It was John Piper who said that worship is the ultimate goal for world evangelisation. Mission exists because worship doesn’t. At the end of time, our sole occupation through eternity will be to worship God.
Revelation 5:9 gives us a glimpse of this heavenly worship whereby every tribe, language, people group and nation will come together to worship the Lamb of God. What a sight! Could it be that the songs we sing in heaven will be a compilation of hymns, choruses, gospel soul music and modern contemporaries? Could it be that we will be singing a new song at every moment? Could it be that in heaven we will be clapping, kneeling, shouting and dancing with lifted hands in worship before Him?
In any case, I believe it will be something that breaks away from my own stylistic preferences. When I refer to stylistic preferences, I mean some of us are more comfortable to worship with a certain type of posture or to sing certain types of songs. While we may have our own preferences, we must be careful not to fall into stylistic narrowness. Stylistic narrowness means we are disapproving or judgmental of other biblical styles of worship. Stylistic narrowness may be self-righteousness in disguise after all.
Therefore I am convicted that I must challenge my own stylistic preferences and expand my own worship vocabulary by learning to worship like the Psalmists (and not just my favourite Psalms) in the Bible. As I search the Psalms, I find the following postures of worship (this list is not exhaustive):
- Standing – “Let all the earth fear the LORD; Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him.” (Psalm 33:8)
- Bowing and kneeling – “Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker” (Psalm 95:6)
- Clapping, singing and shouting – “Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy.” (Psalm 47:1)
– “Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth; Break forth and sing for joy and sing praises.” (Psalm 98:4)
- Lifting of hands – “Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the LORD.” (Psalm 134:2)
- Dancing, musical instruments – “Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe!” (Psalm 150:4)
- Being still – “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10)
- Thanksgiving and praise – “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.” (Psalm 100:4)
- Silence or musical interlude – SELAH – used in various Psalms.
Certainly in God’s house, all things must be done in an orderly manner. The above-mentioned postures are certainly not disorderly if led and observed with understanding and reverence in our hearts.
In recent years, I have learnt to lift my hands in worship before Him. Sometimes, the voice alone is just not enough to express the joy and wonderment one feels within. I am glad that God has given me hands which I may raise unto Him to express my heartfelt praise and gratitude. I am seeking to grow in other biblical expressions as well.
Our church’s corporate worship philosophy is summarised in this statement: “Towards a Spirit-filled God-centred worship that is rooted in His Word, whereby worshippers respond to His worth and His works”.
Therefore in practice: (i) we declare the Scriptures and let them lead us to worship Him, (ii) we embrace all God-centred hymns, choruses and contemporary songs as God’s providence to help us worship Him, (iii) we centre our worship on God and Christ through the Breaking of Bread, (iv) we embrace all biblical postures and expressions as our worshipful response to God, and (v) we welcome the Spirit’s work in filling us with the joy of knowing His worth and works that lead us to worship Him.
My prayer is that we will grow in our corporate worship as a church. May our stylistic preferences not hinder us from expanding our worship vocabulary. Let us embrace and employ biblical expressions and postures to worship Him in Spirit and in truth. For a start, let us lift up our hands in accompaniment with raised voices to worship our great and awesome God! Let us not be self-conscious, but God-focused.
By Rick Toh, Lead Pastor (YCKC Bulletin 30 November & 1 December 2013)