One of the most divisive factors among churches comes as a result of our worship practices. It is not a revelation to say that worship styles vary to all extremes. The problem comes when we try to measure spiritual depth by comparing other worship practices with our own.
What does the Bible say about worship styles? Worship practices vary even in the Bible. There are instances of singing, shouting and dancing; there are times of humble reverence, awe and contrition. Certainly, all aspects of human emotion are involved. So, is one better than another? Can emotion or volume really do a better job of touching the heart of God? What is worship really about after all?
In John 4, Jesus was talking with a woman from Samaria about worship. She contended that her fathers worshipped God from the mountains and that the Jews worshipped only from Jerusalem. Who was correct?
Jesus replied: "The hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him" (John 4:23). As he often did, Jesus stepped beyond the traditional controversies of the time and went straight to the heart of the matter. Worship was not a matter of position. It was a matter of the heart!
What does Jesus mean when he talks about worshipping in spirit and in truth? Our spirit was created to communicate and commune with God. Once dead and useless because of our sin, our spirits have been revitalized by the blood of Jesus and are now the key to our continuing fellowship with God. Worshipping with our spirit is the lifeblood of our relationship to God.
This certainly must happen more than once or twice a week. We are deluding ourselves if we think that worship can take place on Sunday morning without daily, private devotion to God. Worshipping without a fresh and viable spirit becomes a dry and shallow practice.
Jesus adds one more item to the idea of worship: truth. If we worship God on Sundays and practice another lifestyle the rest of the week, the truth is not in us! God is unimpressed with our sacrifice of time on Sundays when we do not obey him from day to day. Scripture even indicates that God will not accept our worship if we are at odds with our brother (Matthew 5:23-24).
The psalmist speaks of true worshippers as those who have clean hands and pure hearts (Psalm 24:3-4). If truth is not in us when we come to worship God, no matter what style we do it in, it is done in vain.
Jesus says that the Father is seeking those who would worship him in spirit and in truth. I can't imagine God turning away worshippers who come in spirit and in truth because their hymn tempos aren't fast enough or their prayers are too loud! The Father is seeking those who have a worshipping heart of spirit and truth.
As you worship this week, be less concerned with how the worship is done and give more consideration to how you have prepared your heart. Remember that the Father is seeking such people! May we be in spirit and in truth, no matter where we find our place of worship!
The Rev. John Link is minister of music at Curtis Baptist Church.