Click below to listen to this post about worship styles on the Candidly Kendra Podcast:
Have you ever felt disconnected from worship? Have you ever noticed the people around you being emotionally “caught up” in worshiping God, and you feel…nothing? Do you feel like there’s something wrong with you?
This was the story of my life for nearly 25 years.
The thing is I knew God. I knew the Gospel. I knew that Jesus saved me. I knew I was forgiven. And I was glad.
But I just wasn’t all that worked up about it.
Was there something wrong with me?
Did they love Jesus more than I did?
Learning About Worship Styles
A few years ago I was introduced to the idea of Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas, which suggested that we all have different worship styles, or preferred ways to connect with God. (See a great summary of Gary Thomas’ Sacred Pathways here.)
This was so helpful! Understanding the truth and beauty of differing worship styles has freed me to be myself in worship, not feeling like I need to put on a show to match the enthusiasm of others around me; and has helped me realize that there isn’t something wrong with me when I’m worshiping God out of the character he’s given me, even when it doesn’t look like everyone else!
Although Thomas presents nine different worship styles, I’ve since reformulated the list to make it more accessible. I’ve narrowed the worship styles down to the four most common types, which I’ve renamed Investigators, Choristers, Wanderers, and Meditators.
Worship Style: Investigator
Investigators find themselves drawn to studying the Bible. They may love to read, watch videos, or listen to podcasts that help them dig deeper into God’s Word to learn about him.
The beauty of an Investigator is that they don’t just study for studying’s sake, but they will find themselves drawn into worship through their research.
I’m an Investigator. For years I felt like I was missing something because I wasn’t drawn to clapping or dancing during a church service. I didn’t often cry during a great worship song. But I sat with my pen poised the moment the pastor stepped up to the pulpit. I knew that the truth that he would share would take my breath away. I was led into worship by the truth.
Maybe Martha from John 11:20-27 was an Investigator. When her brother Lazarus died, and Jesus hadn’t saved him, and all hope was lost, Jesus met with her and had a conversation fit for an Investigator. He asked her, “Do you believe?” and Martha replied, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” Jesus reminded her of the truth and she was comforted.
The Bible makes it clear that we all should learn about God from his Word. But worship through the study of God’s word will come easier for some than for others.
Connecting With God As An Investigator
Here are some suggestions for how you can connect with God like an Investigator in your personal devotional time:
- Read a great book. You probably have one that you’ve been meaning to read for months (or years!). Now’s the time! Pick it up and read a chapter. Let God connect with your heart for learning about him. (If you don’t have a book, I recommend Gentle and Lowly by Dane C. Ortlund. Lots of big words; but if you’re an Investigator you like it that way.)
- Join a Christian book club, where you can discuss what you are learning with others. You will likely thrive in that environment.
- Find a great Christian podcast. I recommend the Gospel in Life Podcast with Timothy Keller.
- Do a Bible word study. (See my video below for a quick explanation of how I do one.)
Worship Style: Choristers
Choristers are drawn to worship through music. Nothing sets the mood for worship more than music for a Chorister. They are the ones I used to look at during a worship service and I thought I was missing something because they were connected so deeply with the music and I couldn’t quite understand it.
I believe King David was a Chorister. In 2 Samuel 6, we read the story of David bringing the Ark of the Covenant back into the City of David, and it says:
“David and all the people of Israel were celebrating before the Lord, singing songs and playing all kinds of musical instruments—lyres, harps, tambourines, castanets, and cymbals.”
2 Samuel 6:5 NLT
His worshipful celebration was so enthusiastic that he embarrassed his judgy wife, Michal. But he said, “I was dancing before the Lord, who chose me above your father and all his family! He appointed me as the leader of Israel, the people of the Lord, so I celebrate before the Lord.” (2 Samuel 6:21 NLT)
God created us to worship him with singing and dancing. The Psalms make it clear that musical worship is his design. (Psalm 100:1-2) But worshiping God through music will come more naturally to some than to others.
Connecting With God As A Chorister
To worship God like a Chorister in your personal devotional time, consider these suggestions:
- Make a worship playlist on Spotify. Consider making a couple playlists to match with different moods (discouraged, enthusiastic, etc.). (If you have a great Spotify playlist to share, share the link in the comments below!)
- Consider putting on worship music first thing in the morning to start your day off right.
- Fill those mundane parts of your day with worship music (folding laundry, doing dishes, cooking dinner, etc.)
Worship Styles: Wanderers
Wanderers connect with connect through time in God’s creation. Whether it’s a long hike in the mountains, an easy stroll through the neighborhood, or even journaling in a hammock, the outdoors is their cathedral.
Steve and I hike together a lot. Steve says that the mountains refresh his soul. As we hike we usually talk about the business of life – the kids, work – but before long we often find ourselves connecting on a deeper level. We begin to talk about what God has been teaching us. We find our steps grow lighter, even as our breathing is deeper, because God’s Creation is doing it’s restorative work on both of our souls.
Do you think it is possible that John the Baptist was a Wanderer?
“He said, ‘I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord.’”
John 1:23 ESV
John prepared for his ministry by spending time in the wilderness – in God’s creation.
Spending time in God’s creation, away from the pull of technology and chores, can be a powerful way to be close to the heart of God. It wasn’t intended to replace church, which God has given us as a way to connect with the rest of the body of Christ, to worship with music and with his Word. But Wanderers know that time in Creation does indeed restore the soul.
Connecting With God As A Wanderer
If you would like to worship God like a Wanderer, try these things:
- Take a prayer walk around your neighborhood. Pray for your city. Pray for your neighbors.
- Take a hike near your home. As you walk toward your destination, try to leave behind the worries of life. Connect with the heart of God. Sit a moment, feeling your presence in nature. Then turn around and walk back. As you do, reenter your every day life by praying for your loved ones and casting your worries on God.
- Set up a hammock in a beautiful place. Read the Bible or a great book or journal about what you’ve been learning about God.
Worship Style: Meditators
Meditators connect with God through the senses. They may like the rituals of ancient worship. They may be drawn to the body-soul connection of fasting. They may connect deeply through repetitive actions or prayers. And they may find themselves spiritually encouraged when they create new rituals that help them connect with God.
Many years ago I had a young baby who slept a lot and too much free time on my hands. I was a lonely new mom. But then I created a ritual that came to be incredibly special to me. Every morning when I put baby Owen down for his 10:00 am nap, I made myself a piece of cinnamon toast, a cup of coffee, and I sat down with my Beth Moore Bible study. I dug deep into that study. I often would spend Owen’s entire 2 hour nap studying God’s word. (Full disclosure: sometimes I would study the Bible for 30 minutes and take a 1 1/2 hour nap. …Just wanted to keep it real.) The ritual of the cinnamon toast and coffee along with God’s word every day somehow connected it with the rhythms of my day and made it feel essential and natural.
Aaron, the first priest of God’s people was an example of a Meditator. God gave him instructions of exactly how he could lead the people to the heart of God through ritual.
The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to Aaron and say to him, ‘When you set up the lamps, see that all seven light up the area in front of the lampstand.’”
“Aaron did so; he set up the lamps so that they faced forward on the lampstand, just as the Lord commanded Moses. This is how the lampstand was made: It was made of hammered gold—from its base to its blossoms. The lampstand was made exactly like the pattern the Lord had shown Moses.”
Numbers 8:3-4 NIV
When Jesus came and died for us he fulfilled the Old Testament law and set us free from the requirements of the rituals of the law. But spiritual practices and rituals can still be tools that draw us to the heart of God when they bring us into Scripture and point us back to the Gospel.
Connecting With God As A Meditator
Here are some suggestions of how you can worship God like a Meditator:
- Take a 5-senses prayer walk around your neighborhood. Using your eyes, look into the distance. What do you see? Lean down and look at something very close. What do you see? Use your nose – what do you smell? Taste the air, what do you notice? Touch a flower or a tree. Listen. Talk to God about what you notice.
- Use ritual to tie your Bible reading to something you love. For example, you can light a certain fragrant candle every time you read your Bible. Save your favorite drink for when you are studying God’s word. Sit in your favorite chair only when you are reading your Bible every day.
- Repeat your favorite memory verse slowly, twice, before you get out of bed in the morning. After two weeks, memorize a new verse.
- Choose silence. Spend a day with no “fillers.” Put your phone on “Do Not Disturb,” and keep the radio and tv off. See how your spirit awakens.
Bring It Home:
Which worship style do you connect with the most naturally? Are you an Investigator, a Chorister, a Wanderer, or a Meditator?
What is your favorite way to worship God? What practice have you used during your devotional times that encourage you?
Review the bulleted lists of ways to connect with God under each worship style. Do you see something there that you’ve never tried before that you would like to try?
Subscribe Here to Keep Up With Candidly Kendra’s New Posts!