What is actually going on in our worship services? Should evangelism be the focus? How about overcoming personal problems or pathologies? Should the service be designed to appeal to the unbeliever?
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
– 2 Corinthians 5:17
It is our contention that worship is the singular privilege and duty of those who are a part of the new creation. Only believers can worship God rightly. Only those who have experienced the new birth have the ability to see beyond themselves and peer into the very throne room of heaven. Only the redeemed understand and are willing to submit to the Word of God. Only Christians can understand and appreciate the language and culture of heaven.
Should worship be counter-cultural and unfamiliar – even strange – to Worldlings?
When I have the occasion to speak to people about our church, I try to determine whether I am speaking to a believer or an unbeliever. I need to know if they have eyes to see and ears to hear what I am going to tell them about our church. But sadly, even believers often miss the point of what we do on Sunday mornings. This is largely due to the fact that their personal experience in worship is shaped by a worldly theology which makes worship man-centered (evangelistic, therapeutic, entertaining or politically driven) rather than God-centered. When told that they would like to visit our church I am tempted to say “of course we would love to have you, but you won’t like it.” I try to prepare them for what they would experience should they visit in order to help them work through the culture shock they would undoubtedly experience.
This raises some key questions: Should worship be counter-cultural and unfamiliar – even strange – to Worldlings? Are seeker services – those which are designed for the purpose of appealing to Worldlings – truly worship services?
The worship of God is the primary focus of Sunday morning service. This being the case, our music, liturgy, confessions and preaching are to serve the end that God and His people meet together in holy conversation and communion. Here God speaks to our hearts from His Holy Word. Here we lift our voices to joyfully sing and speak His truth back to Him. In worship we give God His due on His terms even as we learn how to become a new creation with Biblical values, heavenly language and a redeemed and renewed culture.
Since God alone determines how He is to be worshiped, we must carefully structure our liturgies to bring Him the honor He alone is due. Rather than seeking to be relevant to fallen sensibilities, we who are the redeemed lift our hearts and minds to God. As we do He enables us to become the living sacrifices we have been called to offer. Our music must be informed and crafted in such a way as is consistent with the beauty of God Himself – not the fallen pop culture we find everywhere. Our preaching should be a careful, systematic exposition of the Bible, not elaborate altar calls and self-help gleanings. Our liturgies – far from making us feel comfortable – ought to challenge us to put off the old man in order to become better citizens of the new creation Jesus died to create. In this way the grace of God draws us into ever deepening relationships – vertically and horizontally. Biblical Worship is, after all, our prelude for eternity.