhance each part of our worship but not, by definition, a part in and of itself.
Musical tastes have changed over the years. Our reason for worship has not. For example, the German term for worship, Gottesdienst, means God’s service to us and ours to God. The French term le culte and the Italian il culto both invoke the idea of a lifelong relationship of giving to God and receiving from God. Music is a part of this relationship but worship does not rise or fall on our likes or dislikes of a type of musical style. Worship begins in our hearts and springs forth in an attitude of gracious acknowledgement that we are sinners but Christ is a great Savior.
So as we gather together for worship let us remember music is a tool: we can use it to enhance our worship experience. Music can also be use in various styles to attract the next generations into the presence of God. More importantly, we should remember worship is more than music. It is an intentional response of praise, thanksgiving, and adoration to God, made known and accessible to us in Jesus Christ and witnessed in our hearts through the Holy Spirit.