Historically, the Church has used much more than just instruments and voices to encourage people to worship. Yet, we often find ourselves defining the music on Sundays as our “worship time”. In English, worship literally means to ascribe worth to something. If that is the case, shouldn’t we expand our definition of worship to more creative endeavors?
In Scripture, the context around worship is not always about a musical expression. Typically, it is only when the phrase epainos (Greek for praise) comes up that we find music in the context. The Hebrew word for worship is Shachah –“to depress, i.e. prostrate (in homage to royalty or God): bow (self) down, crouch, fall down (flat), humbly beseech, do (make) obeisance, do reverence, make to stoop, worship.”
In Greek, there are three words:
a. Proskuneo – “meaning to kiss, like a dog licking his master’s hand), to fawn or crouch to, homage (do reverence to, adore): worship.” It occurs 59 times in the New Testament. It originally carried with it the idea of subjects falling down to kiss the ground before a king or kiss their feet.
b. Sebomai – “to reverence, hold in awe.” Used 10 times in the New Testament.
c. Latreuo – “to render religious service of homage.” Used 21 times in the New Testament.
“It is in the process of being worshipped that God communicates His presence to men.”-CS Lewis
“Silence is the language of God. Everything else is a bad translation”-Mother Teresa
Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker. Psalms 95:6.
Do you see a creative element possibility within this verse? That verse alone represents a way we could worship. Changing our posture from standing or sitting to kneeling (those who are able) would be a small and creative way to change things up a bit.
One of the greatest tensions in modern worship is making it self-centered. Worship is to be centered on the praise of God. It should never be entertainment. That would mean that we are spectators rather than participants.
There are many ways we can respond to God with our affection and honor, most of which have nothing to do with music. Multi-sensory mediums will allow for a holistic approach to worship over time. To be honest, silence can be just as honoring when done with reverence. Wonder and awe tend to stir and resurrect in our stillness. It is possible that we may be making so much noise with our music in our worship that we find it difficult to sense God’s presence. Music can indeed be a beautiful sonic expression of worship to our God, but it is most certainly not an exclusive medium. I would argue that if music tends to be the only means we worship in a Sunday gathering, we might need to not have a band or vocals for a while. This may force us to be more creative. By creative, I mean by something new or old.
Here are some other rooted, historic, meaningful elements that may be creative for your church:
+Communion, Eucharist, Lord’s Supper (whatever your name for it), is a wonderful expression of worship, union, and response. We can even celebrate coming to the table in various ways. (Passing the plates/cups, coming forward together, receiving at our own pace throughout the gathering time)…
+Readings can be a unique way of offering worship. Poetry is a lost art within the Church. Imagine poets from within our own communities writing responses of their heart, life, and connection to what God is doing and reciting in Church. It would be another way for us to commune together and with God.
+Reciting Scripture together can be an expression of worship. Though this is very ancient in practice, it may be new for many. It is a beautiful and unifying way of responding with each other.
+Creating video features may be the new default for sharing a story, information, or theme. But when properly crafted, it will continue to be one of the more captivating ways to connect with humans.
+Fine arts, like capturing a photo of a sunset, painting a canvas, or a skilled dance can also be expressions of worship that will resonate with our people. It is very important to know your culture. Think of it as knowing the language of your congregation. You wouldn’t speak in a language that they do not speak or comprehend.
No matter your environment, congregation size, or worship style, there are many ways to break down and discard “the box”. Simply thinking your way out of it isn’t enough. Take the time to research, dream, converse with your people (not just your staff), and then implement different ways to assist the people in worshiping the Triune God.
Cultivating a culture in which we creatively express worship takes time. Breaking the rhythm by collaborating or co-creating means of worship takes time. It would serve the Church well if we were to continue (or begin) to practice being the work of the people again (which is the meaning of liturgy) with more mediums than music. Imagine, then go and do it.