What Happens When We Worship
When we sing songs of worship in our church services, what is really taking place?
When we sing songs of worship in our church services, what is really taking place? Physically and mentally, a lot. Scientific studies suggest spiritual practices like worship have a measurable impact on the brain. In his book How God Changes Your Brain, Dr. Andrew Newberg provides evidence that worship can positively affect brain structure. These changes aside, have you ever thought, "Is all of this emphasis on how to 'do worship' in the Church really worth it?" Even through my own lens of criticism and scrutiny, I have to believe the answer is yes. Here are five reasons why:
Worship builds the Church. As the former campus worship pastor for Southeastern University, I often get this overwhelming feeling that Jesus is moving through His Church in this present age. The sight of young people lifting their voices together is awe-inspiring.
Worship music has the power to unite believers and affirm that God is up to something amazing. I know, it seems like the worship leaders at every church in America (and their moms) are releasing their own music these days. But this can be a very good thing! Even if original worship songs from local churches are never signed to a major label, never top the charts and are never sung in churches around the world, they can still serve an amazing function. They are honoring God and uniting local believers for something greater.
Even if original worship songs from local churches are never recorded or sung elsewhere, they can still serve an amazing function.
Worship breaks chains. From Paul and Silas' jail cell (Acts 16:16-40) to mega-church arena services, worship has the power to break strongholds in our lives. Just like when David played music for Saul (1 Sam. 16:23), it causes the spiritual darkness in our lives to flee. Even health science has taken note of this phenomenon. Newberg explains that faith placed in a loving God can prolong our lives, lower feelings of depression, anxiety or grief and give greater meaning to life.
Worship music is deeply beneficial to the worshipper because it aligns us with the Holy Spirit and the heart of God, setting us free. Worship exalts God. There is nothing we can do as believers to further cement Yahweh in His supremacy. It is important, however, that we seek first His exaltation rather than our experience.
As Pentecostals, we are eager to sense His presence, witness miracles and speak in tongues. But these are merely a by-product of praise. Scripture tells us God inhabits the praises of His people (Ps. 22:3). When we worship, He meets with us, and we experience His goodness. But emotions and "spine tingles" must never be our pursuit. We should seek first to call God what He is: holy and worthy. Worship causes us to love God and others more. In Matthew 22, Jesus simplifies "all the Law and the Prophets" down to two commandments. All of our sermons, teachings and self-help books can be encapsulated as such: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" and "Love your neighbor as yourself " (vs. 37-40). Worship music serves its purpose best when it paints God in truth and gives us a perspective that causes us to love one another more.
There is no limit to what God and His Spirit can do for us in worship. But there is a role for us to play. We need to champion creative communities in our churches. We need to reverently approach any time spent in worship, individually and collectively. I pray a song of worship will always be at the center of our faith.