This is still a work in progress. The above diagram came out of a recent assessment of our worship ministry here. We all know that music is just a small part of worship, so as worship pastors there is (or ought to be) so much more to our calling and responsibility in leading and teaching people worship. 4 Levels explained:
1. Worship Arts (Singing Christ) - Worship Arts include all kinds of creative expressions of worshiping God, such as singing, dancing, acting, painting, etc. Since singing dominates our artistic worship expressions, I will use it as the primary example for our purposes. Singing is a natural human response to soul stimulus. God made us this way. He even sings over us out of His love for us. It is part of the Imago Dei in each of us. Music should be an important part of every church; the Bible tells us so (Temple worship, Psalms). Music, however good it is in and of itself, is not an end in itself. Music is a servant. It serves us, we do not serve it. It serves our worship of Christ. It serves us on Sundays when we gather to celebrate the Gospel. It serves the unified Church in various ways as we embody the Gospel. And it ought to serve Christ to the whole world as God's Kingdom is established on earth as in heaven. At least that is what music was created for, as was every good thing: the glory of Christ. So, the diagram represents Worship Arts (or singing) as the epicenter of my duties. It, however, is the servant of all the other levels of worship. And no matter how far I try to run from the responsibility, music does preoccupy a significant chunk of my time devoted to ministry.
2. Sunday Worship (Celebrating Christ) - It is important to note first that Sunday Worship does not serve the Worship Arts. Where the Contemporary Church has erred in large part is by exalting music to be the master of Sunday Worship. Art is exactly what it implies, created. We would be like the Romans if we were to worship the creature instead of the Creator. And while Sunday Worship (Word and Sacrament) rules over the Arts within it, Sunday Worship submits to greater Church Worship and of course Life Worship. Some would say that the Divine Liturgy (gathering to celebrate the Sacraments) is the absolute most important thing we do in life. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. I'm not sure. I would argue with certainty, however, that Sunday Worship is a smaller part within a greater metaphysical existence, the Church, the body of Christ. Additionally, it submits to the ultimate purpose for all things, the glory of Christ as the Church lives the Gospel. We pour more of our time and resources into Sunday Worship than anything else we do as a church. What does this say about us if Sunday Worship might actually be less important than both Church Worship (discipleship, simply being the church) and Life Worship (living Christ in all of life)? I am happy to say that our church is moving away from being a Sunday only church, and is making progress towards building into the life of our community through more intentional discipleship and home groups, while the leadership is under significant conviction to model prayerfulness and living the Gospel in all of life.
3. Church Worship (Embodying Christ) - This is the most difficult form of worship to put my finger on. In fact, until I began really thinking deeply about this model, I had never included this as a level or worship. It seems to me to be dealing with something invisible, perhaps a mystical bond that unites all of us individuals together as the Church. It deals with existence, or being. Yes, each of the other levels can be seen and touched. Embodying Christ is pure community, something I am learning more and more about these days. Church Worship is about being the Church, not being churched. It's not even so much about doing church, which the other levels are concerned with to a degree. Being the Church is not so much an action as it is an existence. And so our worship at this level is quite other-worldly. It's kind of like the part of the Kingdom that has yet to come, or like us ascending to the throne room as God's children. It's hard to envision how God sees us, but we can be certain that he sees us as a perfect community gathered together as one in Christ. On a practical level Church Worship is about discipleship. It's one thing to go to church on Sunday, and that's the end of it. It's an entirely other thing to begin getting connected to the body of Christ through deeper teaching and intimacy with one another. This level of worship, in my estimation, rules over Sunday Worship and the Worship Arts, which both then serve greater Church Worship. The only level of worship that it submits to then is Life Worship.
4. Life Worship (Living Christ) - If someone were to ask me what is my definition of worship, I would simply answer, "Living Christ" or "Living the Gospel." I believe this is the highest level of worship. This is what Paul is talking about in Romans 12:1-2; in light of who God is and what He has done for us, we gladly offer our entire lives (body and soul) in the service of Christ. Life Worship is proclaiming the Gospel at all times, in our thoughts, actions, relationships, in everything. This seems to be our purpose for eternity. Preaching the Gospel is not just a necessity for evangelism, winning people to Christ. Preaching the Gospel is pure worship. It is re-enacting the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Every time we recount God's love and genuinely express our love for God in song, we are preaching the Gospel. When we gather together to Celebrate the Lord's Supper, we are preaching the Gospel. Simply existing as the community of God is preaching the Gospel. Preaching the Gospel is Living Christ. It is everything glorious and perfect being lived out by the Spirit in us. It is Christ reflecting the Father's love through us. I long for this understanding of worship to permeate the minds of church leaders and worship leaders today. None of the other levels of worship makes sense without this all-encompassing level. It's hard to even count this as a level, because it is so infinite in purpose and glory. The question is, how do we live this and teach it to those in our churches? What do we worship leaders put in our job descriptions to start putting forth the time and effort in transforming our worship culture to live and breathe the Gospel in this way?
Imagine if our definition of worship started from the top down, instead of from the bottom up. Do you think the Church would begin to look different if instead of beginning with music (the Arts) to define worship we started with Life Worship? The more I think about it, the more I agree with Dr. Harold Best that it would serve the Church well to remove the word "worship" from our vocabulary for a good decade. Our contemporary understanding of worship has messed us up something fierce.