What’s All the Racket?
By Rod Whitlock
Having been in youth ministry for most of my life I have grown accustomed to hearing this question in one form or another, asked most frequently when it comes to the topic of worship.
“That music is too loud!” shouts an on-looker.
“That’s not the way we do worship,” says another.
We spend as much time defining, defending or evaluating worship as we do actually worshiping. (I don’t say this in judgment, simply as an observation.)
On the one hand I admire the passion of our youth. They worship (if we can use this word at this point in our discussion) with great enthusiasm. Enter any youth service and students are seen down at the front of the platform, jumping, lifting hands, loudly singing and yes - even dancing.
But is this really worship? I think that’s fair question. Look at the account in Genesis 4 of Cain and Abel. God asked both to worship. Cain chose his own way to worship and Abel followed God’s plan. God refused Cain’s worship so Cain grew angry and murdered Abel. Worship cost Able his life, so to speak.
Later in Genesis we see Abraham ready to sacrifice his one and only son as a form of worship. During the three-day long journey Abraham is the only one who knows what is about to take place. He must offer his son as a sacrifice to the Lord.
Imagine what Abraham must have thought for these three days. Put yourself in his place: lying beside the fire at night, wondering if you’re doing the right thing, as your son lies next to you…your only son.
In II Samuel, Uzzah reaches out to steady the Ark and is struck dead. Hardly seems right, after all he is only trying to help, right? Shortly thereafter, David comes home, disrobes himself and dances before the Lord. His wife Michal, despises David in her heart for his actions.
These are just four accounts of worship among many found throughout Scripture. What do they all mean? For one, worship is often not what we think it is. God is the One we worship and thus makes the rules. For us not to follow the rules of worship means we worship our rules rather than our God.
Rules for worship, you ask? Yes. The fact is that God has a set design for how we should worship. He determines the criteria. He lays the foundation. He is the One we worship.
It appears to me, from the few examples above, that worship is more about following. It was about response to God more than giving to Him what we think He deserves or needs.
Perhaps worship is more both/and rather than either/or.
Worship is BOTH quiet reflection (Abraham’s quiet commune with God next to a fire) AND joyful celebration (the sheer joy he felt when God spared his only son). They must have hugged, danced, laughed, jumped, shouted…you get the picture.
Worship is BOTH obedience to God’s law (Uzzah touching the Ark) AND coming naked in joyful exuberance (David’s dance before his King).
The danger comes when we put worship in a box. The reason we do this is because it’s easier to control this way. We love worship… on our terms.
Thus my suggestion is that we worship with heads bowed in quiet submission AND shouts of joy with arms raised, jumping with great rejoicing. I believe God is worshipped equally as much by the 13-year-old student rushing to the front and by the 73-year-old man quietly sitting in the back. I believe God is worshiped through extravagant singing and humble submission to His plan.
In other words BOTH/AND: singing and sacrifice, dedication and dancing, reflection and rejoicing, laying down your life and jumping up with joy.
We must learn to worship from each other rather than continuing to condemn each other. Only then will we reach unity in our worship. When this unity is reached, God will be truly worshiped.