“Worshiping Worship” – Say What?


by Darcy L. Watkins

On occasion, I hear expressions to the effect of worshiping worship instead of worshiping God. My initial response was something like, “Say What?” This expression is double edged so some caution is warranted.

What do we mean when we say, “Worshiping worship”?

Of itself, the expression is absolutely stupid. “Oh worship! I worship and adore you oh worship!” See it is absolutely trite.

On the other hand, the expression is birthed out of a concern. Most churchspeak is. The concern is that we could get overly caught up in the forms and practices of applying musical arts in the church that the process can have preeminence over the person whom it was all supposed to be for in the first place. So long as we understand that the process, the forms, the practices and procedures of themselves are not worship, but are vehicles used for us to worship God then we are ok.

During His earthly ministry, Jesus rebuked contemporary religious leaders since they placed emphasis and value on the traditions of men such that had preeminence over what God wanted (and perhaps even God Himself). He didn’t rebuke them for having traditions, but for misplacing preeminence.

Singing songs during a church service is a form or a convention used as we worship God. There are a variety of styles just like there are variety of styles of music. Preaching sermons is a practice used as we worship God. Coming to church on a designated day of the week is a convention most of us follow. In fact even gathering together is a specially designated building is a form used. These are all traditions of ours. They of themselves are not worship. However, we appreciate how these things facilitate our worship of God.

When we discuss the very issues of God in the scripture and on occasion get heated but then arrive at an understanding of scripture, this is ok since we are dealing with a matter of truth. Even if disagreement is present and we part our ways, it is still acceptable since we follow our convictions and our conscience on vital matters. This in part is is why there are denominations and various church organizations which target different objectives and emphasize different issues.

On the other hand when we get into the same type of heated debates over traditions and hold dear to an item even to the point of holding it closer than the issues of God, yikes! we are in danger. Worse than that, in our attempt to hold dear to a tradition or a form, we may equate it to an issue of God so that we appear to defend an issue of God when in fact we are defending a tradition. This is where churchspeak can be of detriment. For example someone may feel they are defending “worshiping God” when in fact they are defending a form of worship.

I think it is commonly understood that when we say “worship”, we are often focusing in on certain aspects of our worship experience, some of the forms and traditions we use. We don’t claim to have final authority. We all desire to seek Him and worship Him.

In our respective settings, we each have a vision and a mission from God which is tailored for our setting. If we as a church group are reaching to Gen-X, then the preferences of Gen-X come into consideration in our forms and traditions, but the truth of God’s word will always be the same.

When someone says be careful that you don’t “worship worship”, it is ok to check our hearts to ensure that our understanding is balanced. On the other hand, the act of saying that expression could be used to throw you off guard since the person saying it may feel that a tradition that they hold dear is being threatened by change. In other words, the supposedly well intended check could be a disguised attack.

Some preachers may say it because they may perceive less emphasis on preaching. Someone holding dear to Hymns in a church whose population is radically changing towards Gen-X could say it to undermine the church’s worship expression. The same could hold true for a frustrated young person struggling, attempting to change a church from one style of worship expression to another, he could say that resistance to change is worshiping a form of worship when in fact it could just be that the current practices are well suited for and well accepted by that church population. He is the one caught up with a preferred form in this case.

Like all cases where proper balance is needed, we must not only keep ours eyes on the Lord but also be vigilant regarding what others may say to and about us. Wisdom is needed.