Worship Is A Verb
Robert Webber, former professor of theology at Wheaton College, coined the phrase that is the title of this article. His point can be stated in his own words, “Worship is not something done to us or for us, but by us.” When we worship we respond to God. We celebrate his mighty works. We confess our faith in God. We sing and pray. We read the Word. We hear the Word proclaimed and respond to it. We offer all we have and are to the Lord. As we worship we rehearse and restate our identity in Christ as we bring the work of Christ into the present.
The sad thing is that worship can degenerate into entertainment. It can become nothing more than just being a part of an audience where the focus is on the worship leader or the preacher. We can even get to the point of reducing worship to nothing more than attending a lecture. How sad it is when worship is reduced to these levels when in truth it is the central act of the church. For God created us to worship him with our entire being –all of our heart, soul, and mind. So worship is the primary work of the church.
The remainder of this article will deal with one question: What steps can we take as individuals to make worship an active experience for all of us individually and collectively? Our concern as elders is that our worship be reflective of the worship found in Revelation chapters 4 and 5. Here we see that our worship should focus on three foundational truths. First, The Lord God Almighty reigns. Second, the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, has triumphed. Third, the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are worthy of worship.
Step 1 –Come expecting to meet God.
We can come to the worship service with many expectations that can get us off track and, thus, cause us to fail to engage in worship. Expectations like happiness, self-fulfillment, and building relationships are good in of themselves but they can derail our worship when they become the focal point.
The focus of Christian worship is God. So we need to come expecting to delight in him and to enjoy him. What is God saying to us in the songs we sing, the prayers we participate in, the confessions we make, and the Word that is read to us? How are we responding?
Marva Dawn, author of Reaching Out without Dumbing Down, says, “It is absolutely essential that the Church keep God the subject of worship since to be Christian means to believe that the God revealed in Jesus Christ is everything to us . . . Friendship, instruction , and other aspects of the gathered community are important, but we lose our reason for being if we do not constantly remember that God called us to be his people and that our ability to respond to that call in worship and life is totally the gift of God’s grace.”
What is your focus when you come to the worship service?
Step 2—Take a few moments to prepare to come before God prior to the start of the worship service.
Are we prepared to meet God? After all, when we come to the worship service we come with our burdens and needs. Our life during the previous week has most likely been rushed and hectic. We have done things we should not have done, and have left things undone we should have done. We need to be still and lay our burdens before God. We need to be still and know that God is God. So taking a few minutes to prepare to worship the living God and, also, to allow others to do the same thing will help form us into a worshipping community.
Step 3—Get rid of anything that will distract you as you endeavor to worship.
Here I am thinking of any gadgets or items that would take your attention off of God. If you’re consumed with the time maybe you should remove your watch or turn off the cell phone. “But,” you assert, “my Bible is on my cell phone.” Let me ask this question: what do you do if a text comes in or an email arrives? Can you ignore it? Or, are you thinking about what it could be instead of participating in the service? If it becomes a distraction maybe it’s time to carry a Bible and turn off the cell phone.
Maybe you need to change seats so people who distract you are not in your field of vision. If hearing is an issue you can,also, try a different seat. Maybe you’re distracted by something I haven’t mentioned. If so, then I urge you to deal with the matter so you can fully engage in the worship of the living God.
Step 4—Participate in worship.
Do not sit passively. Do not be a spectator. Engage in the different elements of worship. Sing the songs and hymns of our faith offering your praise to God. Or, to say it another way, give praise to God. Don’t worry about hitting all the notes just right. God is interested in your heart and not in perfect pitch. Confess your faith in God when the opportunity is given to read confessions. Pray along with those who are leading the congregation in prayer. Read along with those who read Scripture. Be an active listener when the Word is preached. Take the message to heart and endeavor by God’s grace and the Spirit’s enablement to be a doer of the Word (James 1:22-25).
If we covenant together to take these steps as we come to the worship service I believe our life together will be enriched. I close with this paraphrase of Lewes Bayly who spoke with the typical Puritan flare, The worship service is God’s market day for the weeks provision, wherein he will have us come to him, and buy of him without money, the bread of angels, and water of life, the wine of the sacraments, and milk of the Word to feed our souls: tried gold, to enrich our faith: precious salve, to heal our blindness: and the white raiment of Christ’s righteousness, to cover our filthy nakedness.