Oh sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all the earth!
Sing to the LORD, bless his name;
tell of his salvation from day to day.
(Psalm 96:1-2 ESV)
It is important to remember that worship is more than what we do while in the church building, it is something we do all the time. We can worship our job, our families, a sports team, or even the ministry itself. The Pharisees were some of the most passionate worshipers in the Bible. Their problem was that they were not focused on authentic worship of God. Instead, they had become worshipers of the Law and lost focus of what or Who was really the center of their praise.
Everyone is a worshiper. We can either choose to worship the true God of the universe or something He created. We are born worshiping and we naturally spend our time and money on what we ascribe worth to. We sometimes think that only “religious” people worship something, but that is not the case. As Harold Best says, we are beings created worshiping. We naturally gravitate towards what we value and we ascribe worth to those things, whether it is God or something else.
Worship is the rhythm of God’s revelation and our response to it. We are unable to conjure up worship on our own; we worship because God has made us worshippers. He has graciously made Himself known to us and He has given us the ability to respond in worship to that revelation. God is the only being in existence that is worthy of all our worship. He is worthy of much more than what we can do in worship. In fact, He deserves infinitely more worship than what we are capable of. We do not worship because we are forced to do it or that we do it in order to gain his approval, rather, we worship him because he has already approved of us by applying Christ’s righteousness to the elect.
How do we worship?
We worship through the reading of the Word, the preaching of the Word, the singing of the Word, the praying of the Word, the memorization of the Word, giving cheerfully to the Lord, and through communion, and baptism. Although the aforementioned are the most tangible ways which we worship corporately, we are instructed to respond in worship in all that we do, think, and say. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:16-17 ESV)
What should worship look like?
A common worship practice among many evangelical churches is to utilize vocalists on stage as the primary focus of a worship service. This is probably not the best model since the singers should not be the focus, nor should the band, orchestra, choir, or preacher. The primary objective of those who facilitate corporate worship should be to point congregants toward Christ, not ourselves. If the leaders do anything to point to themselves, the foundational principle of corporate engagement with God is thwarted. Small adjustments in lighting and visual lines can help pull the attention away from us and hopefully point it toward Christ.
Worship is not about the style of music you use, the instrumentation you use, the clothes worn by those on stage, the equipment you own, the mere ability of the musicians, or the delivery of the preacher. Worship is a matter of the heart. An authentic heart is what God sees and that is what we should work on more than anything. There is always the potential for worship leaders to unwittingly interfere with the focus of a congregation. Fancy displays, videos, and equipment can sometimes put people in awe of “stuff” instead of the “stuff maker.”
Church and ministry leaders must make it a top priority to carefully craft worship orders and what they are leading others to do in worship. In John 21, Jesus repeatedly asks of Simon Peter to feed his sheep. Those of us in ministry should recognize the same calling on our lives. It is our responsibility to Biblically lead the people of God towards Christ-likeness. Our attempt should not be to be more righteous and holy in hope that it will make us more like Christ, rather, our goal should be to always be more Christ-like, and if we do that, we will naturally be on a path towards righteousness and finer-tuned personal holiness.