Worship Perspectives        back to Worship Perspectives home page

Relational Clarity and Relational Significance
in Worship


"These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me."

Matthew 15:8 NIV

Worship may be the hottest topic in God's church. The sheer size of the body of writings on worship, both scholarly and practical, reflect this priority with which worship thinkers, planners and leaders rightly hold worship, and also the range of issues deemed important. This is exciting, on the one hand, since worship is the central and defining practice for Christians that clearly expresses whose we are. On the other hand, the relentless focus given to the more outward aspects styles, modes, forms--of worship needs to be critiqued. Yet, we ought not critique as an end in itself but with the interpretive lens of God's relational desires.

I believe that many worship thinkers, planners and leaders are sincerely seeking "authentic worship," voicing the legitimate concern that we make God the focus of our worship in order to have genuine experiences of God. For example, some have been calling for worship songs that are more about God than ourselves and more theologically meaty than simple praise choruses--for the dual purpose of worshiping God more fully for who he is and to facilitate the personal transformation of the worshiping community. The song and idea of "The Heart of Worship" (by Matt Redman) characterize this direction which some are eagerly exploring or returning to, as if trying to find our way back home. Others are involved in the Liturgical Renewal Movement's reclaiming of time-tested texts, sacraments and ritual as they seek meaningful connection to God both through these means, as well as through identification with his historical, universal church.

Yet, despite the rich abundance of writings and discussion about more meaningful worship, what I have not seen specifically addressed so far is the priority of relational clarity and relational significance to God in worship,1 the One we worship. Relational clarity and significance focus us specifically on what takes place relationally between God and us. Nothing else is more important. The purpose of this article is to help establish these criteria--relational clarity and relational significance to God--as the core matter around and from which all our worship, its planning and leading should flow and against which all styles, modes and forms of our worship need to be considered.

Relational clarity in worship is our direct person-to-person response to God. It functionally defines the relational context of whom we are worshiping; our primary focus in worship must be God. It may seem absurd to note this, but think about it functionally. Sadly, there are times in many worship services when it isn't clear that we are gathered to worship God. For our worship to have relational clarity, our response to him can't continue to be the all-too-common relationally ambiguous involvement of "ourselves about ourselves" in worship, be it in prayer, in the Word, in song, the ordo or any other means of engagement and communication. When our songs speak more about ourselves, for example, or when our attention is more on a musical "performance," relational focus on God becomes cloudy.

Relational significance defines the relational process or dynamic between us and God as the response of our whole person (signified by our hearts) to the whole of who God is, what he is, and how he is. It's the quality of deeper, intimate relational involvement with him, and what he desires and requires, as we'll see later in this article. Without relational significance to God, our worship lacks relational connection with him. And while relational clarity is a necessary condition for relational significance in worship, relational clarity by itself is not a sufficient condition to ensure relational significance. Our worship practices may have relational clarity but not have relational significance to God. Authentic worship has both relational clarity and relational significance. Worship of God that lacks relational clarity and relational significance to him reduces worship from its relational purpose to essentially a social program--that is, the involvement of "ourselves about ourselves."

Why is relational significance important and necessary? When Jesus reiterated the words in Isaiah, "These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me," he's telling us what God desires: not our words (lips), but our hearts, that is, our whole persons. This is the only worship that has relational significance to him; it is the quality of relational involvement that is specific to God, and is what he created us for. As God revealed himself in the incarnation of Jesus openly and vulnerably "heart to heart" with us,2 heart to heart is how our response must be in order to be compatible with how he is with us. In fact, this is the definition of intimacy: heart to heart connection, or hearts open and vulnerable to each other and coming together. Intimate relational connection with God is the only response that has relational significance to him. Later in this article we'll look at some examples of this in the New Testament.

Worship planners can facilitate relational clarity by bringing together elements of songs, Scripture, sacraments and rituals that direct the worshiping assembly to God for who, what and how he is. And lead worshipers also have vital responsibility to help congregations focus on God with relational clarity.

What cannot be ensured is the relational significance, the quality of connection between the gathered worshipers and God, even if all the elements of worship have relational clarity. Therefore, for our own part, we all as worshipers are responsible to come with openness and vulnerability of ourselves, to give ourselves wholly to our God. And, we absolutely need the Spirit's cooperative relational work in our hearts to help us make deep connection with the whole of God.

Relational Context3    In order for us to grow in our own practice of relational clarity and relational significance to God in worship, it is necessary to start thinking relationally. Let's not assume that we normally do so, because the social and cultural context in which we live directly counters such living; and Christians often have just as hard a time with relationships as anyone else. Some persons think of themselves as naturally relational (I assumed this about myself), but even then the actual practice and experience may be limited. When it comes to relationships, especially with God, let's not assume anything. When we do, we surely limit what we can experience both with God and with others. There is always much more to experience with God, and each other as sisters and brothers in the same family.

To think relationally means to make "relationship" the context. To make the relationship the context means to shift from giving primary focus to situations and what we do (e.g., the components of a worship service) to making God and our relationship the primary focus. This will help us not only in worship, but also in all of life as God's own daughters and sons. For example, too often when we anticipate worship, we make the "event" of worship the context as we think about the time, the structure, the music, sermon--the ordo. But consciously making our relationship with God the reason and therefore the context for the gathering puts these other matters secondary to the relationship into proper perspective. In a deeper sense this requires much more of us (more of our person), but in another very important sense it frees us to enjoy being in his presence. As we grow in this way, not only is God pleased because he receives what he desires (us), but we in turn are affirmed and blessed.

It must be noted here that making the relationship the context and giving primacy to relationship requires the ongoing transformation of our hearts. Living relationally isn't automatic for us, even though it is for relationship that God created us! This means our whole person (signified by the heart) needs to be redeemed from old ways of doing things to the new as God's own daughters and sons in the relational context that is his family.4

While the importance of relational clarity and relational significance may seem obvious, visits to various worship services quickly tell us they are not the priority of much worship practice. One key barrier to relational clarity and relational significance is the operation of reductionism, which is addressed next before continuing our discussion on relational clarity and relational significance in worship.

Reduction of Our Person and Relationships    Simply, reductionism is the process that results in making the whole of something qualitatively less than it should be. Reduction of the human person is the diminishing of the whole of how God created us in his image. Since the fall, the presence of reductionism is normative in all aspects of human life and relationships. For those of us whose who grew up in modern Western societies, reductionism in our perceptions and way of living is further reinforced with the modern emphasis on rationalism and empirical observation. Our thinking and self-perception are reduced to limited "quantitative" terms of outward behaviors and other external aspects of people, ignoring or leaving out deeper qualitative aspects of the person.

With this limited, quantitative mindset, we emphasize the "outer" person, and define (give importance to) the person in terms of what we do (e.g., accomplishments, education, job) and what we have (material things, attributes). Thus, the inner person (signifying the importance of the heart) gets pushed down or ignored, and so we become distant or even disconnected from our own hearts. This is harmful to the person and should alarm us because the heart is integral to the whole of how we are created in the image of God and the level of relationship needed for intimacy. It is how the person gets reduced to less than the whole of how God created us, and how intimacy gets reduced in relationships.

When the heart is pushed down or ignored, intimacy (heart-to-heart connection of whole persons) is diminished in a relationship. The depth and quality of the relational experience between any two persons, God or humans, are greatly reduced. What then do we experience in place of intimacy? Instead of giving of our whole genuine selves, we can only give a substitute in the form of doing something for the other person. An example of this is when a person tries to experience God by spending more time in the Word and more time praying, attending more than one small group at church, even doing more ministry work. He or she believes that more of these activities in themselves will yield deeper connection with God. This is a quantitative focus of reductionism, in this case quantity of time and activity. It is trying to connect with God through situation and activity, that is, what one does, and reflects defining oneself by these secondary things.

Distant or disconnected from our hearts, our focus is on outward presentation of oneself, the performance of a role, in effect the expression of a masquerade. Is it any wonder why the real experience of relational intimacy remains so elusive among both Christians and non-Christians? The extent to which we struggle to make relationship with God the context of our worship reflects the extent to which our person is reduced to the substitutes of what we do (or have).

Reductionism in Worship    In worship, then, with our person reduced, in place of giving of our whole genuine selves, we will offer God a substitute. Worship leaders, for example, will likely give him a substitute in the form of doing a job--concentrating on presenting a good set of music, having good transitions, playing our instrument well, singing, getting the congregation to respond to our leading. Our intentions may be sincere, and our prayers beforehand may even ask the Lord to help us glorify him, but if we define ourselves by what we do, then very subtly our efforts essentially become about our outward actions ("honor me with their lips").

Granted, many lead worshipers and musicians are aware of the tension between leading worship and worshiping God themselves. They ask how to balance leading with their own personal worshiping; from my own past experience I know that there seems always to be a trade-off.5

In the absence of experiencing real connection with God, we often get into other reductionist modes, which are rooted also in the self-definition by what we do. We subconsciously create or maintain illusions about what actually is experienced in our relationship with him. We will overstate what takes place relationally. Or we will also look to a more sensory experience, and think or hope that such experience is intimacy with God. Also, if we are uncomfortable with giving our true selves to God, we stay within a mode that is more familiar or comfortable to us. This may mean essentially hiding behind a role (e.g., leading, playing an instrument).

Any such reductionist modes of worship create relational ambiguity and interfere with relational significance to God. As we seek authentic worship, then, it's vitally important to address reductionism, its presence, influence, and relational consequences between God and his worshipers, and to restore the person to wholeness (involving the heart), to bring us into the wholeness of intimate relationship with God as his family. This is the very purpose for the incarnation that Jesus' life reveals to us and that his work on the cross makes possible.

Jesus vs. Reductionism: Redeeming Us to Wholeness    Jesus countered reductionism by exposing it, rejecting it and redeeming our hearts from its control. He was doing this redemptive work for us throughout his public life. A deeper look at Jesus' first temptation at the beginning of his earthly ministry illuminates the issues of reductionism for us. Then, we'll look at how he restored wholeness to the person for relationship.

In Jesus' first temptation by Satan (Mt. 4:1-4; Lk. 4:1-4), Satan tried to get Jesus to reduce his person by focusing on only his physical needs--and then tempted Jesus to use his ability (his power) to do something about it. Jesus didn't deny his physical need, but instead of reducing his person to just that one aspect, he affirmed the wholeness of his person within the relational context with his Father ("by every word that comes from the mouth of God," Mt 4:4). This is urgently relevant for us to grasp--Satan continually tries to reduce our person and thus our relationship with God--and it's profoundly significant that this temptation and Jesus' response come at the very beginning of his ministry.

Jesus exposed and rejected reductionism perpetuated by Satan while also affirming who he was in his relationship with the Father. We, too, urgently need to recognize, expose and reject this same reductionism that Satan ongoingly tries to influence us in and enslave us to. As we do, we need also to claim Jesus' redemptive work in our hearts which restores the wholeness of our person for the purpose of experiencing intimate relationship with God.6

Jesus continued to counter reductionism by rejecting the pharisaical focus on outward behaviors (defining ourselves by what we do). He pointedly and consistently declared that the inner person--not the outer person and what we do--is the key to relationally experiencing God. This is a consistent message to us in both Old and New Testaments. Check out these verses: Dt 4:29; 1 Sam 16:7; Ps 51:16, 17; Mt 15:17-20; Acts 15:8-10. These verses tell us that God seeks our hearts; they give us important relational messages from God that he doesn't want anything less than our whole person--he wants us! Anything less is reductionism.

We gain further understanding of Jesus' redemptive work of the whole person (signified by the heart) from his interaction with the Samaritan woman with whom he interacted at the well (see John 4:4-26). In an astounding revelation of God's being, Jesus tells her that "God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship him in spirit and in truth" (Jn 4:23-24). In essence, taken along with the verses in the above paragraph, he's revealing God's being as heart. Therefore, that true worshipers worship "in spirit and in truth" can be interpreted as "with honesty of heart."7 These are the worshipers whom the Father seeks, and "with honesty of heart" is how we must relate to (worship) God. Reductionism emerges proportionately to substituting anything else.

As a particular word to worship leaders, it's important to also re-examine how we see our "call." Jesus calls us first and foremost to a deep and abiding relationship with himself. This is the thrust of his call: "Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am my servant will also be" (Jn. 12:26). Now, because of reductionism, what we usually pay attention to is "serve" (what one does for him) with less attention paid to the relational imperative of "must follow me." The Greek word for "serve" diakoneo) stresses the work being done, with no relation to the one being served; this serving has no relational clarity or significance to Jesus. The Greek word for "follow" (akoloutheo) denotes deeper cleaving to, and ongoing fellowship with--implying heart to heart involvement with Jesus' person--and thus has relational clarity and significance.

This is Jesus' relational imperative ("must follow me"), it's Jesus' priority for all who serve him (e.g., in leading worship). Consider the reductionist reversal in much Christian practice, even unknowingly: Whoever follows me must serve me. This completely changes the relationship, gives our doing priority over relational involvement with Jesus. But basing our relationship with Jesus on our doing nullifies grace, and tries to be involved with Jesus with reductionist substitute of what it means to be his disciple, and his worship leader.

Grace. It is what makes relationship with God possible in the first place, and is the ongoing basis for our relationship with him. As with our initial receiving of God's grace to establish us as his own, grace can be ongoingly experienced only as we live in humbleness and honesty of heart of who we truly are. Grace demands our honesty of heart. This is key for us: God's provision of grace means that he will always be relationally open and vulnerable to us for relationship, and only as we are open and vulnerable to him (necessary to live by grace) in response does our person (not a substitute or anything less) experience God for who, what and how he is! This is the only relationship that has relational clarity and relational significance to him. It's in direct conflict with defining ourselves by what we do. I often thank God for his grace by affirming that he doesn't define me by what I do; rather, he's open and vulnerably involved with me because that's how he is, that's his being and nature. He can't be any other way! And I can "just be myself" with him.

So, as Jesus restores our whole person in an ongoing experience of grace in relationship, we're freed from reduction of our person and the related enslavement to doing. Again, just as God is open and vulnerable with us all the time, this is how he expects us to be with him (grace demands it). And, as we submit to him in this, our true identity as his beloved daughters and sons as his very own family emerges, and our serving (e.g., the components in worship such as the ordo, leading, songs, etc.) take its proper secondary place to deep relational connection with God as his family.

What, then, does this do to our worship? As we submit to our Father and his desires, worship will be about and for God and no longer the involvement of "ourselves about ourselves." Corporate worship will be God's family gathered to enjoy and delight in him and he in us!

Examples of Relational Clarity and Relational Significance in Worship
What does wholeness of a person and in relationship with God look like? What do relational clarity and relational significance to God in worship look like? We can learn a lot from some personal interactions Jesus had in the Gospels.

One deeply moving example of a whole person worshiping Jesus with relational clarity and relational significance is the immoral woman (prostitute) who washed Jesus' feet (see Lk. 7:36-50). Before we can learn a couple of vital things from her, first we have to acknowledge any bias we have here. To be honest, I've felt some discomfort at the way she went about washing Jesus' feet. Jesus allowed this woman to touch him, using perfume (a tool of her trade), her tears, hair and kisses to express her love (her heart) for him. My bias was to see the intimate nature of her actions as sexual (my reductionist view of her based on her profession), and not fully take in the relational significance of her actions.

But Jesus didn't define her this way (as Simon the Pharisee obviously did); instead, he saw her whole person, particularly her heart, and received her in what was no doubt the only way she knew how to give of herself. She had experienced grace and forgiveness--that is, she knew in her heart that God did not define her by what she did in her past or her social status. And having been thus forgiven much, she responded back to Jesus with her heart freely open and vulnerably given to him with the intimate involvement of love.

In another example, Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, also endured negative and constraining messages from others as she freely loved Jesus (Jn. 12:1-7). Mary poured some very expensive perfume on Jesus' feet and wiped his feet with her hair, which others said should be sold and the money given to the poor. But Jesus, as with the prostitute, affirmed Mary in her actions of giving herself to him, to express love to him--giving this priority even over ministry to the poor. She was more concerned about loving him than doing the right or wrong thing, in contrast to Judas and some others. And so was Jesus!

Characteristic of the worship of both these women is the unambiguous relational intimacy in their acts of worshiping Jesus. They demonstrated worshiping "in spirit and truth" (honesty of their hearts). Theirs were, in my view, the ultimate examples to be found in Scripture of relational clarity and relational significance in worship. They were direct, open, clearly vulnerable (to possible rejection); it was clear whom they were giving to and did not hold back. Both of them were creative in their expressions by stepping beyond their culturally prescribed roles and constraints. Indeed, these acts of worship involved their hearts' trust in the One they loved and served.

In contrast to these women's worship was how Peter's worship was expressed at the transfiguration of Jesus (Mk. 9:2-11; Mt. 17:1-13). As Jesus was changed to his supernatural form right before Peter, James and John's very eyes, Peter, being afraid and not knowing what to say or how to simply be, offered to do something for Jesus (and Elijah and Moses). Peter's first instinct revealed how he defined himself (by what he did) and how he did relationship with God (through doing something for God). His heart wasn't free and open to be with Jesus, and his worship was offered indirectly through building altars (tents), as a more comfortable substitute for himself. Despite his good intentions, there is no relational significance in his worship because this was not worship "in spirit and truth" (with honesty of his heart), not heart to heart connection. As far as we know, Jesus didn't respond in any way to Peter's suggestion of building altars; it had no significance to him. This is not the kind of worshiper the Father seeks. But Jesus patiently and in love pursued Peter's heart to help bring about a deeper change in Peter, as he does with us.

These are examples of what pleases God in our worship of him, and what has no relational significance to him. The women's worship was direct, open and vulnerable, intimate and unambiguous about whom they loved. Jesus received them with affirmation of their whole persons. There was relational clarity and relational significance for Jesus. Peter= s worship was indirect, because in place of his inner person (his heart) he offered the substitute of what he could do for Jesus, and thus it was ambiguous about whom it was for. Peter's person was reduced to his doing, so his worship was reduced to an activity devoid of "spirit and truth" (honesty of his heart). His worship had neither relational clarity or relational significance to Jesus.

Implications for us Today    As with Peter's "worship," whenever worship focuses more on the outward expressions of what we do "for God" we are essentially talking about performance. For Peter, performing something for God was a substitute for opening his heart to God in relational response to God's revelation. Performance took the place of heart to heart connection, and so it had neither relational clarity nor significance to God.

If worship leaders (including the whole worship team) create and draw worshipers into a context of performance--for example, of observing the musicians perform or joining in the performance--that is in function the same as Peter's "worship" at the transfiguration. What takes place heart to heart between the worshipers and God is negligible at best. As long as worship leaders are performing, the congregational will watch them and be rendered an audience with a bad case of "spectatoritis."8 Such worship has no relational clarity or significance to God. Of further detriment, in this reductionist context worshipers are "taught" that God is also an observer of our worship, even a detached observer, which is a serious reduction of God and his relational purpose and design for us.

Working Paradigm and Practical Suggestions   The following paradigm is offered here to help worship planners and church leaders keep relational clarity and relational significance to God as the non-negotiable core matter while trying to plan worship for their particular context. Some worship thinkers delineate other sets of nonnegotiables, and these are important to consider as well, but they too need to be examined through the lens of relational clarity and relational significance. This paradigm can be used regardless of style, mode or form of the worship context:

"If worship expression is a social construction (of that particular context) without relational clarity, then that form, style, mode of worship is merely a product of culture rather than the relational outcome of those unique persons in relational involvement and response to God.
       Whereas form, style, mode of worship should have cultural relativity and thus be culturally-specific, the absolute necessity of all worship has to have relational clarity to be relationally specific to God, and has to be "in spirit and truth" to have authenticity, and thus be relationally significant to God (Mt. 15:8,9)."9

All cultural, or even entirely new, modes, styles, forms can easily be evaluated using this paradigm. These relational perspectives and changes would need to be ongoingly shared with the congregation either during worship gatherings or in gatherings outside the corporate worship. Going through relational changes together can be an exciting growth process as God's family--taking us deeper than the divisive conflicts over the secondary issue of traditional vs. contemporary worship style..

Truthfully, I wish worship planners and church leaders would be bold enough to completely throw out all preconceptions and established ways of doing worship and start from scratch. Barring that, however, I offer these suggestions to help transform our current worship practices to have relational clarity and relational significance to God and to help worshipers in the vital process of transformation from old to the new as God's family.

First of all, the acronym PASS10 is a simple way to remind us of and reinforce worship's significance. Worship is our PASS to experiencing intimate involvement with God:

Praise -- We praise and affirm God for who, what and how he is.

Adoration (or Affection) -- We respond to him with our heart's open and 

     vulnerable adoration and affection.


Submission -- We submit to him, the ultimate response of ourselves to

     him and his desires, making ourselves about God (contrast "ourselves

      about ourselves").


Service -- We serve him in his design and purpose for us as his daughters

     and sons to build his family.

The whole of worship involves practicing all these relational aspects--both individually and corporately, in the worship service and throughout the week.

Some specific suggestions start with reducing relational ambiguity in order to have relational clarity. Since it is God who is to receive our attention, our praise, thanksgivings, the One to whom we submit and serve, I urge us to sing as much as possible in the second person, to directly address God and not sing about him. This can greatly help us open our hearts further to him. Many songs can easily be changed, if not in the PowerPoint or overhead, worshipers can be directed to make these simple changes as they sing, or lead worshipers can simply model the changes and the congregation follow:


"He is holy" to "You are holy"


"Great is the Lord" to "Great are You Lord"

Certain songs are better left in the third person, such as Call to Worship songs. Some worship thinkers advocate limiting the use of the words "I-Me-My"11 to counteract the narcissistic individualism that has crept into Christian worship from the broader Western culture. While this is indeed a serious problem (narcissism is incompatible with having a relationship with Jesus), at times these first person pronouns do help worshipers to make heart to heart connection with God, so let's not eliminate them outright. What we can do, however, in order to counteract the individualism underlying narcissism and build on the reality that we are God's family, is at times to change "I-me-my" to "we-us-our."

A few more comments about intimacy are worth noting. "I love you Lord" are intimate words that our hearts sing all the way to God's heart! But if we find ourselves uncomfortable with intimacy with God (recall the prostitute washing Jesus' feet), perhaps the Spirit is alerting us to a deeper need we have. Let's be open to consider that the queasiness about intimacy may reflect fear and our lack of wholeness, and to find out what biases--and maybe even unhealed pain from past relationships--may underlie our discomfort; let's help each other talk about them. Intimacy is uncomfortable, because it requires openness and vulnerability. Unfortunately, U.S. culture has both reduced and distorted intimacy to only romantic and sexual relationships. We need to sensitively and patiently address ourselves to these areas both as an expression of and in order to grow in wholeness as God's daughters and sons created in his likeness for intimate relationship.

I don't condone narcissism or mere emotionalism in worship. But I do think that some persons mislabel or misinterpret the discomfort of intimacy as something negative, such as narcissism or emotionalism, which then justifies keeping relational distance. Let's be honest, with the Spirit's help, about our difficulties with intimacy. Sometimes worship planners and leaders talk about the need and desire to get out of our comfort zones and boxes in order to grow. This should be less about form and more about relationship--intimate relationship.

To counteract the performance mentality in both worship leaders and the congregation, I suggest making significant spatial changes where possible. For example, I suggest that none of the musicians (including lead worshiper) be on a stage, but on the floor level with everyone else. As in a Taize service I visited, they could even be seated in the back, behind the congregation where they are able to lead and support the congregation in song very well. Or, if such an arrangement is physically impossible, the musicians could be seated or standing toward the front but on the sides, with the Communion table, a cross, or a meaningful sculpture in the center for worshipers to reflect on.

To help persons grow in wholeness, particularly of opening and expressing our hearts to God in worship (relational significance), this may be facilitated by using our bodies more. Let's encourage people to lift their hands, to clap, to sway to the music. I suggest removing at least one section of pews (or chairs) to allow for spontaneous dancing, or even simply standing, during the worship songs.

Focused teaching and mentoring for members of the church family about issues of reduction in our discipleship and worship are necessary to help us refocus on and grow in what is important to God. Nothing is more important to God than where our hearts are in relation to him, not even our works of service or ministry, as Jesus further showed us in Revelations 2:2-4. Thus this is an urgent, basic issue in our discipleship and reflected in worship, individually and corporately. Our Christian contexts need to be nurturing us in making heart to heart connections with God and each other. Then our worship will grow in relational significance to God, and we will grow together as sisters and brothers in his family.

In summary, God's self-revelation to us in the incarnation of Jesus openly and vulnerably reveals the desires of his heart--us! Our response to his heart means for us to be with him just as he is with us. By grace, Jesus has made this all possible, shows us how, gave us his Spirit to help us worship the whole of God this way. Our Father, the Son and Spirit further await us!


Father, thank you for sharing yourself with us openly, vulnerably in Jesus. Help us, Spirit, to grow to this joyful relational outcome!





1. The phrases “relational significance” and “relational clarity” are more fully developed
in this website’s Discipleship Study by T. Dave Matsuo, The Relational Progression: A Relational Theology of Discipleship, Ch. 9, Section “Practicing the Ultimate Priority: Worship.”

2. For an expanded discussion of God’s being as heart, his nature as relational and presence as vulnerable, see this website’s Spirituality Study by T. Dave Matsuo, Following Jesus, Knowing Christ: Engaging the Intimate Relational Process, Ch. 2.

3. Ibid., for an expanded discussion of the relational context, Ch. 2.

4. Ibid., see the entire study for a full discussion of this.

5. I think we need to seriously address this trade-off. Does there need to be this trade-off? Why
do we just accept it? Might we have self-interests in maintaining the trade-off problem? In response to this, I suggest that churches re-evaluate how we “do” worship, to completely re-examine the assumptions and expectations we have. Instead of living with the trade-off, perhaps we need to think in terms of eliminating or drastically changing those elements that take our hearts’ worship away from God. Thinking along these lines, I know that many worshipers feel moved and connected to God when they hear the worship singers or choir accompanied by instruments. While the musicians need to focus on the singing and playing, and thus are not able to be fully engaged with God, the congregation may feel moved or connected to God. It raises questions: Doesn’t this make worship less than unified? Do the musicians merely function as accompaniment? Does the congregation depend on the music to “feel” moved? Are these the worshipers God seeks? In this, think about God, think about what he is receiving from us. Is there relational clarity and relational significance? Is our corporate relationship with God the context, or is the music the context? Ought worship music serve God or the congregation more? Does it serve the relational connection with God in the best way?

6. The second and third temptations of Jesus further our understanding of Satan’s efforts to interfere in our relationship with God. For further study, please refer to Following Jesus, Knowing Christ, Ch. 3, section “Counter-Relational Work.”

7. Ibid., Ch. 2, section “A Heart Vulnerable in Relationship.”

8. Roberta R. King, “The Power of Worship,” Kenya Church Growth Bulletin, 1992, p. 3.

9. T. Dave Matsuo

10. T. Dave Matsuo

11. Robert Webber, “I-Me-My Worship?” Worship Leader Magazine, Jan/Feb 2005, p. 10.



©2005 Kary A. Kambara 


Back to Top       Worship Perspectives       Home