Sadly today, the different worship styles across Christian denominations can become a source of division in the body of Christ.
Some Christians like modern music, others prefer the traditional hymns. Some want a more formal service and liturgy out of reverence, while others prefer the stripping away of any distraction from their relationship with God.
But when worship styles become a source of debate rather than a source of connection, we risk losing sight of the reality of what worship truly means.
So as we search scripture, can we find unity in the true heart of worship?
As Christians, worship is one of the greatest gifts we are given by God to spur our communication with Him, honor Him, and exist within his love.
It is a true, unfathomable essence of our hearts crying out to Him through His Spirit within us.
One of the first places to start when searching for the true heart of worship is the story of David.
Today, much of what David did in worship would be found offensive, insane, and quite wild.
In fact, much of what David did was viewed this way even in his own time.
In 2 Samuel 6, the scripture says that, “David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, and David was wearing a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouting and the sound of trumpet” (2 Samuel 6:14-15, NASB).
As Samuel says, David worshiped in dance, in song, and in sheer freedom and love for the Lord.
A further examination of David’s worship into Psalms can provide even greater insight into the gift of worship.
Throughout Psalms, David and the book’s other authors demonstrate an honest fluctuation of emotions before God. At times, the songs and poems within Psalms are of falling apart before the Lord and of brokenness.
At other instances in Psalms, David and his counterparts write of anger and justification, of hopelessness, of joy, and of rejoicing. Furthermore, the Psalms both demonstrate a conversation with the Lord as well as a passionate idea of how to worship the Creator.
Psalm 33:3 says, “Sing to Him [the Lord] a new song; play skillfully with a shout of joy” (NASB). This verse largely encapsulates what it is to worship, both literally, and within the heart.
Worship is not a specific form of hymn, chord structure, or manner of movement. As can be largely seen in the writings of David, it is the declaration of your heart for the Lord as you, the individual, connect with Him.
Within Psalm 33 and many of David’s other works, the importance of singing and ‘playing skillfully’ shows itself frequently.
Sing to the Lord something new, something uniquely from your heart. Whatever you do, do it skillfully and for the Lord.
When one’s heart is in the proper place, simply utilizing one’s gifts in service of the Lord can be worship. If your gift is lights, sound, or even just that you wholeheartedly surrender to Christ, that can be worship. Use the gifts He has given you to worship Him.
The apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesians further explains worship in Ephesians 5.
“And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:18-19, NASB).
Paul’s writing says to worship with a melody from your heart, to speak to each other with psalms, hymns, and songs resultant from being filled with the Spirit. This is the essence of worship.
As Christians, it is not the physical form of worship, the place, or the manner that dictates what it is, but the placement of our hearts.
Opening one’s heart in worship to the Lord, whether in brokenness, in joy, or in struggle, allows for worship.
It is the use of our gifts, to give our all for our God, to praise Him and exist in His glory that is the true essence of worship.
Can you see how this understanding of the true heart of worship might mean for unity in the church?
If modern worship music is the melody from your heart, that is OK.
If a traditional liturgy fills you with the spirit, that is OK.
As long as you have a heart for God and you are praising His name with truth, it is OK.
So let us dance, sing, and collapse humbly at the feet of Jesus in the ways in which we are called, and let us not be divided any longer over the style of worship. It is all pleasing to God.