The Heart of Worship, Part 1
When is the last time you worshiped? No, I don’t mean the last time you went to church for a worship service. I mean, when have you done the Romans 12:1–2 worship experience of being a “living sacrifice” for the Lord? Worship in the Bible is not a one-size-fits-all experience or a mono-focused event. It is a multifaceted experience that in many ways is not reflected in what we call worship today.
The Bible does not give us a specific definition of worship. What it does is provide us pictures of various aspects of our relationship with God and how we can express our love for and devotion to God. The experience of worship is expressed variously in Scripture. Both the Old Testament’s and the New Testament’s pictures of worship focus on three things: an attitude of fear and reverence before God, an action denoting submission to God, and service to God and our world in honor of God. Worship is an experience involving mind, body, and soul. The core of worship is our relationship with God—a relationship marked by a humble recognition of divine supremacy and human devotion.
Yet some of us have reduced our understanding of worship to a rather singular focus of what occurs in a specific time slot in our weekly schedule. And that time schedule has been standardized for most Christians: gather, sing, pray, listen to a sermon, all in various formats. It is possible to faithfully attend gatherings we label “worship” and not honor, submit to, or serve the Lord. We can be faithful participants in these gatherings and never really worship God.
It is time that we stop debating the form of worship and admit that we may be missing the heart of worship. God is much more concerned than we think with how we worship him outside the times we have set for our services. In fact, the greatest acts of worship we carry out should happen outside that one or two hours per week we call worship. If we aren’t submitting to, obeying, and serving God regularly in our everyday activities, what we do when we gather will fall short of the worship we truly owe the Lord.
Christ-followers must embrace a future story that moves the life of the church—the body of Christ—from the buildings we occasionally inhabit into our homes, work, and play places; to our Facebook and Twitter accounts; and to our other activities on the Internet. We must think of church not as a location but as a vocation, and of worship not as an isolated event but as a daily lifestyle. In such a life, honoring and glorifying God will be at the center of all that we do.