'Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song'
As one of the 'worship leaders' in Coventry Vineyard I spend quite a lot of time thinking about the nature of worship. In Coventry Vineyard one of our main aims is to 'Encourage people to worship God in their everyday lives'. We try and emphasise that everything we do in life can and should be an act of worship. As Graham Buxton says in his book Dancing in the Dark which I have been reading :
'The Christian life centres on relationship with God, from which flows all worship. In its most general sense, worship describes the whole of life. The word derives from the Anglo-Saxon word weorthscipe, which has to do with worthiness or respect.' So we want to live our lives in a way which ascribes worth to God our creator and redeemer. I absolutely believe this.
I do think there is a real problem when the word worship has become synonymous with the music and singing variety - as in 'The Best Worship Album in the World Ever'. I now constantly find I'm having to qualify what I'm talking about when it comes to worship. Instead of 'I'm a worship leader' it's 'I'm responsible for leading some of the musical forms of worship'. Instead of 'let's worship' (before a time of sung worship) it's 'Let's continue to worship God in the form of singing'.
I can understand how some have got sick of the worship=songfest equation and have given up on sung worship altogether. Perhaps this is necessary for a season, to redress an imbalance, emphasise worship as lifestyle and explore other expressions of worship. I think I would struggle with this in the long term, especially in view of scriptures like Psalm 95 above.
What I do have a problem with is when people say that sung worship is just singing some songs. It is no more just singing than praying is just talking. I also think it's a bit harsh to label Christians who enjoy and look forward to times of corporate sung worship as 'consumers' who are just looking to be entertained. I think this may be grossly unfair in many cases.
So how should we refer to those specific times when the church gathers for communal 'acts' of worship - praying, singing, shouting, dancing, bowing, kneeling, reading scripture, contemplation, liturgy, sacrament? I think I would still call them times of worship, but try and continue to emphasise that they should be a summing up, a bringing together, a celebration (or a lament) of our whole lives before God.