Many discussions have been had regarding the subject of worship in churches. You may have heard questions such as these:
- "What is the worship like at your church?"
- "Is your church's worship service traditional or contemporary?"
- "Do you like the worship or the preaching better?"
These questions of preference, style and external expression miss the point of what believers are called to do in worship. At Grace Community Church, we see worship as our highest calling - our very purpose. Worship is the fuel and goal of all of our other ministries (see the article "How We Worship: 10 Principles That Guide Us On Sunday Morning"). In light of this, it is important that we understand and embrace a biblical view of this infinitely valuable subject.
Why is this subject infinitely valuable? The subject of worship of God is infinitely valuable because God Himself is infinitely valuable. If the object of our worship did not have supreme value, worship of that object would not either. The declaration that worship is the supreme calling of each believer and the eternal purpose of the Church (Rev. 14:6-7; Psalm 96:3) is rooted in the unfathomable, eternal, infinite value of the glorious triune God.
What is worship then? Many great definitions have been offered throughout Church history, but it cannot be boiled down to one simple and susinct statement because of the magnitude of the subject itself. That being said, we should never use the incomprehinsible nature of God's truth as an opportunity to be lazy in our pursuit of knowing Him. In contrast, it should drive us to true humility and a yearning for His wisdom as we seek answers in His Word. The Bible says that "His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence" (2 Peter 1:3,ESV).
Worship is a lifestyle which appropriately responds to God. Worship is not something that is only done at certain times such as Sunday mornings, or certain places such as churches. It is not even an activity that can be achieved using step-by-step instructions. Worship encompasses all of life. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says: "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." While many in our day have equated the word "worship" with music, we see that while it can include music and song, it also includes walking, talking, even mowing the lawn - to the glory of God! Worship is overall, a lifestyle rather than a simple action.
Worship is a response to God. Christians from different traditions and theological persuasions affirm that God acts, and we respond. More importantly, the Bible affirms this truth. As we respond to God and what He reveals about Himself in His Word in ways that honor Him, we worship Him. When He gives a command, and we obey - we worship Him. When He shows us His goodness and kindness, and we respond in gratitude, giving credit to Him - we worship. When He shows us Jesus Christ lifted up on the cross to take the punishment for our sin, and we respond in faith - we worship.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. - Romans 12:1-2 (ESV)
Paul gives this appeal after 11 chapters of exploring the glorious truths concerning the Gospel of grace. After explaining in various ways, from almost every imaginable angle who God is and what He has done in Christ, he makes this appeal that we respond to God in proportion to this good news by presenting our entire lives - all that we are in heart, mind, body, and will - to God for His glory. Anything less than our entire lives is inappropriate. He has freely given Himself in the Gospel. The appropriate response is surrendering our lives on a moment-by-moment basis, and in every area (See Mark 8:34-35).
If we maintain this view of worship, questions regarding style and preference fade into the background as less significant; they are only means to the end of worship of God in the context of a church service. They are certainly not insignificant, but they are not our focus. If our gaze is truly on the greatness of God, we will give him glory in every situation - in church or outside. We show our misunderstanding of God's vast, all-encompassing self-revelation when we have a narrow view of worship. As our view of God expands, it is natural that our view of worship naturally follows. We should heed Luther's words to Erasmus: "Your thoughts of God are too human!"
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! "For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?" "Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?" For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. - Romans 11:33-36 (ESV)