This is the text of a onetime seminar developed on the theme of worship.
There are two sides to worship: firstly there is the upward direction from the worshipper to God. Secondly there is the downward direction from God to the worshipper.
God desires our worship. From the very first, God's people were involved in worship of their God. The first argument was over correct worship. Able brought a sacrifice of an animal while Cain brought a sacrifice of grain. This was the background of the first murder. Because the sacrifice of Able was pleasing to God while the sacrifice of Cain was not, Cain was jealous.
Noah left the ark and in response to God's act in Salvation his immediate action was worship. A key activity in the relationship between God and his people is worship. God created mankind for relationship with him. That relationship has always revolved around worship. Some say that mankind has taken the role of worship together with the angels.
Some see the role of Satan as the covering cherub. They quote the poem about the King of Tyre in Ezekiel 28 as a description of the role of Satan before his fall. Verse 13 in some translations discusses pipes and timbrels, and verse 14 describes Satan as the covering cherub. They see this as indicating Satan was the chief angel who was responsible for the worship covering of God. God in his court desired worship. Satan left his responsibility and took the worship for himself.
What is clear from the biblical text is that throughout the relationship between mankind and their God not only did mankind worship God, but God expected and desired that worship. this is one of the things that we just don't understand about our God. Why would the creator of the universe desire our worship. What is it about us that would cause the creator of the universe to want to hang out with us? However throughout history the interaction between God and mankind has included worship. The Israelites, the people of God were required to worship. According to the Bible mankind was originally created to be in relationship with God. This was to address a desire by God to have fellowship. A key part of this fellowship has always been worship.
Worship is central to the Christians experience of their God. It is the place where they are revitalised and sent out to again engage the world in mission. Without worship the Christian is without purpose and without vision.
The experience of the Christian in the world is to lose sight of the reality of their God, the reality of his kingdom, the reality of his mission. In worship we again see these things, they are again inscribed on our souls in fresh deeper letters. The urgency of the heart of God is again impressed on our spirits. We again feel the urgency of a world without hope when so easily we have the solution.
In our use of the term worship to describe services Sunday by Sunday, we have lost the key meaning of the term worship. A Sunday service is not worship. It is a staged event that states something of the beliefs and the vision of a community of their God. However it is not worship. Worship may occur within a Sunday service or it may occur elsewhere. It is important to realise that worship is not orchestrated rather it is the response that we cannot help offering to God.
We have seen in the word study, that the immediate response to the revelation of God is to worship. This means that we as Christians, as song leaders, as ministers and preachers have as our task in designing Sunday services to place before our congregations the revelation of God. It is to facilitate the moving of God in self- revelation. It is the pointing of hearts and minds towards God so that people might again grasp a glimpse of their God and be renewed.
Pentecostal theology makes an important distinction between praise and worship and says something about the process of worship. Psalm 22: 3 states:
And Thou art holy, thou that dwellest amid the praises of Israel.
They suggest that God dwells in the praises of his people. The process of praising causes God to come and dwell with his people. In other words the presence of God falls on the congregation and begins to minister in revelation and in sanctification, healing and similar.
If we look at John 16 Verses 5 to 15 we find that a prime part of the Ministry of the Spirit is to reveal God to us. When we begin to talk about worship in our post charismatic era we begin to use terms such as the presence of God, the moving of God, the falling of the Spirit on the congregation. These are all pictures of this kind of theology.
If you look at the classic Pentecostal liturgy you will see this theology worked out. Generally the service begins with a series of praise songs or up tempo songs. After a while the music changes to more quieter reflective songs as the congregation begins to worship. About this time or scattered through this time there will be periods of quiet in which the gifts of the Spirit will be manifested. They have moved from initial praise to worship and the moving of the Spirit.
It is this revealing of the spirit, this Ministry of the spirit in revelation to our spirits of God that causes worship to occur in the context of our worship services. It is this Ministry of the spirit in sanctification, in direction and revelation, not to mention encouragement and conviction that prepares us for the future week
This is not to say that this is the best model of worship. But simply a useful way of looking at worship that gives us greater insight into the process. Another model gives us different insights. In this model the process of praise and worship is a journey. As we worship, as we praise, we are in the process of drawing near to our God. The leader is charged with the job of leading the congregation into the presence of God. As we approach the throne of our God we begin to worship. We enter the courts of our God and experience his glory and worship.
This model gives us insights into the necessity for the experience of our God for worship. It is as we experience God that we begin to worship. Remember worship is a response to God. We respond to what we experience through revelation or fellowship.
The first model, that of the falling of God's Spirit in response to our praise, has the problem that it is very mechanistic. An inappropriate interpretation of this model would say that we can manipulate our God by going through the motions of praise and worship and then guarantee the moving of the Spirit. This is of course not the case in real life. Rather it is an approach of humility to our God. Our only expectation is that God may move because of his Grace and love for us.
The second model also has this kind of problem, although not so pronounced. The indication is that if we go through the process of the journey as described by the model then we will automatically enter the presence of God. Rather we should make clear that it is the grace of God that proceeds to meet us when we take an attitude of seeking God. God gets very excited about his children who proceed to reach out to him. Usually he reaches back.
A third model states that the process is one of self- preparation to meet God. Christians are by definition spiritual beings. However they move in a world that is un- spiritual. As they deal with the world, they tend to gain the world's viewpoint. In preparation for worship, prayer, confession, praise, the Christian is changing their viewpoint so that they can again be in relationship with their God.
In this model there is a definite feeling that the Christian must draw near to their God. This drawing near is a change of attitude, a change of viewpoint, a change of direction, a change of what is important. It is a leaving of the concerns of the world, a leaving of the view of the world and a taking again of the heavenly viewpoint.
In this model the Christian is transformed in preparation for worship. They are given the sight they need to perceive their God and worship. In this process of being transformed the Christian only has a minor part to play. They are in the role of offering, of drawing close, of being open to the will of their God. It is the activity of the Spirit that proceeds to open their eyes once again to their God and causing worship to occur.
One thing that we haven't discussed is the blocks to worship. If we are not willing to draw near to our God then worship will not occur. If we are caught in sin and we do not repent of that sin then worship usually doesn't occur. To put a positive slant on this, if we are prepared in repentance, in prayer and in seeking God then worship is more likely to happen.
Somewhere in the midst of all these models is the reality of the way worship occurs. We should be thinking about what is then required of us as designers of worship services to cause worship to happen. if we consider the blocks to worship then we have to say that a key thing that we need to do is to prepare ourselves for worship. It is not enough to do all the Ministry type things if we do not seek our God for worship.
Further, it is important to consider the worship services to be a partnership between ourselves and the Spirit of God. We need to seek the will of God for this worship service. Discernment in music and worship are thus a useful spiritual gift in this context, because this worship service is a partnership between the worship leader and God in leading the congregation into worship. unless the worship leader is sensitive to what God is trying to do, and the God given way of achieving that result, the worship will be less than perfect.
As I have been suggesting, the key mover in worship is the spirit. It is the Spirit in his ministry of revelation that causes worship to occur. It is the Spirit moving in conviction that produces sanctification through worship. It is the Spirit moving in revelation that produces greater and deeper faith through worship. The Spirit presents to us our God and we worship.
In my theology worship is thus central to Christian discipleship and the Christians experience of their God. The process of worship, together with the Daily Christian walk, is what produces Christian disciples. True worship is thus paramount to the continued mission of our Church. The ministry's involved in worship are thus very important for our future life in God and mission. -
If we truly believe that this is how important the worship of God is in our Church, then we must choose our worship leaders appropriately. We are not just giving people the job of playing a musical instrument, or singing or leading the singing but we are giving them a job that directly affects the discipleship and the preparedness of our churches for mission. I can't stress this enough. We have to choose our ministers in worship for their discipleship, for their gifting, for their dedication to this task. It is less important to be musically adept than to be spiritually adept. It is my opinion, for what it is worth, that our churches are littered with people who have had a defective worship experience. How can someone continue to warm a pew if Sunday by Sunday they meet God face to face in worship. If someone meets God face to face then they immediately get excited, they immediately get active, they immediately reach out and begin the Ministry that God has called them to.
Worshipping the living God is something that is scary. In the Temple, it was so scary that from minute to minute, you didn't know whether you would be struck down dead. When the priest entered the Holy of Holies, every day of atonement, they tied a rope around his ankle so that if he was struck dead they could pull his body out again.
There was the case of King Uzziah. Uzziah full of pride usurped the role of the priests and was struck down with leprosy for his sin. (2 Chronicles 27 verse 16 f f). Would we have such a lassez fair attitude to Sunday worship services if we truly believed in the power and might of our God? Would we come to worship with such a sense of lack of importance if we had a God who responded both in retribution for disrespect and also reward and pleasure for our true worship? Something to consider as we attempt to enter into worship Sunday by Sunday.
Here are some questions to consider while you are doing the word studies:
1) why do the people in the passage worship?
2) where is God and what is he doing?
3) where is the person and what are they doing?
4) what is the style of worship?
Some passages to consider:
1) why worship?
A) Magnificat, Nunc Dimmitis etc
Luke 1: 46 f f, 1: 68 f f, 2: 29 f f, 2: 37, 38
b) transfiguration Matthew 17: 1 - 8
c) elders in revelations
Relations 5: 11 - 14, 7: 11, 11: 16
d) David in the Temple
2 Samuel 7: 18 f f
2 Samuel 13: 15 f f
E) Temple dedication and the ark
1 Chronicles 15: 14 f f
2 Chronicles 6, 7
2) outcomes of worship
A) transformation: Ephesians 5: 25 f f
Story of Caleb
B) Church order: revelations 1: 9 f f, Acts 13: 1 f f