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5 Things Every Congregation Must Understand About Worship

How We Get It Right

We need to talk about Father, Son and Holy Spirit all the time, so it is clear “the God we mean” when we talk about God.

And we need to sing clearly about the Father, about the Son and about the Spirit.

2. Why Do We Worship? Worship Is a Response to God’s Pursuit.

John 4:19 tells us the reason we worship. I’ve watched churches, for years, get this fundamental idea wrong when they gather.

As the KJV puts it, “We love Him, because He first loved us.” We love, because we have been loved.

I worship because I love, and I love because I worship. God loved you, and now, it’s your turn to respond with complete surrender. Then, God expresses His love to you more, and you and I respond again.

What We Get Wrong

We act like we are the ones doing the work of worship. We hype people up, rate their “interaction” on a scale of 1-10 and build false visions of when worship is being “effective” or not based on how demonstratively people are responding.

Pastors (and I speak as one) are notorious for evaluating the effectiveness of worship expressions on the response of the room. Yes, we can read some things by observation; but to make our senses the evaluation montoring system to determine if real worship is happening at any given time?

Room dynamics are the wrong metric for evaluating the worship experience, and our perceptions will often fail us related to worship.

How We Get It Right

If someone is responding to and experiencing God’s love, and drinking deep of the Story of God through Word, Sacrament and the other means given to us, then all is well. Full stop. We don’t need to do religious gymnastics so, as Eugene Peterson said, God sees how hard we’re working and smiles on us.

3. What Is Worship? Worship Is a Whole Life Response to God.

Romans 12:1-2 is a peculiar passage in the New Testament. In it, the writer is using a common worship practice of their age—sacrifice—as a metaphor for what God is really after in worship. Here it is from The Message:

“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out.”

The writer of Romans is saying, “As dead as a dead sacrifice is, that is how living our living sacrifice is to be.” In our personal lives, public lives, financial stewardship, choice of college majors, job choice, relationships with family members, etc.—we are responding to the love of God.

The quality of that response is the ongoing task of the Christian.

What We Get Wrong

If worship is only as big as our church services (and I have great regard for our gathered worship life as communities of faith), then our vision of worship is very small.

What I mean by that is this: Our “gathered worship” is vital to our life of faith—our individualism becomes holy individuality within community when we break the bread and receive the cup.

But we must never confuse the flower of faith, our lives, with the rain and the earth that nurture it. God is seeking our lives—not our songs and sacraments.

Though I will say here that they mutually feed one another, and we may ultimately not be able to sustain the life without the liturgies—selah.

Corporate, gathered worship is central to our life of faith; we need larger fires to keep our individual flame alight.

How We Get It Right

If worship is a response to God, then everything I do in life is a response to God. The way I treat my spouse, my kids, my boss, my roommate—it’s all my response to God’s pursuing Love.

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Dan Wilt, M.Min. is an artist, author, musician, educator, songwriter, communicator, and spiritual life writer. With 20+ years in the Vineyard family of churches, he serves in various ways to further a “New Creation” centered vision of the Christian life through media.