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What Are We Teaching About Worship?

I’ve seen this video pop up on the Burnside Writers’ Blog and on the iMonk blog.

Now, I want to be careful here. I don’t want to bash the people in this video. I’m sure most of them were honestly trying to worship God. In the churches I grew up in, I remember going to gatherings which had elements like this (and I was uncomfortable then as well as now).

The question that still goes through my head when watching gatherings like this one is, “Why?”

Why do you think this is worship?
Why do you choose to worship in this way?
Why are you doing what you are doing?

My nine-year-old son was watching the video with me. I asked him, “What makes this different from what we do at camp, on Sundays?… We do actions to songs… Some of you dance around during the singing time…”

I love what he said. “I don’t get what they are saying. We sing songs about who God is and how much we love him, and we do actions and dance around not to get attention but for God. They look like they are just dancing around.”

Again, I’m not trying to pass judgement on the people in the video. There’s nothing wrong with dancing around and twirling your socks in the air. But I have a hard time seeing this as “worship.”

That begs the question, “Well, then, what is worship?”

The best definition I’ve found for worship comes from Teaching Kids Authentic Worship by Kathleen Chapman. She defines worship as “paying attention only to God.” She compares it to a boy playing a video game. The only thing he is paying attention to is that video game. He doesn’t hear anyone else, he doesn’t see anything else… his whole attention is focused on that game. In that instance, he is “worshipping” that game. The same goes for worshipping God. When we do something for God, paying attention to him while we do it, then we are doing that something as worship whether it’s singing, dancing, reading the Bible, taking out the trash… whatever. Worship is not about me, it’s about God. Worship doesn’t simply result in warm fuzzies, but results in action… in mission.

  • How would you define worship?
  • What do you teach kids worship is? How do you teach worship to them?

3 Responses to “What Are We Teaching About Worship?”

  1. jabberfrog September 5, 2009 at 5:14 pm #

    Great question. I, too, ask the same question as it relates to the singing segments of our elementary worship experience. One of our goals in our mid-hi experience is to transition the students from songs with dance moves (elementary experience) to songs with no orchestration at all (mid-hi experience). The dance moves in the elementary experience serve a variety of purpose that I support. ____1. They define acceptable movement for our youngest in the room. (i.e. jumping vs running)__2. They get kids up and moving to get the 'wiggles' out__3. They introduce potential worship postures (i.e. raising of hands, kneeling, etc) However, I own that these movements mean nothing if they are self-focused and not God-focused__If we can help our elementary kids transition from focusing on the moves to focusing solely on God then when they reach the mid-hi experience, worship songs without orchestration shouldn't be a difficult thing. Rather kids respond to these segments in their own personal worshipful way. ____A 'Love Train'… really? I won't go there.

  2. Rusty September 7, 2009 at 5:21 pm #

    You make good points. I'm sure the worship leader has great intentions, but I do think that lyrically lacking by pulling the focus on the worshipper instead of the one worshipping. Worship has to push the focus outward towards God. Sadly the America's have suffered for far too long with the me worship. Once we get the lyric idea on track, then we can worry about the music.

  3. steve September 10, 2009 at 8:41 pm #

    The song is basically a remake of the a song by the group Dead or Alive from the mid '80s. From what I can tell of the lyrics, they have replaced the word "baby" with the word "Jesus". That does not make it worship as far as I am concerned.

    We must give them the benefit of the doubt as far as intent is concerned. But I would question the judgment.

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