In the past year I’ve been writing some reflections on a book that has had a helpful impact in my life: Worship On Earth As It Is In Heaven. The first half of the book focuses on what it means to be a person of worship. It implies that a follower of Jesus is a person that makes worship a daily part of their spiritual journey. As author Rory Noland moves into the second half of the book, he looks at the extension that personal commitment to worship brings to the corporate gathering. When the church meets on Sunday, it can’t help but be enriched when it is a room full of people that have consistently all week practiced worship in their lives.
Today I want to look at some very practical suggestions he makes, because it is imperative that we bring our best to the corporate gathering of the church. It is tempting for Sunday morning worship to be conditioned by our culture and its spectator status. Our pride prevents us from doing things that draw attention to our awkwardness or weakness. We generally don’t want to have anything happen in worship that would tarnish the well placed image we project of ourselves. This is contrary to models we have in scripture. David certainly didn’t have a problem with this. When challenged that he was making a fool of himself David replied “I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes (2 Samuel 6:22)”. We do place an unhealthy value on what others think of us in worship. This even happened when Jesus was confronted with hard hearts. John 14 :42-43 tells us that they saw the greatness of Jesus “…many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved human praise more than praise from God.”
So we need to apply some antidotes for this powerless, human centered worship. The first suggestion is to come to church on Sunday hungry for God. Pastor and author John Piper says “The basic movement of worship on Sunday morning is not to come with our hands full to give to God, as though he needed anything (Acts 17:25), but to come with our hands empty to receive from God.” If we understood that the reality is we desperately need God, and that clinging to him literally saves our souls, we would have a very different response to everything else in the world around us.
We should also come to worship Sunday morning ready to contribute. 1 Corinthians 14:26 says, “When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.” While it is true we have gifted people serving in the programming of the church worship, this doesn’t negate the fact that worship by nature is participatory. The worship team and the pastors are not the performers and the congregation is not the audience. God is the audience. The worship team and pastors are the coaches and encouragers that enable the congregation to be the performers, and their audience is God alone.
And so we should make our worship audible and visible. As psalm 66:8 says “Bless our God, O peoples; let the sound of his praise be heard.” Yes, you really have to come and sing. Yes, you have to come and pray (our prayer time at the end of worship services is often neglected). Yes, you have to come and encourage each other. Yes, you have to teach and model show worship to the next generation. Our God is worth saying yes to. We all said yes when first making the commitment to follow Jesus. Let’s not forget that the road of being a disciple is full of making many more positive affirmations. We say yes to the ones we love. So yes, we will worship.