Praise or Worship – Why People Skip Church Services
Most churches today have a time during their services called Praise and Worship. Is that an appropriate phrase to describe what happens? What is the difference between the two? Can you have one without the other: Praise or Worship? All good questions that I want to explore in this article.
Worship is The Acknowledgment of God’s Existence and Worth
In order to deal with these issues properly, let us define the words. (All definitions thanks to Google Dictionary Search.)
Noun definitions of worship:
• the feeling or expression of reverence and adoration for a deity
• the acts or rites that make up a formal expression of reverence for a deity; a religious ceremony or ceremonies.
• show reverence and adoration for (a deity); honor with religious rites.
• take part in a religious ceremony.
The word “worship” is taken from the Old English weorthscipe meaning ‘worthiness, acknowledgment of worth’.
Whether as a noun (describing a feeling or act) or as a verb (showing action), worship is all about our acknowledgment of the worth of God. It can be expressed internally as feelings or externally as actions but unless the purpose is to glorify and bless God, it is not worship.
Praise is To Set a Price Upon
• as a verb: express one’s respect and gratitude toward (a deity), especially in song
• as a noun: the expression of approval or admiration for someone or something.
The word “praise” comes from the Middle English (also in the sense ‘set a price on, attach value to’): from Old French preisier ‘to prize, praise,’ from late Latin pretiare, from Latin pretium ‘price.’ Compare with prize or appraise.
Again, whether as a noun or a verb, praise relates to our expression of God’s value – to us personally. Although the definitions of Biblical words are not always in agreement with present day dictionaries, these Old English definitions are similar to the King James English that many associate with the Bible.
Why People Attend Church Services
In the title, I mentioned church attendance. Let me now deal with that a bit:
Traditional churches used the fear of hell as a means to secure membership and to enforce attendance. Many people were intimidated and obeyed the leaders of the church solely out of fear. Church leaders felt justified in the use of such tactics because they saw common people as unlearned – and any means of their salvation was warranted.
Today, churches are dealing with people who (intentionally or unintentionally) compare the local church services with the high-intensity (and visually perfect) services broadcast from a few mega churches. These same people also have access to the written Word of God (in an almost unlimited number of versions), they are (in general) extremely well educated, and there are a multitude of teachers who (via brick and mortar churches, cable TV, and/or the internet) are more than willing to provide people with their interpretation of the Scriptures in return for their donations. Due to these – and many other factors – the fear of hell – indeed the fear of God – is no longer a compelling reason for many young people to attend church.
That fact has forced churches to rethink what worship is all about and to factor in the concept of praise. In case you are considerably younger than me, I will inject some perspective. As a child in the ’50s, I sometimes attended a nominal church. “Worship” services were very regulated. No one in the congregation was allowed to speak (or even whisper) unless it was included in the “program” (a printed copy of the order of events). The only musical instruments allowed were an organ and a piano. Raising your hand was not acceptable – even if you needed to go to the restroom. Praying for someone who was sick or needy was something you would do in private – if at all, since many churches did not believe praying for the sick to be appropriate in any venue. And, the only people who had the audacity to “lay hands” on those sick folk were those “outlandish pentecostal preachers.”
My, have things changed in the church! It is a rare church that does not endorse – and practice – most or all of those “outlandish” actions today. And consequently, most of those churches are also having to deal with the “music wars” (trying to define which style of music is acceptable) and how to keep up attendance when all the numbers are declining. Church “splits” and closed doors are sometimes the norm, rather than the exception.
So, what about “worship OR praise”?
How is this related to worship and praise? Are worship and praise different, exclusive, are they co-dependent, or what? The answer is “yes, depending upon the individual case.”
Worship can be a simple ritualistic ceremony. This is inferred in the statement “they worshipped quietly.” In which case, you might have “acknowledged God’s existence and general worth” in your heart, but your feelings of reverence for God likely produced no outward praise.
Worship is more internal (concerned with one’s motives and feelings) while praise is more external (concerned with one’s actions).
Praise is giving God the glory for something. Someone on Facebook may write a post thanking God for sparing them or their loved ones from some tragic event. Technically, that is praise. But depending upon their internal motivation, there may – or may not – have been worship involved. It could be hollow and lacking in sincerity. (Imagine: a post on Facebook that is not true!)
In each of the previous illustrations, worship and praise could have been exclusive of the other. But the kind of worship and praise that God approves is such that the two are co-dependent on each other. Our internal feelings of the existence and worth of God are expressed in our external acts of gratitude for Jesus’ death in ransom for our eternal soul.
To summarize and answer the question about church attendance:
There are times when – even though our love of God is real – our worship may stem from a sense of duty or obligation (similar to the old “fear”). This translates into accepting relatively minor problems as valid excuses for skipping church services. (Is that insightful, or what?) On the other hand, when churches experience true worship expressed in real joy and praise, people look for opportunities to return – rather than excuses to skip.
Which is true in your church?
P.S. A little extra about Psalms 150: