Sunday church service means different things to different people, and even to various churches. Some focus on teaching the Word of God, others focus on prayer, and still others on sharing the Gospel to evangelize the lost. The list goes on and on. But I think for most churches and church people, the primary purpose for gathering on Sundays is to worship God. Every Christian should live a lifestyle of worship. We should worship in private throughout the week. But corporate worship is one of the things that believers have always done. What is worship, why do we do it, and how can we excel at it? Here are some things to consider...
Wonder – Worship is a mystery. Worship is something we give, and yet in the giving, we receive so much. While there is order in worship, there is also the expectation that we will experience something that cannot be tamed or translated. The goal of worship is to magnify God. But we cannot even imagine what God is completely like. Sometimes we play safe with worship. But there is nothing safe about coming into the presence of the Almighty. We may cry, we may laugh, we may shout, we may fall on our face. Whatever happens, it will the presence of God will be more than we deserve or could even imagine. This is what happened with one of God's closest friends... Moses said, “Please, let me see Your glory.” God said, “I will cause all My goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim the name Yahweh before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” But He answered, “You cannot see My face, for no one can see Me and live.” The Lord said, “Here is a place near Me. You are to stand on the rock, and when My glory passes by, I will put you in the crevice of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by. Then I will take My hand away, and you will see My back, but My face will not be seen.” (Exodus 33:18-23)
Openness – We should be willing to give and receive whatever God desires of and for us. Approaching God with open hands and heart is the best way to experience His presence. During the course of worship God will rearrange your life. This is transformation. God can do things to you without your permission. But when you come with openness, His work achieves the desired results. Have this open attitude in yourself as you approach the throne of God, "Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns. See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the everlasting way." (Psalm 139:23-24)
Response – While worship is a giving experience, it is not without expectation that God will move in our lives, requiring action in response to His beauty, mercy, and grace. We do not worship in a vacuum. Our vertical worship should result in horizontal works. The purpose of worship for us is to lift God up. The purpose of God is to send us out. Once a man named Isaiah was in the temple worshiping God when he really experienced God in an amazing way. After recognizing the greatness of God and his own unworthiness, God purified him and this happened, "Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying: 'Who should I send? Who will go for Us?' I said: 'Here I am. Send me.'" (1 Samuel 6:8)
Sacrifice – Worship should cost us. It has been said that you haven’t sacrificed until something has died. This is mostly true, but there were sacrifices in Scripture that did not require actual death. However, sacrifice always includes personal cost. True worship will require time, effort, energy, money, etc. Worship should not flow from our leftovers. It should take the best of us. We are to offer the best of us to the One who offered His best to us... even when it is very difficult. God always honors sacrifice because He modeled sacrifice. Once when King David was wanting to worship God he sought to purchase a piece of property upon which to build an altar. The owner offered to give David the land and the oxen for the offering. But David insisted on purchasing them saying, "I will not offer to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” (1 Samuel 24:24)
Holiness - While God has granted everyone the ability to approach Him for forgiveness and eternal life, there is a place of worship that can only be found by people who have already been regenerated and transformed. Sinners can call out to God. But saints have a special connection with God in worship. All of creation was made to worship God, but only His people can worship Him well. Our sinfulness keeps us from God's holiness. But He imparts His holiness to bring us into His presence. Trying to worship while living in sin is like trying to breathe fresh air while standing in a septic tank. Gross, right? I know. Look at how Scripture addresses this... "Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in His holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not set his mind on what is false, and who has not sworn deceitfully." (Psalm 24:4-5)
Interaction –Public worship is a way to offer and experience the best of many. Certainly one can worship God on their own, and this should happen regularly. But there is something special about believers gathering together, bringing their unique pursuit and praise of God into a place where the collection of worship drowns out the enemy and announces victory. It doesn't have to be thousands of people, or even hundreds. But the more the merrier in many ways. Do not discount private worship, but do not avoid public worship. The apostle Paul encouraged the early Christians, "Be filled by the Spirit: speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music from your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of Christ." (Ephesians 5:18-21)
Praise - This is the overflow of knowing Who God is... especially in your life. God is so good, we cannot contain it. He is certainly worthy of our praise. So we should not hesitate to lift Him up. He deserves our worship. We don't deserve His grace. So when unworthy people can be made worthy, and then give worship to the One who makes them worthy, reconciliation is complete. The word 'praise' is found over 300 times in the Bible. I won't quote them all here. But here is a good one... "Hallelujah! My soul, praise the Lord. I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing to my God as long as I live." (Psalm 146:1-2)
Worship is for God, not us. Do not avoid the presence of God because of the problems of humans. There are many ways to express our worship of God, but only one way to worship... in spirit and truth. Honestly come before Him with others and let Him know that you know how great He is. I am never disappointed when I truly worship God... and neither is He.
[Bible quotes are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible, unless otherwise noted.]
Find more of David’s work at Heart Of Ministry.