rev._joaquin_willis_3.jpgRecently, my wife Clarissa and I were blessed to hear Jazz artist Gregory Porter in concert. It was like a worship service but this wasn’t the right place for worship, I thought.

Porter’s music is informed by a beautiful blend of gospel, spirituals, jJazz, soul, R&B and the blues. As he sang the title song from his latest CD, Liquid Spirit, I felt myself drawing nearer to God as he sang it in spirit and truth, in a clear voice quality and with a uniquely authentic sound.

When it comes to worship, it’s not about the place. Genuine worship must satisfy three things: First, mind the power of the Holy Spirit, more than the place. Second, aim at bringing God glory, not getting man’s praise.  Third, draw us nearer to God with true hearts for worship and a genuine desire to hear God’s truth.

Worship is not merely about the place but, rather, one’s spirit and commitment to hear God’s truth. Worship is what our lives were made for. While it is true, as Pastor Rick Warren says, “Our life’s purpose is to bring glory to God,” we draw nearer to God in genuine worship and praise.

Christ tells the Woman at the Well in John 4:23, “The time has come when the true worshiper must worship in spirit and truth.” This raises the question, “What is worship?”

Worship is the feeling or expression of reverence and adoration for a deity. In the case of us Christians, that deity is God.  Lots of people get very excited about praise but when it comes to praise and worship, it is not either/or but both/and. Both praise and worship give meaning to genuine worship and draw us nearer to God.

In John 4:19, the Samaritan woman raises with Jesus the issue of the proper place to worship. Her main point was about where they were standing, which was on Mt. Gerizim, where Abraham (Genesis 12:6-7) and Jacob (Genesis 33:18-20) both had built their altars. So she felt it important to honor tradition and succession. She felt the Samaritans had antiquity on their side but the Jews, she pointed out, worshipped in Jerusalem, where there was no tradition and that wasn’t where “our ancestors” worshiped.

Jesus tells her that she was expecting an hour to come when she would think the religious matter of proper worship place will be decided. But, he added, the hour was now, when the issue of place was no longer the question of importance. His point was that you can draw near to God anywhere, as long as you worship Him in “spirit and truth.”

Finally, genuine worship draws us nearer to God when there is a true heart for worship and a genuine desire for truth. Christ goes on to describe the evangelical worship, stressing that the place is unimportant but what is essential is that “we worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks” (John 4:23).

We now live in the gospel times, the days Jesus spoke of, when “True worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth.” Those who daily make it a point to worship and do not care about the place or what other men think, worship God “in spirit and truth.”

It is easier sometimes to say what God is not, than to say what God is, because God has no flesh and no bones.

God is a spirit, for He is infinite and He has an eternal mind, is omniscient (all knowing), omnipotent (all powerful) and omnipresent (always present). God is incorporeal (not made of matter). God is immaterial (spiritual, not physical), God is invisible, God is incorruptible. God is a Spirit and those who worship Him must do so in spirit and in truth.

As Porter sang Liquid Spirit, the words of the song fluidly spoke to my heart, saying, “Let the liquid spirit free.” And, as we listened, the power of “spirit and truth” in his music drew me nearer to God. It made me want to clap, shout and sing.

The Rev. Dr. R. Joaquin Willis is pastor of the Church of the Open Door UCC in Miami’s Liberty City community. He may be reached at 305-759-0373 or