Rick Warren Says ‘Worship Is Not Just the Music, People, It’s Far More Than the Music’

(PHOTO: THE CHRISTIAN POST/SONNY HONG)
Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, speaks at the Pastors’ Conference 2014, ahead of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Annual Meeting, on Monday, June 9, 2014, in Baltimore, Md.

Bringing pleasure to God is called “worship.” The Bible says, “The Lord is pleased only with those who worship him and trust his love.”

Anything you do that brings pleasure to God is an act of worship. Like a diamond, worship is multifaceted. It would take volumes to cover all there is to understand about worship, but we will look at the primary aspects of worship in this section.

Anthropologists have noted that worship is a universal urge, hard-wired by God into the very fiber of our being—an inbuilt need to connect with God. Worship is as natural as eating or breathing. If we fail to worship God, we always find a substitute, even if it ends up being ourselves. The reason God made us with this desire is that he desires worshipers! Jesus said, “The Father seeks worshipers.”

Depending on your religious background, you may need to expand your understanding of “worship.” You may think of church services with singing, praying, and listening to a sermon. Or you may think of ceremonies, candles, and communion. Or you may think of healing, miracles, and ecstatic experiences. Worship can include these elements, but worship is far more than these expressions. Worship is a lifestyle.

Worship is far more than music. For many people, worship is just a synonym for music. They say, “At our church we have the worship first, and then the teaching.” This is a big misunderstanding. Every part of a church service is an act of worship: praying, Scripture reading, singing, confession, silence, being still, listening to a sermon, taking notes, giving an offering, baptism, communion, signing a commitment card, and even greeting other worshipers.

Actually, worship predates music. Adam worshiped in the Garden of Eden, but music isn’t mentioned until Genesis 4:21 with the birth of Jubal. If worship were just music, then all who are nonmusical could never worship. Worship is far more than music.

Even worse, “worship” is often misused to refer to a particular style of music: “First we sang a hymn, then a praise and worship song.” Or, “I like the fast praise songs but enjoy the slow worship songs the most.” In this usage, if a song is fast or loud or uses brass instruments, it’s considered “praise.” But if it is slow and quiet and intimate, maybe accompanied by guitar, that’s worship. This is a common misuse of the term “worship.”

Worship has nothing to do with the style or volume or speed of a song. God loves all kinds of music because he invented it all—fast and slow, loud and soft, old and new. You probably don’t like it all, but God does! If it is offered to God in spirit and truth, it is an act of worship.

Christians often disagree over the style of music used in worship, passionately defending their preferred style as the most biblical or God-honoring. But there is no biblical style! There are no musical notes in the Bible; we don’t even have the instruments they used in Bible times.

Frankly, the music style you like best says more about you—your background and personality—than it does about God. One ethnic group’s music can sound like noise to another. But God likes variety and enjoys it all.

There is no such thing as “Christian” music; there are only Christian lyrics. It is the words that make a song sacred, not the tune. There are no spiritual tunes. If I played a song for you without the words, you’d have no way of knowing if it were a “Christian” song.

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