Worship

As Lay Preachers its important to understand ‘Worship’.  There are various styles of ‘Worship’ throughout the Church. There are some people who ‘enjoy a good time of worship’  of the type found in many modern Churches. There are others who prefer a more quiet experience with due reverence and decorum.  The Lay Preacher will be aware of what is expected or usual in any given situation and avoid distractions or meaningless debate.

The writer was recently asked about the place of Preaching in relation to Worship.  Are they one in the same or different ?

As Christians, we are called into a relationship with God (1 Corinthians 1:9).   But I John 1:3 makes it clear that we enter a fellowship which goes two ways: with God and with other Christians. Worship is celebration – a celebration to be experienced and a celebration to be shared.  David wrote, “He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD” (Psa. 40:3), David had experienced the presence of God. He was changed. And, he couldn’t be silent about it. He sung praise to God “He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God” (Psa. 40:3). David was exuberant in song and praise. He was excited. He could not contain his joy, his happiness, his relief. He had to shout and sing.All of the Psalms were designed to be sung. Singing is an important spiritual expression. Singing is mentioned explicitly some 68 times in the Psalms. David’s singing was praiseful – it was worship.  He was expressing a song of gratitude to God for who he is, what he said, and what he was doing.  David knew the source of his good fortune was none other than God himself.

Paul told the Corinthian church to worship in such a clear way that if an unbeliever entered, “He is convicted by all and is judged by all. The secrets of his heart will be revealed, and as a result he will fall face-down and worship God, proclaiming,’God is really among you’” (1 Cor. 14:24-25). Jesus stated, “As for Me, if I am lifted up from the earth I will draw all people to Myself” (John 12:32). While his words predict his death, it still communicates volumes to us in our worship. When Jesus is lifted up in praise and worship, lost people are attracted to him.

The Bible teaches over and over again that God would draw seekers to himself through authentic worship by his people.  More people are won to Christ by feeling God’s presence than by all our apologetic argument combined.   Few people, if any, are converted to Christ on purely intellectual grounds. The sense of God’s presence melts hearts and explodes mental barriers. Visitors may not understand what goes on in our Worship services. They may not understand the meaning of a song or the significance of the communion, but they know joy when they see it. They know when lives are impacted. They can read when lives are changed. And when they do they want what those people have.

A quick review of the Bible will reveal a correlation between people encountering God through worship and the effect it had on their lives as they went out to share Christ.

The following helpful notes have been prepared by Rev Laurence Ennor and were presented at the  2013 Lay Leadership Conference in Christchurch.   

Worship

What is “worship”? It is drawing near to God, focusing on God as revealed in Jesus Christ. Our word “worship comes from an Old English word, worth-ship which is about giving God his “worth”. Jesus said that true worshippers, those whom the Father desires, will worship “… in Spirit/spirit and in truth” (John 4:23, 24).

The PCANZ Directory of Worship states: “In worship the people acknowledge God’s  presence in the world and in their lives … in worship the faithful offer themselves to God and are equipped for God’s service in the world”.

Eugene Petersen in his book “The Pastor” wrote: “Worship must take place under the cross of Jesus … the cross is larger than the world”. He continues: “Worship is an art, using the sensory to bring us into an awareness of and attentiveness into the mystery of God. Worship has to do with practicing a way of life that is immersed in the salvation and revelation of Yahweh.”

How is our worship expressed? In other words, what is the content of our worship?

– Bible reading and preaching/teaching, prayer (adoration, praise, thanksgiving, intercessions, confession and assurance …), music/singing, offering, blessing and sending out, silence … What other aspects can you think of that are part of our worship?

Are all compulsory, or are some negotiable?

Is worship corporate or individual or both/and?

Is worship confined to a certain place or time?

The intercessory prayers connect us with the world beyond our own gathering. They help us realise that we are part of humanity and church world-wide. For these reasons they are a necessary part of our worship, both personal and public.

“Relevant worship” is couched in terms of people and available resources.

Music

How important is music in worship?

Does there have to be corporate/congregational singing? (This was introduced in mid-18th century by a Baptist minister in England. Before this, choirs or soloists did the singing.)

God wants our best, but does that have to imply a “polished performance”?

Some other options for providing music if there’s no musician available are recordings, backing tracks, guitar, a singer to lead. One of the most user-friendly instruments today is a digital piano. It has a full-size piano keyboard, and has a variety of sounds (piano, strings, organ, etc) at the touch of a button. Many pianists get fazed when faced with an organ console as they don’t know where to begin.

Psalms can be read responsively as an opportunity for congregational participation.

Try reading hymns on occasions as poetry – these could be read by one person or responsively. Some people enjoy the musical settings for hymns, but some find a tune distracting.

Get to know the difference between hymns/songs which suit large and small gatherings. Many of the songs in the Scripture in Song books suit small groups.    Easy accompaniments are found in, for example, Scripture in Song books,    Graham Kendrick’s The Source (Volumes 1, 2, 3).   

The Place of Worship in my Life

 Worship is giving God His worth. We are told to worship God alone – Deut. 6:13 (see Matt. 4:10); Rev. 22:8 & 9

God inspired Israel to worship through sacrifices and feasts.

At Pentecost the believers worshipped God in languages given them by the Spirit (Acts 2). When the Spirit enters our hearts we cry “Abba! Father!” (Ro. 8:15, 16). When the Spirit fills the fellowship of a local church, the natural response is “singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs …” (Eph. 5:18-20).

Worship is not just the music in Sunday services, or the whole of the service, but the whole of our lives – Heb. 13:15, 16. Worship is both public and private, with our lips and our lives – Psalm 116:16, 17. “Service” is noun from verb “serve”.)

We worship God with our possessions – Heb. 13:15; Luke 6:38; Malachi 3:8-10; 2 Corinthians 9:11-13.

God seeks genuine worshippers – John 4:23, 24

Main Biblical words translated “worship” mean bow down, humble oneself before a greater authority. In John 4 word translated worship means literally “to come towards to kiss”.

To worship is to tell our heavenly Father how much we love Him.

In worship we see God act for us and hear Him speak to us. We tell the stories of what God has done for us.

Through worship we respond to God’s faithfulness by pledging our faithfulness to Him and by giving Him “permission” to work in our lives.

As we do all these things, God blesses us with His presence in our midst.

Psalms include every human emotion, and also provide many ways to worship God – e.g., 22, 24, 29, 95, 96, 100, 136, 145, and the “Hallelujah Psalms (146 – 150).

Worship is costly. “If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for him” – C T Studd (1862 – 1931, pioneer missionary to China and Africa).

Note the doxologies (songs of praise to God) in, for example, Romans, Jude, Revelation.

1 Corinthians 12 – 14 are about worship. Note chapter 13 in between the two “heavy” chapters – shows us that worship is all about love (see # 5 above).

Body positions for worship: standing, kneeling, lying, falling on one’s face, dancing, …

“Worship is the submission of all our nature to God. It is the quickening of conscience by his holiness; the nourishment of mind with his truth; the purifying of imagination by his beauty; the opening of the heart to his love; the surrender of will to his purpose – and all this gathered up in adoration, the most selfless emotion of which our nature is capable and therefore the chief remedy for that self-centeredness which is our original sin and the source of all actual sin.” – William Temple (1881 – 1944, Archbishop of Canterbury 1942 – 44)

True worship must always be directed towards God (e.g., Psalm 34:3); it should always edify (build up) the body of Christ (1 Cor. 14:12); and it always depends on the presence of the Holy Spirit (Phil. 3:3).

Laurence Ennor    17 June 2003