Integrity & Authenticity: Mind Your Language

(Originally written for and posted on

A couple of weeks ago I attended a conference in London. I love the heart and mission of the organisation who were hosting the event and I also rate highly some of the worship leaders who were on the platform. The whole conference was spirit-filled and inspirational and there were even free giant Danish pastries with the coffee!

But there was one element that grated, that made me sit up a little straighter and think ‘No. They’ve missed it here’. It was a small thing – as these things often are. It was the language they were using around the concept of ‘worship’. We were invited to join in the time of ‘worship’ which basically equated to singing. We were also invited to follow the lead worshippers as they worshipped. It felt almost as if they were doing so on our behalf – or as if our worship was somehow not a good or as worthy as theirs.

Let us first of all define what worship is – or should be. Singing is part of worship but certainly not all of it. Singing and is just one expression in a plethora of ways that humanity can extol God. Sung worship is in fact quite an easy way to worship. There are others that can be a lot more difficult. How about visiting those who are in prison, or feeding the hungry? How about standing up for the widow and the orphan? What about involving God in the decisions around how we spend our money?

‘Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was ill and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” ‘Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison and go to visit you?” ‘The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:34-40)

Worship should encompass our entire life-expression. Every breath should be a song of praise whether accompanied by an amazing worship band or by the tears and cries of those in distress whom we have been called by God to help. Worship should be in our thinking and our decisions – to act justly or not; to shop ethically, or not; to embrace a certain world view, or not. Worship should be part of how we treat our families. Worship should encompass how we behave in the workplace. Our whole life should be one of worship, becoming more like Jesus, loving the world as Jesus did.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. (Romans 12:1)

The problem I had with the language being used at that conference I mentioned earlier is that language is powerful. It creates and shapes the culture in which we live. It teaches and forms concepts and understanding. The more we talk about something in a certain way, the more we think of it in that same way. So with the language we use, if we speak about worship as simply being a genre of Christian music, or the songs we sing before the sermon as church on a Sunday we are treading on dangerous ground. Instead of educating and informing our congregations as to the true meaning of what worship really is we are moving them further away from it. And if we are moving them further away from what true spiritual worship of God is then surely we are failing as ‘Worship’ Leaders?

When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. (James 3:3-6)

Let me encourage, and perhaps challenge, you. Ask Jesus to set a guard over your mouth. Ask Him to guide your thoughts and conversations towards what worship really is all about. Re-educate yourself and then your teams about true spiritual worship and then let your words shape and transform the thinking and concepts within your congregations.

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