The Elements of Corporate Worship (Part 1)
Seeing Every Element as Worship
In the first blog, “What is Worship?”, I established that we are called to worship the Lord with our lives (Rom. 12:1-2) and, in the second blog, “What is Corporate Worship?”, I established that we are also called to worship with fellow believers (Heb. 10:25). In this blog, I want to show that when we gather as the Church, just as everything in our lives should be worship unto the Lord, so everything we do when we gather is to be worship unto the Lord. What I mean by that is this: every element of our gathering should be worship and should have Jesus as its focus.
The first scripture that comes to my mind, and one that I think clearly establishes this truth is Colossians 3. In this chapter of Colossians, specifically verse 9-17, Paul is speaking of how followers of Christ are to relate to one another. He says we should not lie to one another (v.9), we should not allow racial, cultural, or social differences cause divisions because we are all one in Christ (v.11), we are to bear with one another and forgive one another (v.13), we are to put on Love (v.14), we are to let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts, to which we were called in one body (v.15), we are to let the word of Christ dwell in us richly (v.16), we are to teach and admonish one another (v.16), we are to sing Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs together, with thankfulness in our hearts (v. 16), and finally we are to do everything we do, in word or deed, in the name of the Lord Jesus, with thankfulness (v.17).
This passage should be true for our individual, everyday lives, and it should be true for our worship gathering. Everything we do when we gather should be worship and Jesus is the central focus. Gathering before the service to prepare for the service is worship. Gathering for Sunday School is worship. Engaging in fellowship before the Church service begins is worship. Every element that we include during the worship service is worship; from the call to worship to the benediction, every aspect is worship. Even after the benediction, fellowshipping as we walk to our cars is worship. And, worship should continue as we depart and live our lives for Christ during the week. We are to do everything in the name of Jesus, and that literally means everything. As the Church, we need to have this understanding.
How We Worship is Determined By God and His Word
Now that I have established that every element of our gathering is to be worship, we can now look at how to determine what to do when we gather. To get straight to the point, you and I do not get to determine what we do when we gather. As the object of our worship, God gets to decide how we worship him. This is clear to see in the scripture, especially the Old Testament. In the book of Exodus, we see God graciously save his people from bondage in Egypt and rescue them from the pursuit of Pharaoh and his army. God then leads them to Mt. Sinai where he establishes his covenant with them and gives them His law (Exodus 19-20). After this, God details, and when I say he details, I mean to the smallest of details, what it means to be his people and how it is they are to worship him (this is found beginning in Exodus 19 and runs through the rest of Exodus, all of Leviticus, and some of the book of Numbers). Not long after God lays out how the people are to worship him and sets apart Aaron and his son as priests to the people, we come to the story of Aaron’s two sons, Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10:1-3). For whatever reason, Aaron’s sons burn incense before the Lord that was not authorized by the Lord; the scripture says they offered “unauthorized fire before the Lord.” Because they did this, a fire fell from the Lord and consumed them. Now, this may seem very harsh to us, but we need to remember all that God had just done. He brought them out of Egypt with miracles and wonders never seen. He had just told them, to the most minute detail, how it is they were to worship him. After all of that, these two sons of Aaron decided to do their own thing and worship the Lord their own way. They totally disregarding all the instruction that the Lord had just given them regarding worship. The first thing this shows us is that, apparently, Nadab and Abihu did not properly fear the Lord. Second, we need to see that it is God who gets to determine how he is worshiped, not you and I. What we do when we gather should be determined, primarily, by the Lord and His word.
In the Church today, I believe we have allowed ourselves too much freedom in deciding what it means to worship the Lord together. When we do this, we make worshiping the Lord about us instead of about Him. We decided what to do and what not to do based on how many people it will attract or how many people it will retain. Is that what worship should be about? Is that what Church is supposed to be about? The short answer to is, no. When we make Church about us, we tend to worship based on our preferences. But, when we make Church about Christ, we worship based on him and his word. As the Church, let’s let these truths sink in. Let us make our gatherings about worshipping our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and not about us and our preferences. Let us, as one body and with one voice, seek to make much of Christ and Christ alone.
Written by Jacob White