This week, I asked the students in my church youth group what the word "worship" meant to them. I fully expected them to answer, "singing worship songs," or something to that effect. So I was a bit surprised they knew worship was a lot more than just worship music. They knew it was about taking time to express love to God in myriad ways.
Guess I shouldn't have been too surprised. "Experiential worship"--worship that offers an interactive experience for churchgoers, often employing many of the five senses--has been gaining popularity, and I've been able to witness it at my current church. My church is big on getting folks to paint, write, dance, play instruments, act, and sing as expressions of worship. The church staff likes to include exercises such as having each member of the congregation put our hands into planting soil, carry a rock around, feel a chain, step on to damp beach sand. We once took communion in an interesting way: We individually entered a tent and laid on pillows in front of a low table that was beautifully set with linens, candles, a Bible, and the communion elements.
It seems a lot of churches are moving beyond the purely auditory experience of music and listening to the sermon. Many are now using videos, props, skits, and interactive illustrations. I've heard some folks say churches are becoming too entertainment oriented, too focused on the presentation rather than on God. Now, I've been at some rock-concertesque worship events, complete with smoke machines and laser lights, so I understand that concern. I couldn't even begin to worship with all the flashes in my eyes and booming in my ears. But for the most part, I think it's cool when the church provides diverse examples of worship. After experiencing interactive sermons at my church, I've been inspired to worship in ways I never would have tried. To be honest, I would have felt silly in the past doing some stuff I do now.
For example, I now feel comfortable dancing before God ... in the privacy of my own home. I won't be dancing in the streets any time soon, but I've found great joy privately expressing my love for God in this way. Most recently, I added a symbolic gesture to my devotional time: holding my Bible to my forehead and over my heart and praying, "God, I want your words to be in my thoughts. I want your words to be in my heart."
There's no way I would have done this a couple years ago--I would've felt way too lame. As I was praying one recent evening, I felt moved to do this symbolic action as a way of showing my commitment to God's law. As soon as I did it, I was reminded of seeing a Jewish friend lay tefillin back in college. With the Bible over my heart, I immediately knew the Holy Spirit had moved me to do this simple action because God knew it would be meaningful to me. I believe God gave me this new way of symbolic worship because it helps me better understand and experience my commitment to him.
Next time you feel prompted to worship in a way that seems a little lame, consider God may be moving you for your benefit. When we can experience God in different ways, I believe it helps us understand his character just a little bit more.
1) What is your favorite way to worship? Why do you enjoy worshipping this way?
2) What do you most love to do? Whether it's baking brownies, talking on the telephone or playing soccer, there's a way for you to worship by doing what you love best. Ask God to show you how to combine your passions with your love for him.
3) How do you best learn (hearing, seeing, hands-on)? When choosing a way to serve at your church, consider your own learning mechanisms. For example, if you're an auditory person, you might consider helping with the audio elements of a church service or event. If you're kinesthetic, ask about ways to serve using your hands.