What is Pure Worship?

If you’ve been in the worship team for a while, you will have heard someone say to you that your worship should be pure before the Lord. The suggestion here is that this is a type of worship which is acceptable to God and by implication, there are other types of worship which are impure and therefore unacceptable.

It goes further: this requirement, for the worship team member, is often translated into the need to live pure lives because, being in a frontline ministry, our impurity might somehow “infect” or “pollute” the atmosphere of worship so that we risk offending God’s presence on a Sunday.

I’ve been in the worship ministry long enough to realise that nobody in the ministry lives an absolutely pure or perfect life. In fact, I’m sure there’s no one person in the church today who can say they’ve met God’s required standard of purity. By definition, purity means “freedom from evil” or “uncontaminated” or “unblemished”.

Okay, I admit it: I don’t meet that standard either. if I think about what I’ve done during the week, it falls well short. I think vulgar thoughts, I say stupid things, I laugh at things I shouldn’t laugh at and I really hope no-one ever sees my inner motives.

If God only responds to pure worship (and I think He does), then who can worship?

I like what Chris Du Pre says is true (The Lost Art of Pure Worship p 26):

Purity in worship is not the same as attaining perfection in worship. Pure worship is that wonderful moment when a struggling heart is able to get past itself and give honour and praise to the Worthy One, and he receives the incomplete offerings of that weak vessel with open arms. When it is offered in simplicity and sincerity, one small sacrifice of praise becomes something holy and powerful and pure.

The fact of the matter is that no one can attain perfection. Isaiah says that all our “righteousness” is like filthy rags.

And yet, the usual Christian response is that we must try harder, do better, be more disciplined. On its face, this is really noble and high-sounding. After all, doesn’t God deserve our best? He certainly does, but He never intended for us to do it in our own strength. If that were possible, then we wouldn’t need Him.

Du Pre goes on to say this:

Obedience is a good thing, but imagine a father whose children only come to him in response to his summons, feeling obligated to come. For a father, what a joy it is when your children come on their own because they want to be with you. That is the essence of the heart of pure worship – worship that is initiated by the love of the worshipper.

We can only come to such a place of worship when we lean in on Christ’s purity, not ours. It is only when we realise how much He loves us, can we then respond back in love. As John says, we love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).

As leaders of worship, we need to once again make worship accessible to the church and to those who are seeking, not by putting unreal expectations on people to perform, commit, obey and be holy, but by telling them they are accepted as they are; that the only way to worship is to worship with sincerity and transparency.

And for those who lead worship teams, maybe we should be willing to accept our musicians and singers in whatever form they come in – flaws, struggles, warts and all. We can never expect to reform their lives, only Christ can. All we can do is create a culture of leaning into, trusting in and looking to Christ and His purity so that we become more like Him and are transformed into His likeness.

It is Jesus in His purity, and it has always been Jesus, who presents us before God’s glorious presence without fault and with great joy. To God be the glory, majesty, power and authority through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen (Ju 24-25).

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