Worship Love Languages

By John A. White
Contributing Writer
May 08, 2024

Read more from John A. White
In his book, The Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman outlines 5 methods to communicate and experience love. They are (1) gift giving, (2) quality time (3) words of affirmation (4) acts of service/devotion and (5) physical touch. He says each person has one primary and one secondary love language. Successful couples learn to speak the love language of the their partners.

Our native love language is not only how we relate to others, but it is the way we give and receive love from God and most certainly, affects the way we worship. A “gift giver,” like Zaccheus (Lk 19:8) who promised to give back 4 times anything he took, thinks the offering is the most important part of worship. A “quality timer,” like John leaning on Jesus’ chest, feels closest to God in moments of intimate reflection and meditation. An “affirmer,” like Barnabas who encouraged Paul, is in their sweet spot singing songs about God’s unending love and devotion to them. A “devotioner” like Peter (Mark 14:31) who told Jesus “even if I have to die with you. I will never disown You” needs to declare their faithfulness especially in diversity. A “physical toucher” like Thomas (Jn 20:28) who would only believe when he touched Jesus’ wounds is constantly seeking the next experience in God. It is easy to see the difficulty worship leaders face when the measures of successful worship services depends on divergent worship love languages within congregation.

We easily dismiss love languages that are not our own. We do not understand how certain songs and parts of the service that do little for us are important to others. This is evidence we are functionally mute and deaf in other love languages. It is equally wrong to dismiss other worship love languages as “meaningless” or “immature.”. We need to embrace other worship love languages. Paul says to “rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with people who mourn” (Ro 12:15). Saying “I am happy for you” is not the same as rejoicing with another. To rejoice with someone, you need to learn their love language and speak it with them.

My best friend loves to be enveloped in the manifold presence of God. At the same time, he is cognizant of his pastoral role to serve his community as a first priority. His primary love language is physical touch and his secondary is words of affirmation. Mine is devotion. I had the hardest time understanding why he wanted me to lead worship that resulted in God touching people and bringing them to the verge of emotional outbursts. I would rather make strong statements of faith and dedication. Finally I got it! I started to learn that loving God involves our whole heart, our whole mind and our whole strength (Du 6:5) means. One way to look at “whole” is leaving everything on the table. Another way to look at “whole” is the completion of the work of God in you… becoming everything God intended. In the latter sense, the way we love God is incomplete because we are broken. I might be good at one worship love language and if I am lucky, two. This by no means is the fullness or wholeness of expressing love and receiving love to and from God.

How do worship leaders give the congregation the opportunity to express and receive all worship love languages? First, accept you are experienced in one or two worship love languages and pray for God to increase your fluency of other worship love languages. Build a worship team that has different love languages from your own and involve them in planning and feedback. Prepare thematic worship sets that cater specifically to one or two love languages and rotate them from week to week. This must be tempered by the love culture of your church community. For example, worship sets for a post modern service will be different than that for a traditional service. Let us strive to live out the love language diversity. Above all, seek to enrich other’s worship by similarly engaging in the worship love language which they are fluent.

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