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Recently Tim Mathiesen introduced me to a magazine entitled RELEVANT (Relevantmagazine.com). One of the articles in the October issue included responses from church visionaries who were asked the question, “What trends in worship styles do you see coming?” I was intrigued and pleased with the responses of two visionaries in particular. One was Rob Bell who said, “I believe the old polarities (traditional vs. contemporary) are fading.” He went on to suggest that the church focus on worship that changes lives more than on issues of style. In the same article, Erwin McManus said, “What do we mean by worship styles? Why do we still equate singing and even what we are doing on Sunday with the whole of worship? There is something powerful about singing to God as an act of worship, but it is time to re-frame our perspective and our language to genuinely encompass all of life as worship.”

Both of these respondents were right on the money as far as I’m concerned. Worship is our #1 priority as Christians, and anything that important should not be compartmentalized, categorized, pigeon-holed, or separated from the whole of life. Music is a vehicle to facilitate worship, but worship is so much more than the music. Worship is elevating God in all aspects of life as we become humble before Him. I think of John the Baptist’s words as he spoke about Jesus, saying “He must increase and I must decrease.” That’s worship.

To me Romans 12:1 is a compelling definition of holistic worship: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies (your whole self) as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.” Notice that we are called to place ourselves on the altar of sacrifice not as already dead animals as in the Jewish sacrificial system, but as people alive to God and dead to self-centeredness and pride. Furthermore, note that being a “living sacrifice” is not the result of a masochistic or sadistic motivation, but rather is a response to the initiative of God’s merciful love. Recognizing that God’s mercy in Christ impacts all of life is ultimately what enables us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves.

And so, the next time you complement any of our fine worship teams on the quality of the music they bring to us on a Sunday morning, and it is quality music, don’t say “I just loved the worship this morning!” First of all, worship is what happens in your hearts as your thoughts are drawn toward God and His glory and does not depend on the quality of their music , and secondly, worship includes the music, but it is so much more than the music. Worship touches every aspect of our lives as Jesus increases and we decrease.