Let me note right at the beginning that worship can be difficult, and that I struggle with this at times. I am using the term “we” to include myself, so I’m not pointing at anybody here.
Now let’s get to it: There are a lot of different expressions and experiences in worship. They are not all musical, though that’s what we tend to associate it with in modern church. They are not all corporate, though modern western sensibilities tell us that it’s more efficient to get everybody together and do it at once. The Bible shows us many examples of worship, but they all tend to follow the same experience.
I’ve recently had a few issues with “feeling it” in a worship setting, and have been spending time reading about some worship experiences in the Bible. The one that has spoken to me the most, and that I believe is a good solid template through which most authentic worship experiences can be viewed, is found in Isaiah 6. It’s a personal worship experience recorded by Isaiah the prophet, and I would recommend taking a quick moment to read it here. Here’s how it goes:
Isaiah encounters God (vs 1-2)
He hears others testify to the glory of God (vs 3)
He is confronted with the greatness of God (vs 4)
He realizes his own inadequacy before God (vs 5)
He is offered atonement for his shortcomings (vs 6-7)
He is shown God’s will for his creation and responds in gratitude (vs 8)
He is given a commission by God that extends beyond his initial worship experience (vs 9-10)
There are several steps here, but it’s simpler than it sounds. Most of these are logical progressions of one another: if confronted by the greatness of God, don’t we feel inadequate? If offered forgiveness for jacking things up, don’t we want to know if there’s something we can do to give back? So since a lot of this is automatic, why is it so hard sometimes?
In my experience, the breakdown is almost always at the beginning of this process, and mostly on step three. While we may see God, hear about the gospel, and witness others who love Jesus being changed by Him, we fail to see the greatness of God.
We fail when a beautiful landscape does not move us to see His creativity;
when we attribute our abilities to our own skill and power;
when we try to balance our failures with our own morality;
when we see our mercy towards others as our own goodness;
when a changed life is chalked up to just learning to be a better person.
I could list things for a while, but I think that you get the point. Worship is a response to what we believe is true. If everything that we are told has to filter through a layer of cynicism and consumer greed, we will not be willing to see God for who He is. If we are not willing to see the greatness of God and our own inadequacy, but would prefer to see God as a teammate or an emergency hatch, we will never truly worship Him.
Why would we?