Worship Values: Worship Is Meant to Be Experienced in All of Life
[ We've been working on rewriting our mission and also creating a series of "values" about worship that will communicate our vision for what worship should be all about. While those aren't completely finalized, I think it will be helpful to share some thoughts about each value in a series of short posts. ]
What kind of worship do we want to cultivate? Seventh: All-of-Life
Most of us use the word worship far too narrowly. We normally attend a “worship” service on Sunday mornings, and may even refer to the music and singing part of the service as “the worship.” While worship certainly takes place during the Sunday morning gathering and during our songs, surprisingly, the New Testament does not use the word in connection with public services. Rather, worship is defined as what is happening on the inside which works itself outwards. Consider Romans 12:1-2, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
In response to God’s initiative in revealing Himself, we are moved in mind and heart to respond appropriately outwardly. Sometimes that means participating in a public worship service. Other times that means quiet, personal reflection on the beauty that God has made for us to enjoy. Other times that means serving others in a concrete demonstration of selflessness, out of gratefulness for how Jesus has served us. Jesus explained this radical shift in our understanding of worship when he said in John 4:23, “the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.” Worship is possible anywhere and at any time because it is firstly an inner disposition of the heart, and secondly made acceptable through the work of Jesus, not by following the proper forms or service orders.
Outward Manifestations of Worship
Scripture reveals several ways that worship manifests itself: public or gathered worship, family worship, private worship, and conversational worship. First, a few words about public worship. I like to refer to the public worship service as “gathered worship” because it connotes the reality that this is only one kind of worship; we are naturally led to ask “what then is scattered worship?” Public worship refers to the gathered assembly of a local church or sub-group of the local church. There is clear biblical precedence for a local church meeting at least weekly to practice the so-called “one anothers” – the commands to love and care for one another. For example, in Acts 20, Paul attends the gathered assembly, who were meeting on the first day of the week (Sunday) to preach. Hebrews 10:25 also records the command for believers not to forsake assembling together.
Family worship refers to those in a household turning their attention towards God together at set times. See my series of articles about family worship for more information.
Private worship refers to individual devotional time with God. While many call this time a “quiet time” or “devotions,” we feel that it’s more helpful to call it private worship. The goal of our alone time with God should be to worship Him, not merely get through our daily readings, prayer lists, and other “spiritual” tasks. We should strive and ask to truly encounter God in a life-changing way, which God makes possible through the work of His Spirit within us. The same kind of passionate and life-sustaining private worship that Jesus had with His heavenly Father is possible in us because we have His Spirit.
Conversational worship refers to the spontaneous response to God believers are commanded to offer throughout their day on a moment-by-moment basis. Sometimes this is called “all-of-life worship,” but we’ve chosen to use the term all-of-life to refer to all of the ways worship manifests itself outwardly. “Conversational” is meant to depict having such a close relationship with God that we regularly offer up to him responses of thankfulness, gratitude, neediness, praise, etc. silently and in the midst of our normal daily activities. An example of this kind of worship is one entailment of 1 Thessalonians 5:17, “pray without ceasing.” As we continually see both the hand of God and our own neediness, we should turn to God countless times throughout each day to seek Him in faith.
May we be an organization that seeks to cultivate worship in all of these forms – not simply publishing songs for public worship, but teaching, leading, and writing in such a way that believers will be moved into a healthy and transformative life full of ceaseless worship to the true and living God.