Twice a month, my husband and I teach a Sunday School class of very clever and insightful fourth graders. The curriculum we use focuses on a “virtue” (honor, self-control, honesty, etc.) each month and uses Bible stories and verses to illustrate the importance of that virtue. Interactive, fun activities enhance the learning process. A few months ago, maybe January or February, the topic of the month was worship. One of the follow-up activities helped the kids discover their individual styles of worship. Worship styles are the ways and experiences we use to draw us close to God and lead us into heart-felt worship.
This concept of worship styles intrigued me – I had never heard of it before – and I thought it would be an interesting idea to blog about. Of course, when I went looking for the notes for that lesson to clarify the particulars for this topic, I couldn’t find them. Undeterred, I headed for the world wide web. What did we ever do before the Internet? Not only did I find an expanded list of worship styles, I came across a quiz that takes the guesswork out of discerning what my particular worship style is.
Activist: draws near to God through bringing about social change
Ascetic: draws near to God through solitude and simplicity
Caregiver: draws near to God through caring for and serving others
Contemplative: draws near to God through personal adoration and heartfelt devotions
Enthusiast: draws near to God through celebration and mystery
Intellectual: draws near to God through the mind
Naturalist: draws near to God through nature
Sensate: draws near to God through the senses
Traditionalist: draws near to God through ritual and symbol
(This list was taken from the website listed above. It was originally produced by Gary L. Thomas, Sacred Pathway – HC, Copyright 2000.)
I’ve discovered that I am a naturalist, with a healthy measure of intellectual, contemplative, and ascetic thrown in. Really, there is only a three point difference between naturalist and ascetic in my quiz results. But I would have described myself as a naturalist even without the help of the quiz. Worshipping God comes very easily to me when I am surrounded by His incredible craftsmanship. For me, God’s creativity, his power, majesty, and constancy, and even his love and goodness are most easily perceived through His creation.
Some of my most intimate and meaningful worship experiences have taken place in outdoor places. Several years ago, I was standing on a trail on Mount Rainier, above the aptly named Paradise Inn. As I looked across those endless jagged mountain peaks and into the deep, river-worn gorge below, I was overcome with the sensation that I was standing at the very feet of God, gazing into eternity. His presence was almost tangible, his majesty and love mind-blowing. I could not help myself, I had to worship him.
Two summers ago, I snorkeled for the very first time while vacationing on St. John, USVI. In that crystal clear, bathtub-warm water I was introduced to an watery world of color and diversity. Again, I was struck by the richness of God’s creativity and imagination. And I recognized His great love for us, giving us such beatuiful things to enjoy and care for. I felt the peace and presence of God and honored Him as I floated above the schools of blue tang, the purple sea fans and yellow coral formations.
I don’t have to go to far away or exotic places to commune with God in nature. The other day I had a truckload of errands to run across much of the county. It was an exceptionally lovely spring morning – clear sunshine, the perfect temperature, living things blooming everywhere with that fluorescent green color that is so specific to spring. Lancaster county has a quiet, subtle kind of beauty any time of year, but on this particular morning I was completely overcome with its pastoral lushness. Praising God came very easily and my errands seemed like much less of a burden.
Knowing my worship style enables me to actively seek out those experiences that most effectively draw me closer to God. I have, however, found a few things to be true about my personal worship. When I am working out my faith on a daily basis and living for God’s purposes in my life, worship opportunities crop up everywhere. My spirit is free and willing to participate, whatever the style of worship. When I am living my life for me, allowing sins to pile up like smelly laundry and tuning God out, even the very best worship experiences in my preferred style can pass me by unnoticed. Keeping my heart open and receptive to God is the real key to meaningful worship. So, how about you…
What is your worship style?