Worship Mythbusters: dispelling popular notions that get in the way of authentic worship [3.0]

This is part of a series.  Here are the other posts so you can catch up and join the conversation:

Post 1.0 Myth:  Worship is a lifestyle Myth:  Worship is not music Myth:  Worship is not about me Myth:  Worship is better with a certain style or structure Myth:  Worship with hymns is deeper theologically than with modern music. Myth:  Worship should make me feel good (or bad) Post 1.1 Revision of 1.0, and addendums… Post 2.0 Myth:  Worship is NOT entertainment

Remember, we are talking NOT about the theological term for worship, but how we live that out “worship” in our liturgy.  And, the goal is to get you and I to think! What things are holding us back?  What ideas do we hold on to that we have not thought through with vigor?  This brings us to 3.0.

MYTH:  Worship is NOT horizontal, its ONLY vertical

While it is true that worship, in the literal sense, is vertically focused, it is not true that the horizontal aspect of our our lives are not a major factor in our public worship.  In fact, some of the very practices in our liturgy, while God-focused, are actually things we horizontally apply to each other.

Many will say the goal is to sing songs to God, for instance, while in the scripture we are literally called on to sing to each other. That’s right.   While I know many will claim “true worship” is the songs that vertically sing to God, I think it is clear that to sing to each other about God is just as valid.  In fact, we might even sing about how we are to live in community as part of our worship.  We might say prayers about how we are to love each other or the world.

Not all we do in our public worship services are vertical.  It is once again, a “both and” rather than narrowly creating a dividing line simply based on the type of language used.   I can worship God, by singing about Him as much as singing to Him.  And, I can worship God by singing to my fellow believers about how we are to live, exhorting each other.

What I am concerned with in the usage of “vertical” is that being vertical never makes sense without the horizontal.

We are instructed to settle unresolved conflict before coming to worship (Matthew 5:23-24).

This is clear.  I would say, that time and place might make it that we are in the very church building when this can occur.  Why not?

We are instructed to actually sing not only to God, but to each other. (Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16)  “sing to one another…”

Obviously, the legalism that “worship” songs are all sung “to” God does not fit this grid here in these two passages.  Community is very important and our role in worship gatherings should reflect a sense of community.

We are instructed to spur each other to good deeds in worship gatherings (Hebrews 10:24-25)

Again, it is clear that relationships and community intensely matter in our expression of public worship.  The idea is that we are “spurred” to action, not just moved in some way or that we have a personal, individualistic experience.  The “win” of a worship service should be that the people live better the following week–more poor are fed, more people cared for and more people reached with the good news of Jesus.

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Rich Kirkpatrick

Rich Kirkpatrick

Writer, Speaker, and Musician. Rich Kirkpatrick was recently rated #13 of the “Top 75 Religion Bloggers” by Newsmax.com, having also received recognition by Worship Leader Magazine as “Editor’s Choice” for the “Best of the Best” of blogs in 2011, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

40 comments

  1. This is the best one so far. Eph.5:19 was one of the first verses I read when I became a Christian and then shortly after someone said that worship is vertical only. Being a new Christian at the time I thought I had miss read something or they new more then I did, I did get the chance to rebuke that conversation five years later, and it brought more conversation then needed, if you know what I mean.

  2. This is the best one so far. Eph.5:19 was one of the first verses I read when I became a Christian and then shortly after someone said that worship is vertical only. Being a new Christian at the time I thought I had miss read something or they new more then I did, I did get the chance to rebuke that conversation five years later, and it brought more conversation then needed, if you know what I mean.

  3. This is the best one so far. Eph.5:19 was one of the first verses I read when I became a Christian and then shortly after someone said that worship is vertical only. Being a new Christian at the time I thought I had miss read something or they new more then I did, I did get the chance to rebuke that conversation five years later, and it brought more conversation then needed, if you know what I mean.

  4. This is the best one so far. Eph.5:19 was one of the first verses I read when I became a Christian and then shortly after someone said that worship is vertical only. Being a new Christian at the time I thought I had miss read something or they new more then I did, I did get the chance to rebuke that conversation five years later, and it brought more conversation then needed, if you know what I mean.

  5. “What I am concerned with in the usage of “vertical” is that being vertical never makes sense without the horizontal.”
    That’s great.

    The uniqueness of our corporate gatherings is that they are by nature corporate – it’s not the same experience as private, “alone” worship. The church is the church when she is gathered so that worship can be lived out when we are sent out.

  6. “What I am concerned with in the usage of “vertical” is that being vertical never makes sense without the horizontal.”
    That’s great.

    The uniqueness of our corporate gatherings is that they are by nature corporate – it’s not the same experience as private, “alone” worship. The church is the church when she is gathered so that worship can be lived out when we are sent out.

  7. “What I am concerned with in the usage of “vertical” is that being vertical never makes sense without the horizontal.”
    That’s great.

    The uniqueness of our corporate gatherings is that they are by nature corporate – it’s not the same experience as private, “alone” worship. The church is the church when she is gathered so that worship can be lived out when we are sent out.

  8. “What I am concerned with in the usage of “vertical” is that being vertical never makes sense without the horizontal.”
    That’s great.

    The uniqueness of our corporate gatherings is that they are by nature corporate – it’s not the same experience as private, “alone” worship. The church is the church when she is gathered so that worship can be lived out when we are sent out.

  9. As long as our horizontal things still have a vertical focus then I totally get what you are saying. Our worship is not worship without a desire to bring glory to God (vertical). We can be doing things that are horizontal but they are not worship if they do not have a vertical element to them.

  10. As long as our horizontal things still have a vertical focus then I totally get what you are saying. Our worship is not worship without a desire to bring glory to God (vertical). We can be doing things that are horizontal but they are not worship if they do not have a vertical element to them.

  11. As long as our horizontal things still have a vertical focus then I totally get what you are saying. Our worship is not worship without a desire to bring glory to God (vertical). We can be doing things that are horizontal but they are not worship if they do not have a vertical element to them.

  12. As long as our horizontal things still have a vertical focus then I totally get what you are saying. Our worship is not worship without a desire to bring glory to God (vertical). We can be doing things that are horizontal but they are not worship if they do not have a vertical element to them.

  13. I love this. The first thing that popped in my mind was the same as Chris’ point above about corporate vs. private worship.
    Another ‘sub-myth’ is that songs with the word ‘I’ in them aren’t truly worshipful. It’s hard to ignore the patterns in the Psalms where writers continually use those personal pronouns (you are MY shield…. I will prase You…).

  14. I love this. The first thing that popped in my mind was the same as Chris’ point above about corporate vs. private worship.
    Another ‘sub-myth’ is that songs with the word ‘I’ in them aren’t truly worshipful. It’s hard to ignore the patterns in the Psalms where writers continually use those personal pronouns (you are MY shield…. I will prase You…).

  15. I love this. The first thing that popped in my mind was the same as Chris’ point above about corporate vs. private worship.
    Another ‘sub-myth’ is that songs with the word ‘I’ in them aren’t truly worshipful. It’s hard to ignore the patterns in the Psalms where writers continually use those personal pronouns (you are MY shield…. I will prase You…).

  16. I love this. The first thing that popped in my mind was the same as Chris’ point above about corporate vs. private worship.
    Another ‘sub-myth’ is that songs with the word ‘I’ in them aren’t truly worshipful. It’s hard to ignore the patterns in the Psalms where writers continually use those personal pronouns (you are MY shield…. I will prase You…).

  17. Great stuff Rich…This is a great way to say that Worship is a lifestyle, something we do everyday – At work – At play – At church – with our families and friends, co-workers etc.I know that in the past I have fallen pray to the “Worship Is Only Good When It’s Vertical” philosophy, so I appreciate you un-packing this important thought.

  18. Great stuff Rich…This is a great way to say that Worship is a lifestyle, something we do everyday – At work – At play – At church – with our families and friends, co-workers etc.I know that in the past I have fallen pray to the “Worship Is Only Good When It’s Vertical” philosophy, so I appreciate you un-packing this important thought.

  19. Great stuff Rich…This is a great way to say that Worship is a lifestyle, something we do everyday – At work – At play – At church – with our families and friends, co-workers etc.I know that in the past I have fallen pray to the “Worship Is Only Good When It’s Vertical” philosophy, so I appreciate you un-packing this important thought.

  20. Great stuff Rich…This is a great way to say that Worship is a lifestyle, something we do everyday – At work – At play – At church – with our families and friends, co-workers etc.I know that in the past I have fallen pray to the “Worship Is Only Good When It’s Vertical” philosophy, so I appreciate you un-packing this important thought.

  21. Rich, great post! One of my favorite worship songs is written by Chris Tomlin…How Great is Our God. When I read the concept of “horizontal” worship as singing songs of worship to each other I immediately went to this song. If there are opponents that would disagree with your post then i would be curious how they feel about this particular song. It is decidedly horizontal in its language yet is a powerful admonishment declaring to each other the greatness of God.

  22. Rich, great post! One of my favorite worship songs is written by Chris Tomlin…How Great is Our God. When I read the concept of “horizontal” worship as singing songs of worship to each other I immediately went to this song. If there are opponents that would disagree with your post then i would be curious how they feel about this particular song. It is decidedly horizontal in its language yet is a powerful admonishment declaring to each other the greatness of God.

  23. Rich, great post! One of my favorite worship songs is written by Chris Tomlin…How Great is Our God. When I read the concept of “horizontal” worship as singing songs of worship to each other I immediately went to this song. If there are opponents that would disagree with your post then i would be curious how they feel about this particular song. It is decidedly horizontal in its language yet is a powerful admonishment declaring to each other the greatness of God.

  24. Rich, great post! One of my favorite worship songs is written by Chris Tomlin…How Great is Our God. When I read the concept of “horizontal” worship as singing songs of worship to each other I immediately went to this song. If there are opponents that would disagree with your post then i would be curious how they feel about this particular song. It is decidedly horizontal in its language yet is a powerful admonishment declaring to each other the greatness of God.

  25. So true and so neglected. We believe in the communion of saints and the holy catholic church. Another way we are united together is through the sacraments. We are one people because we drink from the same cup and eat from the same loaf. This covenant meal for God’s people, meant to bring them together, is often a private, morbid ceremony where each believer retreats into his or her conscience.

  26. So true and so neglected. We believe in the communion of saints and the holy catholic church. Another way we are united together is through the sacraments. We are one people because we drink from the same cup and eat from the same loaf. This covenant meal for God’s people, meant to bring them together, is often a private, morbid ceremony where each believer retreats into his or her conscience.

  27. So true and so neglected. We believe in the communion of saints and the holy catholic church. Another way we are united together is through the sacraments. We are one people because we drink from the same cup and eat from the same loaf. This covenant meal for God’s people, meant to bring them together, is often a private, morbid ceremony where each believer retreats into his or her conscience.

  28. So true and so neglected. We believe in the communion of saints and the holy catholic church. Another way we are united together is through the sacraments. We are one people because we drink from the same cup and eat from the same loaf. This covenant meal for God’s people, meant to bring them together, is often a private, morbid ceremony where each believer retreats into his or her conscience.

  29. I totally believe that the best way to view things is that it’s our job as worship leaders to get the CONGREGATION worshipping “vertically”. And if we’re off in our own “worship zone”, we’re probably not leading!

  30. I totally believe that the best way to view things is that it’s our job as worship leaders to get the CONGREGATION worshipping “vertically”. And if we’re off in our own “worship zone”, we’re probably not leading!

  31. I totally believe that the best way to view things is that it’s our job as worship leaders to get the CONGREGATION worshipping “vertically”. And if we’re off in our own “worship zone”, we’re probably not leading!

  32. I totally believe that the best way to view things is that it’s our job as worship leaders to get the CONGREGATION worshipping “vertically”. And if we’re off in our own “worship zone”, we’re probably not leading!

  33. Very interesting.
    Would like to hear more sometime…

    missed you all at re:create this year.

    Peace
    C

  34. Very interesting.
    Would like to hear more sometime…

    missed you all at re:create this year.

    Peace
    C

  35. Very interesting.
    Would like to hear more sometime…

    missed you all at re:create this year.

    Peace
    C

  36. Very interesting.
    Would like to hear more sometime…

    missed you all at re:create this year.

    Peace
    C

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