The Truth About Worship

Art by Paul Ryding, Type by Cory Say

by Sarah Eshleman and Melissa Webb on July 1, 2020
Featured in Answers Magazine
Audio Version

During Sunday morning service, a music minister invites us to worship by singing along to lyrics in a hymnal or on a screen. The Psalms of David exude praise and worship, calling us to “sing a new song” and to “make a joyful noise to the Lord.” On our streaming services, an entire genre of music is labeled worship music.

We seem to naturally associate worship with rhythm or melody. But the truth is that worship involves more than musical instruments or compelling lyrics.

Put simply, worship acknowledges that God is worthy of extravagant reverence and honor in all we do. Scripture admonishes us to worship “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). But what does that look like?

To worship God in truth, we must look to his Word for an accurate picture of his nature. In Genesis, we first encounter him as Creator and discover that he is wise, creative, and omnipotent. Later in Genesis, the flood account reveals that he is a Judge, righteous and just, yet merciful. The entire manuscript of Scripture adds details to the portrait of its Author.

A truthful perspective of God naturally incites an appropriate spirit of worship as we position our thoughts, motives, words, and actions in humility and reverence to him. Though it takes different forms for different people, worship might look like meditating on Scripture, praising God for his goodness, sacrificing our desires, choosing to believe his Word, guarding our thoughts, working with excellence at our jobs, behaving like Christ, and, of course, writing and performing music.

Answers magazine recently interviewed five Christian music artists who understand that worship doesn’t start with music—music starts with worship. Their songs remind us of who God is and call us to live a life that honors our worthy Lord.

Mark Hall/Casting Crowns—Worship Grounded in God’s Word

Mark Hall

According to Mark Hall, “Worship is the thing that you’re doing when you’re doing what you were created to do.” From his first solo in a church musical to forming the highly acclaimed Christian band Casting Crowns, Mark was created to make music.

His songs such as “If We Are the Body” and “Does Anybody Hear Her?” encourage the church to be Christ’s hands and feet, reaching the lost world. But his songs also frequently call believers to a biblical understanding of God’s gracious nature, such as in “Praise You in This Storm,” “East to West,” and “The Voice of Truth.”

Mark’s ability to write and sing such powerful songs stems from an accurate view of God’s nature, starting with God as Creator. “For a believer, [Genesis] has to be a settled topic in your mind. If your Genesis isn’t settled, then you’re not settled. Everything builds out of the book of Genesis because that’s where our story started. You can’t ignore it, and you can’t not deal with it. It’s the foundation that God’s Word is written on.”

“Everything builds out of the book of Genesis because that’s where our story started. You can’t ignore it, and you can’t not deal with it.”

Early in college, Mark was exposed to several apologetics speakers, including Ken Ham. “Most believers believe the Bible, but we don’t know why. But someone is going to stump you one day, and when they stump you, then you’re going to have some serious sand under you, and you can’t walk on sand. You gotta know what you believe. And for me, Ken Ham and teachers like that helped me stand in what I believe.”

Mark’s sound faith in God’s Word allows him to write and sing songs such as “The Word Is Alive,” which celebrates the inerrancy of Scripture.

The word is alive, and it cuts like a sword through the darkness with the message of life to the hopeless and afraid, breathing life into all who believe. The word is alive, and the world and its glories will fade, but his truth, it will not pass away. It remains yesterday and forever the same.

As a winner of several Dove and American Music Awards as well as a Grammy in the Christian music category, Mark knows the difference between listening to Christian music and truly worshipping. Worship is active, not passive. “A guitar player can worship all day playing, but you can’t just listen to it. Music just sets a tone and an atmosphere where worship can happen. . . . Worship is prayer. When you’re singing those worship songs, you’re praying without asking for things. God gave us worship as a way to love him back and to tell him that we love him.”

Mark is thankful that through his music he can be a part of strengthening other peoples’ faith and helping them worship in spirit and in truth, just as other people have helped him. “I think one day God will remind us of all the little moments we’ve done that to people.”

Until then, Mark will continue worshipping by making music that points to his Savior.

As long as there’s breath in me, Lord, there will always be one more song for you.

Nicole C. Mullen—Choosing to Believe the Heart of Worship

Nicole C. Mullen

Nicole C. Mullen has been nominated for two Grammy Awards and won multiple Dove Awards, including Female Vocalist of the Year and Songwriter of the Year. She ministers to people around the world with her songs and recently released Like Never Before, her first new album in seven years. But at the end of the day, Nicole views music as secondary to worship. “Songs are used for worship, but songs themselves aren’t worship. They are praise. Worship is a lifestyle.”

Through the years, Nicole has learned the truth of Romans 12:2. “True worship requires a sacrifice. It’s not about whether you can sing or play an instrument. It’s about how you live your life before the Lord. Worship is painful. Worship says, ‘I will lay my life, my gifts, and what I have before you.’”

“Songs are used for worship, but songs themselves aren’t worship. They are praise. Worship is a lifestyle.”

But pain can cause you either to forget God’s goodness or strengthen your belief in his faithfulness. Most of Nicole’s songs have come out of what she calls a “night season.” It was during a night season that Nicole penned one of her most well-known songs, “My Redeemer.” Who taught the sun where to stand in the morning? And who told the ocean you can only come this far? And who showed the moon where to hide ’til evening? Whose words alone can catch a falling star? . . . All of creation testifies. This life within me cries. I know my Redeemer lives.

At the lowest point of Nicole’s life, as she was going through a devastating divorce, a verse from Job came to her: “Though he slay me, I will hope in him” (Job 13:15). Nicole chose to believe what God reveals about himself in his Word—that he is still worthy of worship in the pain. “Because he’s not who we say he is. He’s who he says he is.” She remembers, “It was in that moment I chose to worship. There was no song that accompanied it. I didn’t sit in my closet and begin to sing. I was on my knees, and that was worship.”

Nicole’s music has helped countless people worship the God of all comfort, even in the hard times, reminding them, The very same God that spins things in orbit runs to the weary, the worn, and the weak. And the same gentle hands that hold me when I’m broken, they conquered death to bring me victory.

Revelation 4:11

Buddy Davis—Dreams Out of Nothing

Buddy Davis

On the right day, visitors to the Creation Museum will hear the quick rhythm of guitar strums and twangs wafting from Legacy Hall as Buddy Davis sings in his smooth baritone voice, If there really was a worldwide flood, what would the evidence be? Billions of dead things, buried in rock layers, laid down by water, all over the earth!

The audience smiles and claps along, delighted with the catchy tunes and lyrics of a man grateful to be living his dream.

Music was a family affair in Buddy’s clan. His great grandpa was a fiddle player, and his mother and aunts entered singing contests. When he was 13, Buddy’s Aunt Ruth taught him his first chords on an old, beat-up guitar. Though the guitar strings were falling off and out of tune, Aunt Ruth spent countless hours teaching Buddy to play.

At a local store one day, a shiny Gibson guitar caught Buddy’s eye. His grandpa bought him the guitar with one stipulation: Buddy had to pay him back. For what seemed like forever, Buddy sold pop bottles and furs from his trap line, making payments of $15 a month. When he paid off the guitar, he was one step closer to his dream of being a country music star.

Buddy’s grandpa regaled him with tales about the Grand Ole Opry, and a 16-year-old Buddy even played a show in Nashville with Hank Williams Jr. and Johnny Cash, his musical heroes at the time. In his early twenties, Buddy was offered a recording contract in Nashville and moved from his family home in Ohio, sure that his dream was coming true.

But when the recording contract fell through, Buddy moved back home, hung up his guitar, and thought that part of his life was over. Then, almost inexplicably, he started sculpting dinosaurs.

Buddy had accepted Jesus as his Savior when he was 13, but for a long time he had accepted evolutionary thinking. “I still bought into [the idea of] millions of years,” he remembers. “I didn’t think it was important.”

One day while Buddy was sculpting in his garage, an insurance man stopped by his house. “I was telling the insurance man the evolutionary stuff about this dinosaur,” Buddy recalls. “The man gave me some information about the Institute for Creation Research. It changed my life.” After researching the information, Buddy learned the significance of believing the literal Genesis account: that the Creator spoke the universe into existence in six days.

With his renewed worldview, Buddy hoped to use his dinosaur sculptures to share the truth with others. Knowing of Ken Ham’s dream to open a Creation Museum, Buddy attended an early Answers in Genesis seminar and invited Ken to his log cabin home to see the sculptures.

“Ken loved them,” Buddy remembers. “We were talking about how the dinosaurs could be used in the museum one day. Then Ken spotted my guitar that was gathering dust. He said, ‘Play me a song on that guitar.’”

Reluctantly, Buddy sang, He makes dreams out of nothing and he makes the dreams come true. He has given you a vision. You must hold on to the view. If you but ask you shall receive, but in your heart you must believe. He has a victory for you. He’ll make sure your dreams come true.

Buddy sang that song at the grand opening of the Creation Museum and has continued singing with Answers in Genesis for 25 years. He still plays that Gibson guitar he worked so hard for all those years ago, marveling at how God fulfilled his dream by way of dinosaur sculptures and an insurance salesman. Today many of his sculptures are featured in the Creation Museum, and Buddy regularly sings for families, teaching them about the Creator who changed his life.

“This is a dream that took 32 years to be answered,” Buddy says. “It’s a big deal for me, and God gets every bit of the glory. God’s timing is perfect.”

Mike & Tony Wray—Day-to-Day Worship

Mike and Tony Wray

Mike Wray remembers sitting in his friend’s car growing angrier as the rap song playing on the radio mocked Christianity, aiming to debunk the Bible and invalidate Jesus. But in that righteous anger, Mike determined to write and produce rap music that did just the opposite—brought glory to God by combining biblical apologetics with the inventive rhythms and rhymes of rap music. Mike and his brother Tony—both Messianic Jews—formed their group Hazakim (Hebrew for “strong ones”).

The duo writes and performs music that highlights God’s attributes. “A lot of newer Christian music tends to be more surface, focusing on how God makes us feel good about ourselves,” Mike says. “However, we want to make it a point to show who God is.” Their newest album, Origins (2019), emphasizes God as the Creator, particularly in their song “Original.”

You look at his creation, thinking it’s all evolving. I see it and think, “Amazing, truly my God is awesome.” From the microscopic to the tiny objects to the fiery flying comets in the giant cosmos, from the highest heights to the deep abyss, all around us are the findings of his fingerprints.

“It makes me stop and ponder just who we are dealing with when we are discussing our Creator.”

“It makes me stop and ponder just who we are dealing with when we are discussing our Creator,” Mike says. “His sovereignty and power alone incline us to worship. The intricacies of his design. Something as simple as my daughter. She’s beautiful; she’s funny. I see both me and my wife when I look at her. However, when I stop to really think about how God formed my daughter, it truly is a miracle beyond comprehension.”

Though they share their faith through music, the brothers know that worship isn’t all about beat and rhyme. “Worship is a day-to-day activity. It’s not something that dwells within the confines of music or a fellowship service with other believers, although it can happen there. We know that Jacob in his old age near death blessed Joseph’s sons while leaning on his staff. He was worshipping God while doing it. No sounds made, no lifting of hands, just a moment of reflecting on God’s goodness throughout his life. That, to me, is the kind of true worship that will . . . lift believers into his presence.”

But even a life full of worship will eventually fade, with most people forgetting our names or achievements. As someone who loves history, Mike enjoys looking through vintage high school yearbooks. One afternoon as he flipped through a yearbook from the 1920s, he thought about the people in the pictures.

“These people had day-to-day jobs, activities, lives, possibly got married, had grandchildren. Yet ultimately, they had to go the way of all the earth, and their memory is forgotten. Our [music isn’t] designed to tell others of our life, ultimately. It is truly designed to point to [God] as the ultimate story that will never fade with time.”

Courtney Collingsworth Metz/The Collingsworth Family—More Than a Performance

Courtney Collingsworth

I’ve come here to tell you that the Lord is good! His mercy will endure forever like he said it would! So let’s exalt his name together! Don’t you think we should?

For over 20 years, the Collingsworth Family, a Dove Award-winning Southern Gospel group has exalted the Lord’s name together across the US and around the world. Last year, the family capped off two decades of ministry by singing Christmas carols at the White House in Washington, DC.

Courtney Collingsworth Metz, the second of three Collingsworth sisters, was only eight when her family began traveling. Night after night, as she sang on the stage with her parents, Courtney knew that she had found her calling in life. “My parents gave us the option to be normal kids and go off to college. But when it came down to it, I just knew that I was already doing what I was meant to do. It was no longer mom and dad’s job, but I felt called to music ministry as well.”

Courtney’s parents taught her that worship is more than performance—it’s a state of mind. She remembers her mom shutting off any distractions, such as the TV or radio, before every concert and encouraging her family to focus their minds on worship. Even now as an adult, Courtney finds herself avoiding distractions before a concert so she can prepare her spirit for worship.

“For me, worship is a dedicated time to praise and thank our Savior for his goodness and character no matter what is happening in our lives,” she says. “Whether it’s through music, prayers, personal devotion time, or tears, God sees and knows genuine worship.”

Over the years, fans of the Collingsworth Family have grown familiar with Courtney’s husky voice singing the lead on songs such as “Gotta Get to Jesus” and “I Found It All.”

Appropriately, her voice is what keeps Courtney focused on her Creator. “He holds the very breath that we breathe in his hands. That knowledge has affected the way that I deliver a song to an audience. These songs aren’t just lyrics that I’m repeating, but truths that I firmly believe.”

“Genesis affects our worldview and the view of our Creator.”

Courtney also believes that Genesis is the foundation of biblical faith and influences her entire life, including her music. “Genesis affects our worldview and the view of our Creator. God created us and the majestic world that surrounds us. He is worthy of our praise.’”

Perhaps that’s why one of Courtney’s favorite songs to sing is “Don’t Let Me Miss the Glory,” a song that proclaims the wonder of the Creator.

All the stars in the heavens decorate your handiwork. And like a mighty choir, they’ve come to celebrate Your worth. Don’t let me miss the glory. Don’t let me miss the grace. All creation is singing to the honor of Your name.

Related Downloads

Buddy Davis: He Makes Dreams Out of Nothing

Audio Download

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