A Student of Worship
When I accepted my first full time position as a worship leader, I contacted a nearby mega-church worship leader. I asked him if he would spend some time with me and give me some pointers. He graciously did so, and one thing that stood out to me was his encouragement to become a student of worship. The worship leader encouraged me to study the scriptures to see what God has to say about worship. He recommended that I start with John 4.
John 4 is the story of the Samaritan woman at the well and her conversation with Jesus. The key worship statement is found in John4:23 where Jesus says,
"the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him."
If I want to be the type of worshiper that God seeks, then I need to worship in spirit and truth. That leads naturally to the question, "What does it mean to worship in spirit and truth?" In this post I will look at the first half of this question.
Worship in Spirit
John 4:24 says, "God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." The need to worship in spirit is connected to the fact that God is spirit. The woman asked Jesus about the "where" (on this mountain or that) and "how" (like the Samaritans or like the Jews) of worship. But Jesus responded that God is a spirit. The "where" and "how" are not as important as the spirit of worship. With that as a starting point, let me list the following thoughts concerning worship in spirit.
- Internal is more important than external. God is seeking people whose hearts are seeking Him. The external actions (raising hands, kneeling, hymns or contemporary, pews or chairs, etc.) of worship are not nearly as important as the internal heart that seeks God. That is not to say that all externals are unimportant, only that they are not the main thing.
- Spirit leading. The passage does not say worship in the Spirit. In other words it is not specifically about the Holy Spirit. Yet we know that no one can approach God until their spirit is made alive through the Holy Spirit. The more we are submissive to the Holy Spirit, the more our spirit will be a channel of worship and the more we will be the type of worshiper God seeks.
- Magnetism. I never get over the fact that God is attracted by certain types of people and certain types of worship. God is seeking worshipers who worship in spirit. When we enter worship with hearts sincerely focused on God and open to the Spirit, God finds what He is seeking in us! I know that sounds backwards, but this passage clearly teaches that God is attracted by our worship when we worship in the spirit.
Question: What do you think it means to worship in spirit? What did I miss? Please comment.
by Jerry Wyrick, President of Worship Arts Conservatory