There is a strange phenomenon that has been ongoing for the last 30 years. In the United States, the average local community was close between neighbors. Many of us can still remember getting out of school, going to a neighborhood park or just open area and playing, getting home in time for dinner, then going back outside to play until the street lights came on. We all knew our neighbors well enough. If anything was going on down our block, we knew who was involved and what all was going on. There would be events on the block where neighbors would be invited over for a neighborhood get together. There was real community there. If you were a part of a Christian Church at the time, there was real community there as well.
However, that is not really the way things are now-a-days. There is this very odd disregard for knowing our neighbors that seems to be the way of life today. Kids do not spend so much time playing around in the neighborhoods, neighbors don’t know one another, and community events don’t have a lot of people show up. When it comes to church, for one reason or another, those of my generation (those of us in our early 30’s) do not even want to get together with fellow believers. Something “turned us off,” to church. We all have a variety of reasons, strangely enough, I never had a reason not to go. I turned away from God at an early age, and that is what turned me off to it. But once I came back to Christ, I immediately wanted to return to church. Why is it that so many have such a hatred for returning to a local congregation?
This is why the Corporate Disciplines are so important: What we had as a community back “in the old days” was real human connections where we could love one another and come together for fun, aid, and general good times. The Corporate Disciplines place us back into this real community, where we have real human connections with people, with real relationships and wholesome unity with our neighbors. Confession brings us together because as we should all know, the strongest relationships are those where the truth is shared without judgment, but honest compassion and desire to lift each other up. The next Corporate Discipline is Worship, where we come together to celebrate our God and our Savior. We don’t just come together for the hardships, but we also come together for the joy of celebration and true communion with one another before God.
What is Worship?
Worship is the giving of praise, thanksgiving, and adoration of God. Worship is more than just singing and music. We can worship God in the course of our daily lives, so long as what we do is in obedience to His commands, filled with thanksgiving for what He has provided to us, and demonstrates our Love for Him. It is showing appreciation for all He has done for us, from creation to salvation and everything in-between. While we can do this individually, we must also do this corporately.
For many, the way church is “done” can turn them off to the idea of “going to church.” Some do not like the idea of standing up and singing. Others do not like the idea of being “lectured,” by someone about what to do or not to do. There are some who do not like the idea of being probed to give offerings or tithes. Others (for some silly reason) fear the judgment of others or that people will judge them for how they dress and the like. Allow me to open your eyes to a few things:
- If you are more concerned with how it is “done,” you are putting up works on a pedestal to worship it, instead of worshipping God. (idolatry).
- If you do not like the idea of standing up and singing with other believers in joy and celebration of His greatness, you are placing your own feelings of comfort above praising your God.
- If you do not like to hear a Pastor preach the Word of God, then you do not like hearing someone speak what God has to say. If hearing God’s Words bothers you, then how well do you listen to Him in prayer? Does only your view suffice? Are you placing your view of the Word above that of others?
- If you do not like the idea of giving an offering or giving your tithe, then the disobedience is rather obvious. Giving to your local church so that they may fulfill their various ministries is not a request from them, it’s a requirement from God.
- So you would place your concern for how people look at you above the praise of your Lord and Savior? If you place your looks and others’ perceptions of you above obedience to God, then that too is a form of Idolatry.
Worship is not in the form that it is conducted in. Worship is not in function. There is no prescribed form of worship in the Bible. “We are free in Christ to use whatever forms will enhance our worship, and if any form hinders us from experiencing the living Christ—bad for the form.” (Foster, Richard, p. 159, Celebration of Discipline). This does not mean that form is without purpose, but it does mean that it is secondary. The forms of worship allow us to come together with one purpose, to praise our God, and to do so in such a manner as it can be done without distraction and to the best of our abilities.
Most people consider the singing portion of a “worship service” is the only part that is worship. However, the reality is that the whole service is worship.
- Singing praises to our God is an act of Worship.
- Proclaiming the Gospel is an act of Worship.
- Teaching God’s Word is an act of Worship.
- Giving one’s offerings and tithe in obedience is an act of Worship.
- Coming together to minister to the needs of fellow believers is an act of worship.
- Teaching children the Word of God is an act of Worship.
All of these things are what is done on the average Sunday “Day of Worship,” and are all things we can not do alone. We do these corporately as to do them individually disregards our obligations to our fellow man and detaches us from the whole Body of Christ of which we are only but a part. When we come together in Worship, we are “refueled” spiritually, and are “resupplied” in our hearts and minds. We are brought to remember what Christ has done, to do His good work, and to have a day set apart from others in which we set ourselves to praising our King. Without Corporate worship, we are left out of the strength of God’s presence that grows ever stronger when we are together before Him.
Where is Worship in the Bible?
The command to worship is quite clear in the Bible. “…praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.” (Deut. 8:10) is but one of the numerous verse in the Old Testament regarding giving praises to the Lord. Worship itself is in obeying God, and the Lord described many celebrations to be held in His name, “Three times a year you are to celebrate a festival to me.” (Exodus 23:14). There was the Festival of Booths, the Festival of Harvest, and the Festival of Unleavened Bread. There was also the three times a year where the men were to appear before the Lord (Exodus 23:17).
In Matthew 4:10 we are told to “..worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve.” As human beings we are unique most particularly in our need to worship something. If we do not worship God, then we worship sex, popularity and fame, our bodies, material possessions, or other things like that which we make with our hands (idols back then, technology today). The first commandment of Jesus was, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30). All of this telling of “to love,” is through acts of worship, acts of obedience, and through acts of lovingkindness with our neighbors.
“Offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to his name.” (Heb. 13:15). The priests of the Old Testament were assigned to “minister” to the Lord, “Also, when they approach the altar to minister by presenting a food offering to the Lord,” (Exo. 30:20). We then come to the New Testament where we are, “…a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9). As the new “priests” together we are to minister to God. This ministry is of praise, adoration, and thanksgiving before God together as His people.
So How do I Worship as a Discipline?
The most difficult thing to get across is the view of singing being the only form of praise. Let me approach this subject from this perspective: How do we worship things in our life?
How do we worship ourselves? How do we place our bodies above God in an act of worshipping idols against God? Well, we give more attention to our bodies than we do to anything else. We dedicate time to getting our bodies in peak shape. We spend time in front of the mirror measuring ourselves up to the last time we looked in the mirror (sounds pretty sad so far, doesn’t it?). We speak to others about our physical accomplishments and challenge others in outperforming them, placing our own skills above theirs. When we don’t measure up physically to another person, we feel embarrassment and guilt, even shame in not getting our bodies up to par. We show off our bodies at every opportunity and spend a great deal of our time making sure other people can see what our body looks like. We feel proud when people compliment us on how nice our body looks, and it means everything to us when others bring us gifts that complement our looks or that provide us with tools to improve our body even more.
So lets put this into context of worshipping God as we should.
We give more attention to God than we do to anything else. We dedicate time to listen to God, speaking with Him about our life and seeking to grow our relationship with Him. We set apart time to get our spirit fully connected with Him and getting our spirit in peak shape. We spend time reflecting on our past behavior and ensuring that what is in our hearts is a longing to be better in God’s eyes, not others. We celebrate God with others, speaking with them about where we need to improve and confessing to one another, helping each other to stay spiritually strong. We do not try to out do others in how we praise, but instead we focus on helping them improve their skills in singing, preaching, proclaiming the Gospel, and giving their testimony, while seeking assistance to improve in those areas ourselves. When we are corrected by others because we have acted in a sinful way, we welcome the constructive criticism, and we do not let ourselves get offended by what other people say or think. We feel shame and guilt when we fall back into sin, and we pray to God for forgiveness, seeking His help in preventing it in the future. We carry ourselves in a manner that reflects kindness, love, gentleness, and respect, wearing modest clothes and don’t attempt to bring attention to our bodies. We feel honest fulfillment when we act kindly towards another, enjoying that blessed gift from God of joy in our hearts when we care for another person. When others compliment us on our ability to help others, we accept the kind words humbly and return them in kind.
When we prepare to come to a worship service, we must prepare ourselves for the experience. The goal is to bring about a sense of God’s presence among all who are present. We should give some time to prayer in advance of the service, asking God to lighten our hearts and to ease our burdens so that we may focus on Him. We ask the Lord to bless the praise leader and pastor with His Holy Spirit so that it may fill the place where we attend. We get ourselves ready so as not to draw attention to ourselves, dressing in modesty and respect out of concern not for what other people think, but to not distract them from their desire to praise God. Even when we have that feeling in our gut of, “I am not in the mood for (singing, church, people, waking up, etc.) today,” we prepare ourselves to do it anyway. When we arrive, we welcome other people, and meet and greet others with kindness and courtesy. We do not let the simple things get to us, such as the waiting lines or trying to find a parking spot. We keep out minds focused on opening our minds and spirit to a time of just simply praising the Lord, preparing ourselves to feel His presence.
While in the service, we don’t let ourselves worry about what others are doing. We find a seat and introduce ourselves to those around us (best way to get rid of that discomfort that some feel when sitting next to people we don’t know). Remember, the focus is to prepare yourself for a time of giving praise, love, and adoration to God, shared with others in the pursuit of sensing the Lord’s presence among His body of believers. We might have had a rough week, perhaps a serious heart wrenching experience of some sort. We may come with a heart filled with sorrow and sadness. In such situations, remember, the focus is on feeling His presence. Prepare yourself for that, prepare yourself for a time of feeling His love through those around you, through their voices. Set your heart and mind up to know that when you praise God, He will fill you with joy if only you would let Him. Don’t let your eyes wander about to see what others are doing. Don’t let yourself think that others are judging you for this or that. Your mind should not be in such a place. It should be set on your obedience to God and your honest want to praise and worship Him.
This can be a difficult subject for many. There are a great number of “unchurched” believers out there who allow the past to determine their present and future. There is this awkward belief among this generation that going to church is “taboo.” Just because you were turned off by some negative experience at church in the past does not mean that it will happen again! We all have bad experiences at the places we work, but we still go to work! Many of us have had bad experiences at a movie theater or watched a bad movie, yet we still go and watch more! Are we really so petty that we would allow one bad experience at one church deter us from returning to worship God together with our fellow believers? Do we really want to set ourselves apart from other believers as though we are more righteous than those who go to church?
We need to be around other believers. Not just to confess our sins, but to also praise the Lord who forgives those sins! The Lord works through His believers. Blessings are but means given to us through which He can bless others. We are but conduits of the Holy Spirit that works through us to impact others, and by Him moving through us, we too are blessed. But as a conduit, we are not able to retain what passes through or be the source for our self! There must be others around us before the spirit can go through us to them! Its like an electric current through a wire. We are the wire, God at one end with the electricity needing someone on the other end to connect with us so that energy can move through us to them.
It’s one thing for the spirit to move through you to one person, how much more so for Him to work through you to a hundred others! The spirit then working in them as well! We can feel the presence of the Lord when we are with fellow believers, singing His praises, hearing His word proclaimed, and ministering to one another, and to the next generation. Who are we that we would not be a part of that? I challenge any reader of this article to start attending service the Sunday following their reading of this article (if they do not now). To do it with the right mindset, focused on praising the Lord. Get involved, participate, let the Lord work in you and through you, and you will come to experience the wonderful sensation of having your spirit refueled and resupplied as you come to feel His presence with your neighbor. Build back up that shared community of God.