I don’t think most people go to church on Sunday saying to themselves, I’m just going to passively worship today. I think it mostly happens by default. Am I wrong? I’d really like to know what you think.
I’m not saying “passive worship” is everyone’s experience. But I hear what many of you are saying, and remember the default worship setting I had for the first many years of my own Christian walk. I just didn’t know differently.
The problem of not engaging in worship isn’t a new one.
“Then the Lord said, ‘. . . this people draw near with their words And honor Me with their lip service, But they remove their hearts far from Me, And their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote'” (Isaiah 29:13).
“And He said to them, ‘Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me. But in vain do they worship Me” (Mark 7: 6-7a).
But I think our current culture has shoved it off the cliff. We struggle to engage with each other – sitting on the same couch, eating at the same table, riding in the same car. So why bother to intimately engage with someone we can’t see?
Plus we’re programmed to want easy. If we can’t pull out our favorite “device” to get the answer then we don’t bother.
So through observation and repetition, we’ve grown to believe Christian worship is merely a passive activity. It’s the norm – we stand, we sing, so we’ve done our part. (And I don’t often hear of pastors teaching otherwise.)
But the norm of unengaged and unresponsive is the opposite of what the Bible teaches true worship is. That’s indisputable when we look the original meanings of the words for worship used in the Bible. Here are a few:
HALAL – the most commonly used, expresses an unbridled, exuberant worship: “My soul will make its boast in the LORD” (Psalm 34:2).
BARAK – to kneel or bow and bless God: “Bless the LORD, O my soul, And all that is within me, bless His holy name” (Psalm 103:1).
SHACHAH – bowing down before: the Israelites “bowed low and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground” (Nehemiah 8:6) and “Come, let us worship and bow down” (Psalm 95:6).
YADAH – taken from two words that mean “to extend the hand” and “to God,” either in adoration or surrender: “My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart exults, And with my song I shall thank Him” (Psalm 28:7b).
PROSKUNEO – literally means “to bow and kiss” in humble adoration: “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit; and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4: 23-24).
I just don’t see anything passive there. Because if it’s passive, it’s not worship.
I love how Warren Wiersbe puts it: “True worship is balanced and involves the mind, the emotions, and the will. Worship is personal and passionate, not formal and unfeeling, and it is our response to the living God, voluntarily offered to Him as He has offered Himself to us. . . . Worship is the response of all that we are to all that God is and does” (all emphases mine).*
True worship goes far beyond singing the songs (even if you enjoy them) to the complete engagement and surrender of our hearts, minds, and souls to the God those words should be lifted to.
So what do we do?
The #1 way to get out of the passive rut is to run from the habitual fallacy of passive worship to chase after God and the fact that He deserves far more. We need to stop being satisfied with doing this the easy way (which isn’t doing it at all), and get caught up in the absolute otherness of the God we stand before – that we’re supposed to bow before.
We need to carve new, deep, neural pathways in our brains from a Monday-through-Saturday compulsion to know, understand, and be awestruck by the otherness of God. Pathways that compel us toward Him. Pathways that move the depths of our souls to declare in any given moment:
“Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O LORD, and You exalt Yourself as head over all” (1 Chronicles 29:11).
“I will extol You, my God, O King, And I will bless Your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless You, And I will praise Your name forever and ever. Great is the LORD, and highly to be praised, And His greatness is unsearchable” (Psalm 145:1-3).
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are [Your] ways higher than [my] ways And [Your] thoughts than [my] thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9).
“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are [Your] judgments and unfathomable [Your] ways!” (Romans 11:33).
That God – our great, mighty, unfathomable, unsearchable, ever-faithful, all-loving (and so much more) God – is who we need to place before us when we come to worship. That God is who we need to responsively bow our hearts and minds (and yes, sometimes our knees) before in worship. And that God is who requires that we do so. Don’t settle for giving Him less!
Let’s make the decision to run from the fallacy of passive worship and chase after the fact that our God deserves far more. Let’s chase after God!
Want to learn more of what the Bible teaches about worship – and why it matters? Go here!
Check out my FREE eBook, 4 Keys to Intimate Sunday Morning Worship, here!
*Warren W. Wiersbe, Real Worship (Baker Books, 2000), p.21
Does your focus get stuck here on your way to worship?
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How to Avoid Settling for Less in Your Worship Life!
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