I grew up in church worship ministry. I have seen the highs and lows of this ministry, endured much heartache and had some amazing, life-changing experiences. (Maybe one day I will write a book about surviving worship ministry.)
I have also developed a few pet peeves. One of them is the oft-repeated concept of the sacrifice of praise.
I don’t hate the concept in itself. Sacrificing praise to God is an admirable notion. It is a worthy goal in worship ministry and a necessary part of the Christian life.
Sacrificing praise is a worthy goal and necessary part of the Christian life.
What I cannot stand is the way some people speak about it.
Some people speak of sacrificing praise in profoundly depressing ways. It goes something like this: ‘We should praise God all the time. The Bible tells us to offer God a sacrifice of praise. And sometimes it is a sacrifice…’
It sounds like what they’re really saying is this:
‘Praising God is hard work. Really, really hard work.’
Before I jump on my hobby-horse, there is some truth to this. Sometimes we don’t feel like praising God. In fact, it can be the last thing we feel like doing. And worship ministry can be a hard slog. It can involve many behind-the-scenes hours of work. Don’t even get me started on the politics.
Praising God can be the last thing we feel like doing.
But I don’t think this is what the bible means when it refers to a sacrifice of praise.
The sacrifice bit is an Old Testament reference. In Old Testament days, God’s people offered physical sacrifices to God. They would sacrifice animals to atone for their sins. They would sacrifice a tenth of their harvest as a way of giving God their best. And they would give freewill (voluntary) offerings to God.
That’s the true meaning of a sacrifice of praise: a gift freely and joyfully given, not a burden. This is what I meant in my song Linger: ‘By the light, I will freely sacrifice praise and glory.’
When you celebrate a loved one’s birthday, you give them gifts, not because you feel obligated but as a reflection of your love for them. You would (hopefully) never describe it as a burden or tell them what it cost you. You are focused on their enjoyment of the gift.
You give them gifts, not because you feel obligated, but as a reflection of your love for them.
It helps me to think of sacrificing praise in this way.
God loves our praise. He delights in it. He’s not sitting there bored, checking his watch, scrolling on his phone. He treasures our praise. And he treasures us. That’s why he loves our praises: not because he is a self-serving narcissist, but because we are his much-loved, highly-prized children.
Our praise is a sweet-smelling aroma to God. He hangs on every word, every breath, every life offered to him.
Or as Michael Caton would say in The Castle, ‘This is going straight to the pool room.’
‘This is going straight to the pool room.’
It’s not just our praise that we offer. When we belong to God, our whole lives become freewill offerings, gladly given as signs of our love and devotion.
And those offerings go straight to his pool room.
How do you picture God when you praise him? Does praise feel more like an obligation to you? What would you like to freely sacrifice to God today? Share your story. Let’s have a countercultural conversation.