Leading worship for some twenty years, I've realized that my definition and philosophy of worship has evolved (dare I use the word). I, along with so many, have been trying to grasp what real worship is. I continue to ponder on it.
Certainly worship music has changed over the recent years. We are in a fantastic era as far as praise and worship music go. There are so many new and talented Christian bands, musicians, and song writers. One of the reasons that we are blessed with a flood of new music is the web, which allows us access to so much music. But it also seems that we are in a worship revival - a world-wide worship movement. And praise and worship music is a part of it.
As I reflect on my journey over the years as a Worship Leader, I realize that I have grown along with this wave of praise and worship, and I love that I have. As a musician, I've seen how song writing has changed in the last twenty years - the chord progressions, the style, and the lyrical expressions. The worship music culture is certainly continuing to change and grow.
What I see as a negative, as far as the current worship movement is concerned, is the common philosophy of worship today. There is an emphasis in recent years that worship is simply 'how we live our life'. This philosophy is widely prevalent in so many modern worship books. But is worship simply living our life for Christ? Is worship just "our whole life" as some profess? Not in my view. My opinion is that if we take such a general approach to worship, then our concept of worship becomes watered-down. It becomes diluted.
My philosophy is that worship is a specific, deliberate action. After all, can we really worship God without even realize we are doing it? I don't think so. Is worship simply serving God? No, we certainly can serve without worshiping. During a worship leader conference, I attended a seminar where the instructor used the illustration of a husband serving his wife by doing the dishes, and called that an act of worshiping God. I do the dishes many times, but I don't do the dishes as an act of worship.
For worship to be real, three areas must be engaged. First, the heart must be engaged. In other words, the right attitude must be present (a submissive, reverent heart bowing before God). Second, the mind must be engaged (a deliberate, intentional, focused effort). Third, the soul must be engaged (a spiritual connection or encounter with God). When the heart, the mind, and the soul are all engaged, it's what I call being 'in the zone', as far as worship is concerned. It's only then that we can truly express worship.
Yes, worship is an expression. But for this expression to be sincere and real, our heart, mind, and soul all must be engaged. For example, praise can be one of the expressions you use in the act of worship. However, it's also possible to praise God aside from worshiping Him. We could praise Him by simply saying to someone, "Praise God for this new day He's giving me." But it's just praise. That's OK - as long as you understand there is a difference between praise and worship.
Worship can be much broader than just an expression of praise. When we are 'in the zone', we can express things like our reverence, our thanksgiving, our awe, and our adoration to Him.This expression can be done through words, through prayer, or through action, as long as our heart is right, we are focused and intentional about it, and we are spiritually connecting with God. We can worship 'in the zone' anywhere, at anytime. It can happen in a brief moment or an extended time period. It can be prompted by a song, or a sunset, or a sermon, or anything that reminds us of God.
So, worship is not doing the dishes as a good deed to please our wife. However, it is possible to worship while we are doing the dishes! And as far as getting better at worshiping God, practice getting 'in the zone' as much as you can!