This is not something new for me to say, but I think worship — the way we worship — is very much dependent on our culture. On any given Sunday morning we’ll find churches with various formats to their worship programs. Some are very liturgical and some are very laid back.
Many years ago this thought was shared with me by a missionary who was home in the states on furlough. The missionary was working in Africa and he shared how their worship services were very active with members dancing and shouting, even though their denominational American counterparts worshiped very still and somberly.
This same thought regarding worship’s relationship with our culture struck me again this past Sunday as I sat in a church gathering in my town. It was a nondenominational church with a worship program that has become popular in recent years, one that includes dim lighting and a band, and sometimes criticized as too much like a rock concert.
As I participated in the worship program on Sunday the thought occurred to me that it is entirely appropriate for a worship program to be based on a rock band model because that is so much of our American culture. We American’s are simply worshiping our God as we know how, through music that we know and is close to our hearts.
The band at this church was excellent, very good musicians and singers who led meaningful and spiritually thoughtful worship. They led the congregation in three songs and the pastor then transitioned us into a Bible teaching that was also meaningful and spiritually thoughtful.
I realize that not all American Christians would gravitate toward this style of worship, but the good thing is there are plenty of options in most cities across our country. An advantage of differing denominations is that they offer options for different styles of worship. Lutheran, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, and even some Southern Baptist churches offer more impassive or restrained approaches to worship.
Scripture doesn’t give us specific directives for the practice of worship, but we know that it means to offer regard, reverence, and honor to God. Worship is the act of humbling ourselves and being in submission to God.
If we just think of these definitions, it is easy to admit that the style of worship is not the issue. We can humble ourselves and honor God through formal liturgical styles as well as through free-flowing rock band styles. We can worship through rituals as effectively as we can worship through primitive simplicity.
When I consider worship and how we worship as a universal church, it seems we can be less critical about the variations of styles and more grateful for the opportunities to bridge the gap for people to worship God.
After all, worship is more cultural than we may think.