Worship is such a large topic that I certainly cannot begin to touch all aspects of it in a blog post (maybe one of you readers could do a series all about worship in the church; I would like to read that). Books have been written on worship by folks much smarter and more learned than I. Therefore, in this post I just want to focus on one aspect of worship that I believe is problematic in American churches today: the compartmentalization of worship.
If you walk into many evangelical churches today, you will eventually enter the “worship center” for the “worship service.” This seems to imply that worship does not take place in other areas of the church building, such as the Sunday School rooms. At some point early in the service, the “worship leader” will ask you to stand and worship (Does this mean that the people who read scripture, give a testimony, or preach are not leading worship?). The worship time is understood by many to be the time when the people sing. This seems to imply that the worship concludes when the people sit down after the last song. I’m not sure what everyone thinks is going on during the remainder of the service.
Most Christians realize that they need to worship more than just in song at church. They would probably admit that all of the service is actually worship. When asked about the rest of their lives, they would also probably say that they should be worshiping through prayer and bible study. Beyond that, they would say that they should be living out their Christian witness each day.
The problem I see is that Christians seem to be putting worship into different artificial categories. Worship is viewed as falling into the categories of worship in song at church, worship in private, and worship when serving others. What this leads to is a view of worship only taking place at certain times and places. It suggests a life where worship occurs in small blips here and there as the day rolls along.
This is not what the bible tells us about worship. I believe scripture tells us that worship is something that all followers of Christ should be doing at all times. The life of the Christian is a life of worship all day, every day. Romans 12:1-2 give us our daily “marching orders.” Paul writes, “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.”
We are to present our whole selves to Christ as an act of worship. This is something we are to do each day as a living sacrifice. This may certainly take place as individual worship (Psalm 95). It should also be expressed in corporate worship (I Cor. 14:26). As noted above, it must be a part of all of life (Rom. 12:1-2).
Hebrews 12:28-29 may help us see this more clearly. The writer of Hebrews tells us, “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”
This verse falls into the broader section of Hebrews that is dealing with living out the Christian life (application of the wondrous truths found in the previous eleven chapters). However, these two verses also immediately follow a section of Hebrews chapter 12 that deals with individual and/or corporate worship. One thing we can glean from this is that the biblical writers did not intend for worship to be compartmentalized, falling into isolated acts throughout the day. Rather, we are intended to worship as a way of life. This may be through prayer, bible study, song, listening, service, living a holy life, etc. as described in the scriptures.
So what can we do to help our fellow Christians see that worship is not just singing on Sunday? What can we do to help our brothers and sisters in Christ realize that worship is not supposed to be isolated blips occurring here and there? Can we do anything to assist others is realizing that worship is a way of life?
These ideas may be a place to begin:
1) We must live this out. Others will see what we do. We must view worship as something we are doing all day, from scintillating times of prayer and song to acts that may seem like drudgery (washing dishes, taking out the trash). Let me say that I am in no way equating the importance of prayer with trash removal. What I am saying is that all acts that honor God should be viewed as worshipful.
2) When given the opportunity, we should teach this. The teaching may occur one-on-one, or in a group format (Sunday School, preaching, cell group, etc.). It would be interesting to ask churched people to write out their definitions of worship. You could then walk through Romans 12:1-2, and compare these two verses with what they had written.
3) Remind people that faith apart from works is not real faith. In other words, if they are only worshiping in tongue but not in deed, then they are not offering acceptable worship to God.
4) On a pragmatic note, it would do a lot of churches much good if they would simply rename a few things. For example, get rid of names such as “worship center,” “worship service,” “worship leader/pastor,” and “worship songs.” Be creative; this is not difficult. Names such as these only exacerbate the problem of worship compartmentalization.
Agree or disagree? Any other ideas to help the situation we face?