The Lenten Season gives us opportunity to reflect on who Christ is and examine our hearts as we prepare for Easter. During Lent, many practice fasting, self-denial, or increased acts of service. It is a time to repent of our sin and receive forgiveness. The ultimate goal is heart transformation – as we enter into Christ’s suffering, we become more like him. This year, we offer this Lenten blog series as a way to help you become closer to Jesus. Each post will reflect on a different spiritual discipline – some inward, others outward; some individual, others corporate. May these spiritual practices facilitate God’s formation of your soul. Today’s post was written by Richard Wallace, one of our church members and a student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. While worship is a daily personal discipline, Richard focuses in this piece on the corporate side of the discipline – our weekly gathered worship on Sundays.
What do you want from a Sunday worship service?
On the way to church we can have many expectations. We hope that we’ll be singing some of our favorite hymns, or we’d really like the sermon to be uplifting because it’s been a tough week.
In themselves, these aren’t bad expectations to have of a Sunday service, but what if these are our only expectations? What if our only thoughts prior to worshipping with our church family on Sunday is what we are going to get out of it?
Worship is Service of God
Worship, primarily, is about us responding to God, giving him all honor because of who he is and what he has done. This definition alone shows us that worship isn’t about our experience or what we get out of it, because it is all about God, not us.
To illustrate this, one of the words the Old Testament uses to explain worship is ‘service.’ In Exodus 3, just before God sends Moses to Pharaoh, God talks with Moses at the burning bush and tells him “when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.” The festival they later had on the mountain wasn’t a celebration for the people’s sake, it was service to God. The command then given in Deuteronomy 10:12 “to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul” is a command to whole life worship, with everything you do.
So our gathered worship on a Sunday should include more than our personal devotion to God, but also elements of service to him. How are we to do this?
Worship is Service of Others
The New Testament answers this in the book of Hebrews, a book all about worship, where the conclusion in chapter 13 is that true sacrifice (or worship) is when Christians show hospitality, share with one another, remembering those in prison or those who are mistreated, learning from our leaders and growing in obedience. A large part of this service then is how we interact with our fellow Christians when we are with them on a Sunday.
This is consistent with other parts of the New Testament where worship is described in terms of Christians edifying, or building each other up: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Colossians 3:16
Even as we sing hymns, we are doing it to serve the people singing around us on a Sunday morning. I find great encouragement when I look around on a Sunday morning and see a member singing blessed be God’s name, even though I know they have been going through difficult times. Or when I see a new Christian at church confessing the creed with enthusiasm, or an elder Christian still saying the same words year after year with such passion, I am built up and instructed by them.
This Sunday we can serve God and serve one another by
- Turning up. Your very presence on a Sunday morning is an encouraging service to others there.
- Participating alongside fellow believers. Our Sunday worship isn’t private, it is corporate, all of us bringing honor together to our great God and witnessing each other do it.
- Seeking to encourage. Use time after the service to chat and encourage others with the words we just heard, sang and prayed together.