Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Biblical Worship

Here's a question for you... Is your worship Biblical?

And another question... What do you mean by Biblical?

One famous worship leader said that when people say they want Biblical worship, he points them to how David danced exuberantly before the Lord wearing just a linen ephod... (2 Samuel 6.14)

So the question remains - what do we mean by Biblical?

I had a very polite chat via youtube with a friendly guy who kindly wrote on my youtube page explaining his thoughts about worship. For him, worship should be Biblical (what he means is - according to the ways of doing things that we read about in the Bible only). For him, this means pretty much vocals only, the occasional harmony and no real percussion. Fair enough.

But it did set me thinking about what we say when we talk about 'Biblical' worship and whether what we find in the Bible should be our only guide to how we do worship. The problem for me with this approach is that I feel it doesn't honour God or the Bible, or correctly interpret the Bible.

The Bible is God's Word and is absolute truth. But we must make a difference between theology and simply things that the Bible records. Additionally, the Bible is God's Word that God knows that we need. It is not the full counsel of God. If the Bible was the ultimate guide to God, he would be absolutely awesome. But God is way beyond what we read in his Word. We don't know everything about God, the world, dimensions, heaven, God's nature etc. We don't even have all of Jesus' miracles recorded in the Bible (according to the Bible itself in John 20.30 and 21.25).

Taking the first argument about theology - bear in mind that there are lots of things in the Bible that we don't want to copy! The Bible talks about sin, gives examples of how people sinned and the evil that people did. So while these things are Biblical, we certainly don't copy them!

Secondly on the same theme, there are things we find in the Bible that are good examples or interesting but don't relate to us - for example the size of the stones that built the temple. It's interesting and fascinating for some but it doesn't relate to my relationship with Jesus today.

Thirdly, we have to distinguish between theological essentials (the divinity of Jesus, the virgin birth, the 3 in 1 nature of God, the death and resurrection of Jesus etc) and those things in the Bible that can relate to and help us today but are not theological essentials and can even be questioned for what the Bible really says and why (for example Paul's opinion on women wearing hats).

So in the example of worship, if we say that our worship must be Biblical in terms of what we find in the Bible then we actually abuse good interpretation of the Bible. I once had a debate with someone over organs in worship (no organs in the Bible by the way...) and asked this person whether they thought it was ironic that they were writing on the internet on their website that churches shouldn't have drums etc. I asked whether this wasn't a bit hypocritical (i.e. there is no internet or websites in the Bible).

The Bible records the instruments of worship that were available in the day, time and place when the Bible was recorded (in earth time - God is outside of time!) But nevertheless, in the day of King David, electricity hadn't been discovered, nor had advanced electronics that was able to create synths, recording, mics, DJ decks, electronic instruments etc. To only use instruments we 'find' in the Bible seems misguided at best - the Bible doesn't even pretend to list all the instruments that were available at the time of writing, let alone throughout time! Nor is this the Bible's prime aim. The Bible is the record of God's Story primarily and the truth about God. It never attempts and never once demands that we use the Bible to be the only basis for our worship.

Going beyond all this, we live in a world that has existed for thousands of years, across countries, tribes, races, cultures, traditions etc. God made us all different and loves our different forms of music. My brother was a missionary in Africa and people commonly used drums. But according to some (usually in traditional Western denominations), using drums in worship is wrong! But that simply isn't true and doesn't do justice to the world of cultures, races, worship (through time) that God created.

Nor do worship expressions simply include music. If we look through the Old Testament especially, we find that worship always included a posture of the body - singing, dancing, bowing down, being prostrate on the floor, arms in the air, jumping about, silence, the fear of the Lord putting people on their faces etc. If we want to talk about 'Biblical' worship as so many people see it, why are we not seeing people do this!!

Worship itself is Spirit to Spirit (John 4.23-24) and is not primarily a visible thing anyway. We know from 1 Samuel 16.7 that man looks on the outward appearance but that God looks on the heart. We know that God's eyes search across the earth looking for those who hearts are for him (2 Chronicles 16.9). Ephesians 5.18-19 talks about worship including making music to God in their hearts!

Our worship is also not really about what we do for a couple of hours on a Sunday. Our worship is a life experience - it is our love for God manifested 24/7. Even my musical worship goes on each day as songs come to mind, as I sing, grab a guitar, jump about the place, talk to people about God and the Bible, praise God, thank God, or write a dance music remix of a song that God brings to mind!

Worship is our response to God's goodness. Worship is the overflow from our hearts and mouths about who God is and what he has done and is doing for us. To limit this expression is completely outrageous. If I want to rap, shout, sing, fall on my face because of God and his greatness and worthiness to worship, this should be completely normal. To limit people's musical and other genuine God-expressions of worship is nothing short of limiting and boxing God. Nor is it Biblical :)

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