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This article is from Issue 51: May/June 2011

What's the Point of Worship?

Every Sunday, Christians gather to sing songs to God. Why?

It's 10 a.m. on Sunday morning. In a small, steepled church, people sing a few old hymns backed by an organ, listen to a sermon, share in Communion and have bad coffee as they laugh and catch up in the church basement afterward.

A few blocks away, in a rehabbed industrial warehouse, a clock on a screen counts down the seconds to the start of the service. Before and after the sermon, a 10-person band led by a young, flannel shirt-wearing, ambient electric guitar-playing worship leader plays highly produced music from an elevated stage accompanied by full lights and a colorful media presentation.

Depending on your perspective, either of these scenarios might make you uncomfortable. Both evoke certain stereotypes based on your personal church context. Everyone would like to think the “worship wars” are a thing of the past, and most can agree people are probably worshiping in both of these con- texts. But even so, everyone has their own distinct ideas of what worship is and—even more clearly—what worship isn’t.

Even for Christians who engage in sung worship each Sunday, many have nagging questions about the entire thing. What is “authentic” worship, and what does worship have to do with singing? Can individuals get there on their own, or do they need to be in community to “really” worship? How have modern trends like worship concerts aided worship—how have they hindered it?

To find out, we went to the source—ask- ing some of the world’s foremost leaders in modern worship music. Their experiences differ: Some are in full-time local ministry, and others get paid to write and perform original music. But all of the leaders, in their own way and context, have dedicated their lives to try- ing to help God’s people worship Him. They presented us with thoughtful opinions, across styles and spectrums.

Why Music?

If worship is an expression of love between God’s people and their Creator, and people’s entire lives—behaviors, thoughts, relation- ships, jobs, everything they are and do—can be an act of worship (1 Corinthians 10:31), then what is the relationship between worship and music?

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