Imagine the disciples if they were encountered with a discussion of “worship styles.” I can only imagine their reaction to somebody suggesting they prefer contemporary worship or traditional worship as being, “Huh?” Or consider their confusion when worship is a genre of music and not what one does with all of their life.
There are only two styles of worship - true worship and false worship.
“The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” - John 4:23-24
Despite our best efforts to categorize worship into hundreds of categories, there is really only two. It’s either the worship of God or the worship of something else. Contemporary, traditional, contemplative, experiential, post-modern, liturgical, confessional, attractional, missional, contemporvant…
The same confusion continues when worship is an adjective to describe something. Worship music, worship album, worship artist. Is there a kind of album that is not worship? After all the person creating the music, album, or art had to be worshipping something.
So what is true worship?
Jesus suggests true worshippers worship the Father "in spirit and in truth."
What does this mean?
Worship is always about receiving and responding. This is true of our gatherings when we worship corporately. This is true of our lives as we worship in our vocations. A worshipper is a worshipper because of what they’ve received.
This is why it is so important that we worship “in spirit.”
This isn’t suggesting that our worship must be emotional (although that is not necessarily bad), it is suggesting that we approach God in worship by faith which is given to us from the Holy Spirit.
We can call God Father because of the work of the Spirit which puts faith in the person and work of the Son. In other words, the Spirit clings to the truth. The Spirit teaches us the truth about ourselves and the truth about our God.
We are faced with the harsh reality that we have nothing to offer when we come in worship as we are exposed to our sin. And the Spirit also reveals to us the truth about our Savior. This is the very truth we hear and we sing and we read as worshippers.
So what style of worship do I prefer?
I prefer true worship. The one that receives all that God gives to me. The one that receives what God promises to deliver in his Word. And the one that responds in faith to that truth with all of life. Worship that is not just about the singing, but certainly embraces it. Worship that is not just about a gathering on a weekend, but certainly sees the importance of it. Worship, instead, is about the totality of life as it flows out of an understanding of who we are and who God is.
Worship is about receiving and responding. It receive from God the gifts that only he can give to us in the ways that he promises to give them to us. It receives these gifts by faith in the promise of God. And it responds to this with all of life. Our work life, our home life, our neighborhood, and our church life… all lived in response to what we have received from God.
"Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” - Romans 12:1