I wake up nearly every Sunday morning and prepare myself for church by shaving, showering, and picking out nice-enough clothing that I won’t offend anyone else who might be there judging me for what I wear. Then after nourishing myself with a breakfast bar that I eat while getting my son ready, we all rush out the door so that we can get to church in time so that we can get a good seat. We rush in just as the service starts, and we move into the “worship” time which is full of songs that make me feel good and get me excited about my relationship with God.
What’s wrong with this picture? Well, besides the fact that it is probably much more common than just being my own personal experience, it paints a wrong picture of what the corporate worship experience should be like. I love the words of John Bevere in his book Drawing Near when he says that the Holy Spirit dealt with him in this issue by telling him that, “worship is not a slow song!” The truth is that the church today has gotten into some bad (and often inexcusable) habits when it comes to worship.
First of all let’s start by discussing preparation. Even if we look at the gathering of the saints and singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with them as the complete picture of corporate worship, then we should still keep what this weekly event truly is in perspective. As we gather to lift up the name of Jesus corporately, we enter into a very holy time and place. This reminds me of the Temple priests who took the sacrifices into the Holy of Holies. According to the Law, there were many preparations that they had to go through in order to be clean enough to even enter that place.
Isn’t it the same thing as we go into that place of worship as a church? Before we ever arrive, we should be preparing ourselves spiritually for this event. If we spent as much time preparing our spirits by being in the Word and in prayer on Sunday mornings before we go to church, I guarantee that the worship experience would blow our minds.
Let’s also look at a couple of Hebrew words that are translated into the English word “worship” in the Old Testament. The first of them is shachah. This word literally translates as “to bow down”. It is most frequently translated as “worship”, but it carries a strong sense of bowing down in reverence, and prostrating oneself. In a military sense, this type of bowing or prostrating is a position of absolute surrender. The one in this position renders himself completely at the mercy of the one they are surrendering to. So there is this sense that as a body we must surrender ourselves to the power of God, and submit ourselves to His desires as our act of worship.
The other word that I want to look at is ‘abad which literally translates as “to serve”. The idea here is that as the Israelites “worshiped” it was partly defined as serving, and had nothing to do with music whatsoever. Does this mean that when a group from the church meets to do some community service acts that we are actually in worship? Absolutely! And I also believe that these events should be entered into with the same reverence and preparation as any other worship gathering.
What is really cool is when both of these words are used side-by-side to describe worship. Because this occurs several times in the Old Testament, we should get the message that it is not sometimes on and sometimes the other, but worship is defined as being both an act of surrender, and an act of service to Him. Both must exist, and exist together in order to achieve true, complete worship.
I believe that if the church (as a whole) were to take a more Biblical look at what it means to worship, and if we were to prepare ourselves properly for these sacred events, then I believe that we would see God move in our lives and communities in a way that exceeds any expectations that we could come up with. So go prepare a place for Him, and enter in with an expectation, but more than anything else let your worship reflect surrender and service unto Him.
Note: Written for weekly writing contest [Worship (Corporate)] at www.faithwriters.com.
By John Bevere
St. Augustine expressed the deepest longing of our hearts when he prayed “You made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” In Drawing Near best-selling author John Bevere will help you to find your rest in God by teaching you how to effectively communicate with the Holy Spirit through prayer and how to obediently listen to the words of the Savior. Through clear biblical teaching, practical “how-to” application and useful study questions John Bevere will help you to find true, intimate rest in God.