WHAT IS WORSHIP?
Matt Chandler once said:
“Here’s what I can say is universally true regardless of socioeconomic status, regardless of
ethnicity, regardless of cultural nuance. Everywhere human beings exist in the
world, here’s what you’ll see: humankind loves, celebrates, and shares. That is
a universal human experience. We can’t help but do that, because we have been
wired, designed to do it. If you go to the most technologically advanced city
in the world, they will love, celebrate, and share.” – Matt Chandler
This is the reason why we tell others about our favorite movies and restaurants and invite
them to experience it – we’re compelled to share those things we value.
When we say we love, celebrate, and share, we’re really just describing worship. All human
beings worship. What they worship varies, but that fact that they worship doesn’t.
What is worship as it relates to the body of Christ? It’s clear that we are supposed to
worship God and him alone. The very first two commandments given to Moses were:
No other gods before me and no idols.
Jesus summarized these two into just one: ”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 NIV
So What is Worship?
- an activity
- a program
- the music
- the preaching
- the assigning of worth to a person or thing
Elements of Worship
There are many elements of worship:
- Serving God (and others)
- Reading Scripture
- Memorizing Scripture
- Loving others
- Showing compassion
All these things can be acts of worship but they aren’t worship in and of themselves. People can be generous for lots of different reasons but just the act of giving, if it doesn’t flow from the acknowledgement that all I have comes from God, isn’t worship.
Another a common misconception is that worship happens at church. Yet, I don’t have to go to church to do any of the things on this list. The time and emphasis we give to these things are ways we show what we consider to be worthy, and going to church can certainly be a way to demonstrate the priority we give to God, but going to church doesn’t mean I worshiped.
Because of the cross, the resurrection and Pentecost, worship is not confined to a building, time or a location. Worship can now take place in my heart—even when I’m all by myself. We are the temple.
So Why Does Corporate Worship Matter?
So why does God talk about corporate worship so much. Perhaps it’s found in the context of
being the body of Christ.
In Leviticus 8:1-5. Here’s what we read.
“The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Take Aaron and his sons with him, and the garments and the anointing oil and the bull of the sin offering and the two rams and the basket of unleavened bread. And assemble all the congregation at the entrance of the tent of meeting.’ And Moses did as the Lord commanded him, and the congregation was assembled at the entrance of the tent of meeting. And Moses said to the congregation, ‘This is the thing that the Lord has commanded to be done.'”
We don’t just see this here but throughout the Old and New Testaments. God gathering his
people together to do something among them as a body.
The whole idea that you can love God and not love—not participate in the life of the body—there’s no category for that in the Scriptures.
Let me read a couple more.
Hebrews 10:24-25: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
We could also go to Colossians 3:16: “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.
Participating in a worship service or an element of worship is not what makes worship, worship.
Paul said it this way,
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” – 1 Corinthians 13:1-2
In other words, the result of worship should be a change in our hearts that causes us to love as Christ loved.
John puts it even more strongly when he said in 1 John 4:16, 19-21:
“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them… We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.”
Encountering God doesn’t just result in a change in me that makes me feel better about me. That’s
not to say that know that I am loved unconditionally won’t radically change my ability to love myself. But, it’s in that understanding of what love is that God’s love begins to flow out of me to my brother on the other side of the aisle. And when we share that experience, we’ve had with God with the whole body, we all gain a better understanding of the worth of God, the love of God, the power of God and
the will of God.
Designed by God… to be done by the body
So, in short, worshiping together is about helping the whole body recognize the worth of God by acknowledging the work—the transformation— that he’s doing in us both corporately and individually.
Worship’s not an emotion. It’s not even about me or my efforts—the songs I sing or sermon that’s preached, or even the style I choose do express those things.
Worship’s about recognizing the work of God in us, for us and through us and letting Him change us.