Worship can speak of two distinct matters: It means to hold in high regard with extravagant honor and devotion. This comes from the Greek word LATREUO, which literally means to render service or homage. Worship also refers to the formal act of expressing reverence and praise. In this instance, the Greek root is PROSKUNEO, which literally means, to kiss toward. It means to make obeisance or do reverence by specific actions prompted by a desire and intent to honor God. Thus, one might think of Christian worship assemblies as special gatherings of those who seek to render service to God with their lives (LATREUO) for the purpose of honoring God through certain acts of obeisance (PROSKUNEO).
Worship is multifaceted. It is an expression of faith in God at the same time that it is a faith-building experience. Through worship Christians are edified and edify others. In worship we express thanksgiving to God for our own salvation and proclaim the basis of that salvation to those who seek the Savior. Thus, while worship is primarily an expression of reverence directed to God, it should, also, dramatically impact the lives of all who participate.
Researchers are rediscovering this important factor in the dynamics of church growth. John Ellas, of the Center for Church Growth, reports the results of a comprehensive study of both growing and declining congregations in his book Clear Choices for Churches. He found that when asked, “What one characteristic attracted you most to come to this congregation?” in growing churches a significantly higher percentage of respondents indicated that the number one factor was the worship assembly. Consequently, he states: “The worship assembly’s ability to attract new members was the number one growth factor” for growing churches of Christ. (Clear Choices, p. 58)
Thus, in order that we might offer truly God-honoring worship and engage in expressions of worship which effectively edify one another and serve as a beacon for Christ-seekers to follow, let us look again at God’s design and desire for our worship assemblies.
In John 4:23-24 Jesus says, “…A time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” Notice the design. True worship is directed by and towards God. Drawing near to God is the priority of worship; rather than expressing human preferences. In fact, worship which does not respect these parameters is, in my estimation, vain worship (cf. Mark 7:6-9). Jesus further stipulates that true worship is: In Spirit—the Realm, which means it is in accord with God’s nature; and, In Truth—the Reality, which means it is in accord with God’s will.
Thus, while professing faith in God who is spirit and exists in the spiritual realm and exhibiting an overflowing desire to experience the reality of God, Christians gather to:
– Stimulate one another to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24);
– Teach and admonish one another through the gift of song and singing (Colossians 3:16);
– Display our faith in God and unity in purpose by financial contributions which are intended to be used to extend Christ’s kingdom influence (2 Corinthians 8 – 9);
– Share in remembering our precious Savior and His sacrifice by observing the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:24-29);
– Honor God in a time of hearing the Word of God proclaimed, being instructed in His ways and challenged to live holy lives for Him (2 Timothy 4:2 and Titus 2:12).
There is a marvelous dual quality in Christian worship. While worship is first directed upwards towards God, it is also designed by God to reach outward towards others. Its reach is both vertical and horizontal. As illustrated by the fact that while singing praises to God, we teach one another of His majesty.
God desires Christian worship to powerfully impact our lives! Hebrews 10:23-25 reads, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
Three observations to keep in mind:
First, God wants worship to be a soul-stirring experience. How can we come into the presence of God without having our souls stirred by His majesty? (See: Psalm 34:1-3; 96:7-9; & 100:1-5.)
Second, God wishes worship to be a life-changing experience. How can we contemplate the sacrifice of Christ on our behalf without being changed? (See: 1 Corinthians 11:23ff)
Third, God desires our worship to be spiritually enriching for all who participate. How can individual giftedness be utilized for self aggrandizement when God desires all things be done for the strengthening of the church? (1 Corinthians 14:26)
We should be concerned with both the content and he character of our worship assemblies. By doing so, we will more effectively please God in our worship; the church will be strengthened and the lost will be led to Christ.
© Bill Williams
August 17, 2006