First, perhaps, what it isn’t:
- Something we do in a specific place in a specific way at a specific time
- A divine demand to give God His “due”
Worship is, in simplest terms, to share with God our feelings, concerns, celebrations, thanks, and questions. It’s a relationship between God and His people that entails unique, individual interaction with Him wherever we live, work, go to school, or vacation. This is our primary worship.
It means plunging ourselves into God’s work, living a life together with Him. And that means placing trust in His Son—the actual alive person—to show us how it’s done through prayer, disciplines, and all the best practices he directed. Thus, in practice, worship means to follow, honor, love, exalt, and promote God’s good and the good of life in His kingdom among us.
That’s different from today’s popular preaching to trust an arrangement he made to eliminate sin debt and thereby appease a divine rampage. If all our being primarily worships the “transaction,” there’s no further essential use for the now living person of Christ.
The problem is that the best expert on health, livelihood, relationships, and human existence becomes detached from everyday life. And worshipping a Savior who isn’t much concerned with everyday problems, joys, or questions becomes a dutiful chore instead of spontaneous delight.
Before I learned different, I often found myself in that situation. I also see it among sincere Christians I know, as well as in forums, blogs, and books. But we don’t want to worship in vain with man-made concepts and rules; we want to worship in spirit and truth as Jesus instructed (Jhn. 4:23-24).
Since God already knows how to live and doesn’t have any needs, worship is for our benefit, not His. Although He certainly delights in it, Paul noted that worship is for strengthening the Church (1Cor. 14:26). God doesn’t need strengthening.
Seeing the difference between the words “gather” and “assemble” was a big help to me. For example, suppose I want to bake cookies. I gather the flour, sugar, eggs, etc., and set them on my counter. I now have a fine gathering of ingredients, but until I assemble them as the recipe calls for, no amount of praise or profession of trust will produce cookies.
Jesus, of course, speaks of producing fruit instead of cookies. Paul speaks of a body with correctly assembled working parts. So we don’t just gather together in worship, we assemble as a great body that moves and acts as a force for good. It teaches, supports, comforts, celebrates, proclaims, and otherwise manifests life with God.
This assembly doesn’t have to be in the same room, or even in the same hemisphere. It doesn’t have to be at the same time and doesn’t have to look homogenous. Scripture often likens it to a choir because that’s a pretty accurate picture of corporate worship—individual bodies contributing different parts and voices to the same song.
I see now how fruitless it is to get into a condescending us-versus-them ruckus over different styles of worship expressed by a body with many moving parts. Rather than ongoing interaction with God in the spirit of worship, it bogs people down in the mechanics of it, all in vain.
I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone…that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1Tim. 2:1-4)