Worship: A Moment? Or a Way of Life? (Jul-Aug 2007)

By Matt Dabbs

by D.V. “Doc” Adams
July – August, 2007

The lights dim as the pianist plays a slow, worshipful melody. A young man standing on the right side of the platform begins to strum his acoustic guitar. A drummer carefully brushes his high hat, while the bass player quietly plunks a B-flat. The lead vocalist steps up to the microphone and begins to softly sing, leading the congregation in a reverent chorus giving praise to God. Many worshippers raise their hands heavenward, eyes closed, bodies swaying, lips mouthing unintelligible words. Kari is one of the participants who raises her arms, eyes closed, quietly singing in one accord.

The music slowly fades to a whispered decrescendo. Not allowing an uncomfortable silence, a young man steps to the podium and gives a quick, “Praise God”, and proceeds to give the morning announcements, followed by the offertory. After the money has been collected, the Minister steps forward and delivers his 5-point sermon. After the sermon, a quick chorus announces that this worship experience is completed.

Kari leaves the building feeling rejuvenated. She remembers very little of the sermon, but the experience of singing with a congregation of like-minded people gives her a warm feeling inside. One of the worship choruses rolls around in her head. She tries hard to remember the words and sing it under her breath as she walks her daughters to her car.

Monday morning arrives and Kari quickly scurries to get her daughters off to school and ready herself for work. She overslept and forgot to do her 15-minute devotional. “Oh well, I’ll do it tomorrow,” she rationalizes. Throughout the week her mind wanders to the wonderful time of worship and longs for Sunday to come so she can re-live her experience.

This fictional account of Kari’s worship experience is sadly all too real. The concept of modern Christian worship found in European and North American churches is delineated by geography, time, and purpose. Specific buildings or places are identified as appropriate venues to participate in a worship experience. A specific day and time are set aside to meet with like-minded congregants. This experience is commonly limited to music and or liturgy and is usually monitored by an interval of time. Once the musical or liturgical experience has ended, the participant may leave the venue with a satisfied feeling that his/her purpose for worshipping has been fulfilled and defined by a pivotal point in time. But is this how God intended for worship to be?
Catholics have a motto that says, “The Mass never ends.” Should worship end when we walk out of church on Sunday afternoon? Does postmodern Worship embrace the same values as Biblical Worship?
The contemporary concept of worship is confined to a specific day, time, and place. Contemporary worship is committed to a momentary involvement, rather than engaging in a disciplined practice of abiding worship. The Biblical concept of worship is one of lifestyle rather then momentary.

In the November 29, 2004 publication of the Barna Group, a survey entitled Americans Describe Sources of Spiritual Fulfillment and Frustration, discovered that “Less than one percent listed worshipping God as their means of fulfillment, and a similarly miniscule number claimed that leading someone to Christ was their major source of satisfaction.”

The quintessential question is: “Why are ‘worship’ services thriving and popular to the Evangelical masses, yet less than 1% are being fulfilled by worshipping God?” This research bolsters the argument that people are seeking worship experiences for the “experience” (like our fictitious character Kari), rather then seeking worship as outlined in Biblical passages, as a way of life.

The early believers didn’t separate worship from their daily life. They wouldn’t understand going to church on Sunday to worship. There was no distinction between public worship and private actions. Whether in private or public, worship was not delineated by time or geography, daily lifestyle was an act of worship. It would seem unnatural to them to spend 30-45 minutes in communal worship and then suddenly stop because a sermon or special was expected. To the early believers, worship was a part of life just as breathing, eating, and sleeping.
When the early believers met together (as seen in Acts 2 & 4), they met with the attitude of faith. How many churches or church members today would give up their building funds to help the poor? This is the act of worship the early believers committed themselves to. They didn’t comprehend their personal finances being separate from worship. They were at God’s disposal.

The early church was centered on God and what He was saying. God expects order in our lives and in our communal gatherings. However, the early church didn’t program Him out of their gatherings.
Is worship today defined by what happens on stage every Sunday? Do we see the outcome of our weekly lifestyle worship during our Communal gatherings? Is our local body a breeding ground for spiritual growth, or a weekly meeting of acquaintances?

The book of Acts pays tribute to the obedience of God’s people assembled with a unity of spirit. The key to the second chapter of Acts is found in the last verse, last sentence (2:47), “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Italics mine). The previous verses describe how the worshippers were of one mind, a true ‘body’ of Christ. They lived and worshipped in a communal setting, serving one another.

Instead of creating a special program or forming a committee, they simply got on their knees and prayed (Acts 6:1-7). And it was “…the Lord…” that caused the church to grow. Not growth campaign or special programs. It was the faith of the early believers that caused God to act. Faith derived from a lifestyle of worship. The true leader of worship should be God who is alive and active in the presence of the community.

If we are unable to devote our lives to worship, how do we think we will survive in heaven when worship is an ongoing, eternal experience? What can we learn from worship in Heaven? A close look at the Old and New Testament opens a wonderful window into what we can look forward to when we see God face to face. We find Heavenly beings praising God day and night.

In the Old Testament, Nehemiah shares with us that the ‘multitudes’ of heaven worship God,

“You alone are the LORD. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you.” (Nehemiah 9:6- bold added)

In Isaiah, we read of his vision as he sees,

“…the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.’” (Isaiah 6:1-3).

The book of Revelation gives us a deeper insight of what heavenly worship is all about. In Chapter 4 we see twenty-four Elders falling down, crying out to God, “You are worthy, our lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.” (4:10-11). We find in verses 11:16, 17 that they each have their own seat that surrounds the throne of God.

The Elders, persons of honor, leave their seats of prestige, stand up, take notice and fall down in humble submission to God. They not only lie down and prostrate themselves, but they throw their gold crowns at the feet of God. The word for throw or ‘cast’ is the Greek word ballo (bal’-lo) which has the meaning of throwing something without caring where it falls, and to give over to one’s care uncertain about the result.
A modern example of the incredible act of worship by the Elders, might be the same as a wealthy man taking his wealth and giving it all away, and offering himself to God, without a second thought to his intentions. The heart of lifestyle worship begins with the attitude of complete surrender to God. The Elders gave their most prized possessions without question, and fell prostrate in loving reverence and honor to Him.

Would it seem unbelievable to go to church on Sunday morning and see your Elders, Deacons, or Trustees falling prostrate? And for the congregation to spend the entire morning just giving praise to God? This is what is happening in Heaven. If we are unwilling to fall down, cry, shout, and sing to God now, how will we be ready to do it when we meet Him in Heaven?

Worship is a lifestyle. Not a moment or an event. Our communal worship should reflect our daily worship. Our daily worship should reflect our relationship with our Father. What does your lifestyle reflect?New Wineskins

Doc AdamsD.V. “Doc” Adams and his wife Theresa live in Knoxville, Tennessee. He has a PhD in Theology from Vision International University.

He has six children and six beautiful grandchildren. He is quick to add that he is a very, very young grandfather.

He is on the Advisory Board of ECI, which is the parent company of Who’s Who Among American High School Students/Teachers, and The Dean’s List.

Doc and Theresa love to travel and both enjoy woodworking. They have also created a Marriage Workshop called, “Happily Ever After.”

 

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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1577 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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