Seven Opportunities for Your Next Church Service to Be a Worship Service
Have you ever considered why the weekly meetings of your church are called worship services? Before proceeding, it would do us well to lay a foundation by defining a few Bible terms. Simply put, the word church means congregation. This can easiest be determined by comparing Psalm 22:22 with Hebrews 2:12. That being said, the church is not the building, but the congregated people meeting. This is why the old-timers used to identify the building as the meetinghouse. The very presence of the word church indicates the gathering together or congregating of people. Furthermore, two related words to express the motivation of this gathering are the words praise and worship. The word praise is historically and biblically associated with the price, value, or worth of something (Psalm 18:3). The word worship is a shortened form and combination of the words worth and ship and is similarly associated to the worth or honour given to something (Revelation 7:11-12).
While there is no doubt we receive great benefits from congregating with the saints, the greater purpose of our gathering should be the corporal worship and praise of God. We know this to be true of our congregating in heaven in the future; but on a smaller and more temporal scale, it is true in the present when we congregate with God’s people each week in our local assemblies. As such, we should prayerfully consider various means by which we might participate in the worship of God each week within the confines of the worship service. An evaluation of such participation may well shine a light into one’s heart and whether or not the worship of God is a priority. Furthermore, an evaluation of the number of opportunities available to participate in such worship may well testify as to biblical or unbiblical conditions prevalent where we congregate with others.
All things considered, and if all things are right, there should be at least seven opportunities for worship when you congregate with your brothers and sisters in Christ.
First among these and the easiest box to check is attendance. It is true that there are people who love the Lord who are providentially hindered from attending every service. It is also true that there are people who attend services simply out of habit and do not consider the spiritual nature of doing so. However, attending the worship service is an act of obedience and as such is an act of worship (see Hebrews 10:23-25). After all, one’s attendance at the place of worship requires that one choose to be there over being in other locations. Forsaking the assembling of the saints for sports activities, entertainment purposes, career, etc. can suggest that those things are more important or of a higher priority than the corporal worship of God.
Another opportunity of worship that presents itself when congregating is the caring for and ministering to others. This involves being kindly affectioned one to another, being hospitable, rejoicing with those who rejoice and weeping with those who weep, having compassion one of another, and being courteous (Romans 12:10-18 and 1 Peter 3:8-9). Many churches designate individuals or teams to handle greeting attendees, but it is truly the responsibility of each believer to care for others in attendance. While one may struggle to see this as an act of worship, remember that caring for others is an obedient response to the commandments of God. Failure in this area tends to spring forth from one of several issues: (1) tardiness, (2) shyness, (3) favoritism (cliques), or (4) selfishness. None of these is a legitimate reason to miss opportunities to serve God and others.
Participating in the music portion of the service is another opportunity believers have for worshipping God. Those who play instruments should do so skilfully and with fervor (Psalm 33:3). Interestingly, skill is not listed as a requirement for singing, but understanding what we sing (Psalm 47:7), the volume with which we sing (Psalm 51:14; Psalm 59:16; Psalm 81:1; Psalm 98:4), and the spirit in which we sing (see Psalm 95:1; Psalm 98:5) are discussed at length. Ultimately, congregational singing is the closest thing to the worship we will enjoy in heaven and best responds to the biblical mandate to the churches to sing unto God as seen in Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16. If one’s role in the music at the place of worship is merely that of a spectator, either by choice or by design, it sacrifices an opportunity to praise and worship God.
Prayer also speaks to God’s worth or value in our lives and as such offers another opportunity to participate in the worship of God when assembling with other believers (Psalm 141:2; Luke 19:46). In the worship service, prayer is often led by one man, but others are encouraged to pray simultaneously and agreeingly to the one leading in prayer. Failing to participate, either by looking around the room, allowing the mind to ponder other things, or sitting silently without joining in in prayer, neglects a heaven-bought opportunity to worship the Lord.
Another prospect for worship involves giving financially to the work of the Lord (Malachi 3:10; Romans 12:8; 2 Corinthians 8:1-15; 2 Corinthians 9:1-7). Good people hold varying views on how offerings are received as well as on the amount of money to be given, but money is a necessary evil for the maintaining of the place and practice of worship. Letting go of your money can be one of the most difficult aspects of worship, but it can also be an opportunity minimized by habit or routine, void of purpose and heart. If finances are given with cheerfulness, this can be one of the most beautiful and sacrificial forms of worship.
When the scripture is opened and expounded, another great opportunity for worship is presented. For the speaker, he can choose to worship God by preaching the word (2 Timothy 4:1-5). For the hearer, he or she can choose to worship God by attentiveness, softheartedness, and proper reception of the word declared (1 Thessalonians 2:13). A speaker may be tempted to forsake the strict adherence to the scripture in order to tickle the ears of his hearers. A hearer may be distracted from hearing or offended by what is heard. Any deviation from what is acceptable in the sight of God is done so to the neglect of God’s worship and praise and indicates the squandering of a tremendous opportunity to let God know of His worth and value in one’s life.
How one responds to the worship service and its component parts also represents an act of worship (1 Thessalonians 1:6, 9; 1 Thessalonians 2:13). Heartfelt participation in the other aspects of worship within the service tends to prepare a person’s heart for the hearing or receiving of the preached/taught word which then sets the foundation for properly responding to the word given. The proper response (whether repentance, obedience, sacrifice, confession, etc.) testifies of God’s worth in the life of the responder. Hearing the word of God and the desired impact on one’s life and failing to do as God bids is shameful and it refuses an opportunity to worship a worthy God.
While this may not be all-inclusive as to the opportunities available to worship God when gathering with other believers, it certainly considers those most notable. It also provides enough information for consideration for an individual to determine whether or not he is taking advantage of his God-given opportunities to declare God’s worth in his life. Truth be told, church services can be nothing more than a gathering of saints, but they can also live up to their name—worship services. In any given gathering, there are some who walk away having attended a church service, but others walk away having worshipped. How will you walk away from your next time of congregating with the saints?