Worship is its own great reward – being in the presence of the living God, beholding His greatness, and enjoying His mercies toward us. Therefore, we aim not to distract from this by offering entertainment. Instead, we endeavor to focus on the truth that helps us see God as He presents Himself to us in the Scriptures.
Worship has been called the hub of the wheel from which the spokes of the church flow out. The weekly church service, the assembly of the redeemed, the corporate gathering of the saints, ought to be the highlight of the week. It is assuredly the most important time of the week, for it is at that time that we meet together to go before the one true God, the Holy One of Israel, the Creator of the universe.
Many books have been (and will be) written about this significant topic – some of them helpful, some of them not so much.
Our commitment in the worship service is to be God-centered. It is not an hour that is for man’s entertainment. It isn’t an hour that is designed to make us feel good (though that may happen some of the time). It certainly isn’t a time to “hang out with Jesus”.
Perhaps the most lacking attribute of corporate worship in our day is reverence (Heb. 12:28-29, Ps. 2:11-12). Too many come before God (whether they realize it or not) with more of a desire to be entertained or have their emotions stoked, than a desire to worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness (Ps. 29:2). Too many treat God as if He were simply their big buddy upstairs, instead of our Lord and King and Master. Oh yes, He is most certainly a friend and a brother, but He is also much, much more. The fear of the Lord is neglected by many in modern-day worship services. Dr. Steven Lawson put it this way: “Step into the average church these days and you will likely see that the services are designed more to remove the fear of God than to promote it.” The worship service should be an hour (or so) where we meet formally with God – to come before the Most High, the Creator, the one true and living God – in reverence, awe, humility, and with a heart that desires to truly worship the One who is worthy of that worship.
Our worship service will include these elements:
1. Reading God’s Word – because we want to hear from Him
2. Prayer – to confess, to praise, to give thanks, to make requests, because He hears the prayers of the righteous
3. Singing – because God has given the gift of music and ordained that we use it to express biblically-rich lyrics in worship
4. Preaching – the exposition of God’s Word so that we can better understand it and apply it to our lives
5. Sometimes, the service will include one of the ordinances of the church – believer’s baptism and communion – or a testimony by a male member of the church
It is our desire to be balanced in all of those areas. For instance, many churches today have a whole bunch of music but little prayer or Scripture reading (or even preaching). While we don’t set a timer to make sure they’re all equal, we do want to seriously practice each of those things. So we have more than one Scripture reading, and more than one time of prayer. Some churches emphasize preaching so much that other elements are nearly neglected. We never want to diminish the importance of preaching – but it is still only one element of several.
Now for the big question… what about music? What type or style do we have? It is our desire to have meaningful and biblical lyrics put to music that is consistent with the message. Now maybe that sounds good in theory, but how does it work out in real life? Well, we could be described as mostly traditional, but with a careful blending of some recently-written music.
There are some magnificent old songs from the hymnal which we sing. Yes, we sing the great old hymns, and not just a verse or two thrown in, but the whole song!
And there are some excellent modern songs which we also sing. We avoid faddish and worldly styles, because music (like all the other arts) is not amoral. We won’t be conformed to the world’s standards and practices, so some genres will not be a part of our worship. (We don’t tell you what to listen to at home, though.)
The music should not be the driving force – the lyrics should. The music should support and assist the worshipper to think rightly and praise the One who is worthy of our worship. And it shouldn’t divide the brethren, but bring them together in corporate praise of the Most High. Music is for worship – not for entertainment, not for men’s applause, and not to manipulate the emotions.
Of course, worship is more than what we do when we meet together – it is what we do with all of life. That includes when we’re alone, when we’re working, when we’re having fun, when we’re out witnessing, whatever we’re doing. It includes our words, our actions, our thoughts. Worship includes our evangelism, talking to folks, passing out tracts, and it includes (as John Piper said) obeying the speed limit, as well as making dinner and mowing the yard. The details of that don’t really go with this page, though, but it is important to know that we should be worshipping God “in church” and “outside of church”!
Shown below are some quotes by men of God on the subject of worship:
Step into the average church these days and you will likely see that the services are designed more to remove the fear of God than to promote it. – Steven J. Lawson, in Made in Our Image: What Shall We do With a User-Friendly God?
When we believe that we should be satisfied rather than God glorified in our worship, then we put God below ourselves as though He had been made for us rather than that we had been made for Him. – Stephen Charnock
The real crisis of worship today is not that the preaching is paltry or that it’s too drafty in church. It is that people have no sense of the presence of God, and if they have no sense of His presence, how can they be moved to express the deepest feelings of their souls to honor, revere, worship, and glorify God? – R.C. Sproul, in A Taste of Heaven
We belittle God when we go through the outward motions of worship and take no pleasure in His person. – John Piper
Above all sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing Him more than yourself, or any other creature. In order to do this attend strictly to the sense of what you sing, and see that your heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually; so shall your singing be such as the Lord will approve here, and reward you when he cometh in the clouds of heaven. – John Wesley
For many churches, designing worship has become most closely associated with that which will best suit the attendees or best attract the hesitant church-goer, rather than that which is most pleasing to God. – Bill Izard
The worship to which we are called in our renewed state is far too important to be left to personal preferences, to whims, or to marketing strategies. It is the pleasing of God that is at the heart of worship. Therefore, our worship must be informed at every point by the Word of God as we seek God’s own instructions for worship that is pleasing to Him. – R.C. Sproul, in A Taste of Heaven
There is a difference between going to a service “‘for the worship” and going to a service “to worship the Lord.” The distinction appears to be a minor one, but it may imply the difference between the worship of God and the worship of music! – Sinclair Ferguson
How is it possible to worship God publicly once each week when we do not worship Him privately throughout the week? Can we expect the flames of our worship of God to burn brightly in public on the Lord’s Day when they barely flicker for Him in secret on other days? Isn’t it because we do not worship well in private that our corporate worship experience often dissatisfies us? – Donald Whitney
I wonder if there was ever a time when true spiritual worship was at a lower ebb. To great sections of the church, the art of worship has been lost entirely, and in its place has come that strange and foreign thing called the “program.” This word has been borrowed from the stage and applied with sad wisdom to the public service which now passes for worship among us. – A.W. Tozer
Public worship occurs when the people of God assemble for the express purpose of giving to the Lord the glory due His name and enjoying the joy of His promised special presence with His own people. – Ligon Duncan
Do we think of our church buildings today in principal terms as being houses of prayer? When we talk as evangelicals about prayer, we can almost assume that the conversation will be about private and personal prayer, quiet times, daily devotions, or perhaps the Wednesday night prayer meeting where we gather with other Christians to pray. But it’s almost completely outside the scope of consideration when we talk about prayer to think about it in terms of the sanctuary. The typical Protestant church building today can hardly be called a house of prayer. – R.C. Sproul, in A Taste of Heaven
Remember the perfections of that God whom you worship, that he is a Spirit, and therefore to be worshipped in spirit and truth; and that he is most great and terrible, and therefore to be worshipped with seriousness and reverence, and not to be dallied with, or served with toys or lifeless lip-service; and that he is most holy, pure, and jealous, and therefore to be purely worshipped; and that he is still present with you, and all things are naked and open to him with whom we have to do. The knowledge of God, and the remembrance of his all-seeing presence, are the most powerful means against hypocrisy. – Richard Baxter