This is by no means meant to be an exhaustive study of the history of evolution of Christian worship. So please excuse the brevity.
Most of my life I have been around churchy worship environments. I was nearly born during a Baptist altar call (true story, and yes, they are really that long! Ha!).
I have been told that man and woman were created to worship, that is their purpose on the earth. God needs it, and we got it. And so somewhere along the line that evolved into plexi-glass acoustically foamed drum cages, light gels, the holy 4/4 GCD progression, glory poses (only if your Sprit-filled mind you), fire marshal threatening levels of hair product (or there was that long beard season and then the shave your head bald period), and about 30 minutes a week spent singing at a screen or crowd-watching per week.
The conclusion that God needs our worship or that we were primarily created to worship reinforces the distant God, somewhere else. I would argue what we were created to abide, to commune, to breathe, to experience and express love, to appreciate, to be. While worship may include these things, so much of it (just read the lyrics sometime) is spent reinforcing the idea of a far away God who needs to act, or might act, or could show up.
Further, the act of worship, which in most cases has come to mean music, is misunderstood. As a communal practice and physical act, singing together has a great benefit. Science reinforces the brain and endorphin benefits of singing together (http://www.npr.org/2013/06/03/188355968/imperfect-harmony-how-chorale-singing-changes-lives) and nearly every society has this as a practice of celebration. It is a physical act that reinforces unity. Let’s keep doing it, but maybe not emphasize it so much.
But what other spiritual acts could have a physical and communal benefit?
– Meditation and Breathing
– Exercise, Yoga, Jogging, Pilates, Zumba, Dance, etc
– Laughing and Silliness
– Eating, Drinking Together
– Accomplishing Something Meaningful Together
– Experiencing the Earth, Gardening, Hiking, Stopping to Smell the Roses
– Traditions that Emerge from Your Own Community (Look, it could really be a whole lot of things despite my short list.)
If worship is about abiding, then we can look at “acts of worship” differently. We can abide, reflect, and appreciate (worship) no matter the activity, so the value of acts of worship serve a different purpose in a community and on our physical bodies. Acts of worship are about rejuvenation, health, engagement, maintaining connection with your community, re-centering our souls, and reinforcing trust and unity. From that perspective, singing together is still great. It’s still on the list, but maybe it’s time we got more creative and used some other senses and other experiences. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good echo-y, chorus-laden strat solo. I’m sure it’s what Jesus will play when he shows up (and yes, I’m sorry that isn’t a strat in the pic, I know!). But, for the love of us, why don’t we look at our spiritual practices again? How about a running club? Anyone into growing produce for a local food pantry? Weekly meditation anyone?
What if our worship leaders spent all their time facilitating practices that encourage abiding in God and centering our soul? Seriously, what if our worship leaders were expert outdoor excursionists, joggers, artists, chefs, composting gardeners? What if our acts of worships supported the full range of health and abiding as a community and emphasized less doctrinal repetition? Just an idea here, but seems like the whole world is open to creativity and enjoying God.