One of the questions that leaders of worship have to deal with is the essence of worship. On occasions, I have been challenged to think seriously about the purpose of our worship services, including the preaching. Should our services and preaching have an evangelistic thrust or should it be targeted only at those who are Christians already? Personally, I would hope it is both. As we genuinely worship, delighting in the glorious gospel of forgiveness and salvation unto eternal life, it is my prayer that those who are not yet Christians would hear the beauty of knowing Christ and be drawn to him through the powerful work of the Holy Spirit.
At other times I have been encouraged to think more about how our singing, time of confession and assurance, our prayers and the preaching can help us to fulfil the Great Commission. On other occasions, I have been encouraged to be more practical so that the congregation may learn how to be more loving, caring, and mission minded. All good questions that need to be considered.
And then one further consideration is what to include during a worship service. For instance, leaders of worship and Church Council often have requests from individuals and other Christian organisations to give them some time during a worship service to promote their work, whether it be missions or some other good Christian work.
Well while I was considering these important questions, a friend reminded me of the book by Rev. Dr. John Piper called, “Brothers we are not Professionals.” In Chapter 28 of his book, John Piper has a chapter entitled “Brothers, focus on the essence of worship and not the form.” In this chapter, he discusses what ‘worship’ should be. His third implication of focussing on the essence of worship is worth mentioning:
“If the inward essence of worship is to find satisfaction in God, then worship can’t be a means to anything else. You simply can’t say to God, I want to be satisfied in You so that I can have something else. Because that would mean you are not really satisfied in God but in something else. And that would dishonour God and not worship Him.
But in fact, for thousands of people and pastors, I fear, that the event of “worship” on Sunday morning is conceived of as a means to accomplish something other than worship. We “worship” to raise money; we “worship” to attract crowds; we “worship” to heal human hurts; we “worship” to give talented musicians an opportunity to fulfil their calling; we “worship” to teach our children the way of righteousness; we “worship” to help marriages stay together; we “worship” to evangelize the lost among us; we “worship” to motivate people for projects; we “worship” to give our churches a family feeling, etc. We don’t say to our wives, ‘I delight in you so that you will make me a nice meal.’ That is not the way delight works. It terminates on her. It does not have a nice meal in view. I cannot say to my son, ‘I love playing ball with you so that you will cut the grass.’ If my heart really delights in playing ball with him, that delight cannot be performed as a means to get him to do something.
I am not denying that authentic worship may have a hundred good effects on the life of the church. It will – just as true affection in marriage makes everything better. My point is that to the degree that we ‘do worship’ for these reasons, to that degree, it ceases to be worship. Keeping satisfaction in God at the center guards us from that tragedy.” (pg 240-241).
Of course, we don’t need to agree with John Piper, yet it is food for thought. So often our worship services are centered around what we can get, or contribute, or what a mission organisation can raise, rather than just worshipping God for Who He is and for what He has done and is doing and promises still to do. It is my prayer that our worship this week will bring glory to God as we delight in his bountiful goodness to us. JZ.