Worship. It is a word used often in the Church to describe several things: we have worship leaders, worship services, worship music, etc. Over the past thirty years I have served two congregations as a worship leader as well as led worship along with my family in hundreds of churches. Additionally, I have written magazine articles about worship, written worship songs, developed worship teams, and have spoken on the topic of worship.

Worship is not just a big part of my life, but it is essential to our relationship with God. It is also one more area that – if we are not careful – can get knocked completely out of phase.

In our church communities we can so easily relegate worship to a style of music or a one-hour block of time on Sunday mornings. And while these are perfectly acceptable applications of the actual word, to limit our understanding of worship to a music genre or a small portion of our weekly routine is to dilute its importance. Worship is so much more. In this scenario we very often restrict the joy and peace available to us through worship.

However, there is another—and in my experience—seemingly more dangerous way our worship can get knocked out of phase.

I am not only a music creator, but a music consumer. As a worship leader, an artist, and songwriter, I am deeply moved by music. Music can make us laugh, make us cry, comfort us in life’s difficult moments, it can stir a soldier’s heart before battle, and so much more. In the church music can also prepare our hearts to receive the lesson of the sermon: it can teach us, help us memorize scripture, or learn theology, and it can move our hearts into an attitude of worship.

However, as humans we are prone to addiction and if we are not careful we can find ourselves, like an addict, chasing a feeling or experience and missing God in the process.

To keep our worship in phase requires some self-examination. To widen the scope of our understanding of worship to include more than just a genre, a portion of time on Sunday morning, or the title of one of the church staff members requires consideration and perhaps study: head knowledge.

To keep us from chasing a feeling or experience requires the willingness to examine our hearts. Even as someone who both creates and is moved by music, there have been times—more that I can count—when I have been singing with the congregation and have felt like I am the only one in the room not caught up in this experience with God. That is not to say I was not in an attitude of worship, nor is it to say anyone else was faking it, only that I was not responding with the same level of emotion as were they.

Scripture tells us that “The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 NLT

The heart can be a difficult thing to examine precisely because we cannot see the hearts of others and often have trouble even knowing our own.

One thing I do know, however, is this: worship is more than a title and more than a feeling. It is a lifestyle marked by a grateful heart living in obedience to God and the service to others.

One of the best verses I know to put this in perspective is this:

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the worship corrupt you.” James 1:27

So, how do we keep our worship in phase? James also wrote “faith without works is dead.” Like worship, our good deeds are not a box to check off, but rather the natural response—a byproduct if you will—of an authentic relationship with Jesus.

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