A Different Kind of Worship

It was suggested to me, I think “tongue-in-cheek,” that I just preach for five minutes this morning and we all go down to the Bishop’s home and get it finished. While I don’t mind just preaching for five minutes, and while I certainly do not mind serving my brother and sister, this suggestion got me thinking about the way we view worship.

We often have a formalized view of our worship. We come to a nice building, sit in rows facing the same direction. We sing songs, not too fast, not too slow, and certainly not too new. We pray quiet prayers, full of lofty expressions and two dollar words. We respectfully pass trays of bread and wine, while we individually focus on some aspect of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. We listen to sermons delivered, hopefully heavy with Scripture and light on opinions. We collect money as quick as possible to help with the Lord’s work here at East Shelby and abroad. All of this is done with precision, starting promptly at 9 am every Sunday morning and certainly not going past 12:05 p.m., lest people get hungry, restless, or tired.

I don’t see this being the pattern in Scripture. Nor the idea of worship. Let me tell you what I mean.

In Acts 2, the people weren’t concerned about time or location. “Every day they devoted themselves to meeting in the temple, and broke bread from house to house” (v.46). In Acts 4, they are gathered together and they “raised their voices together to God” and prayed, out loud, verbally that prayer that resulted in the shaking of the ground and the strengthened courage of the people (v. 23-31). In Acts 5, they are worshipping together, Peter preaching the word, who is interrupted by people coming in and having conversations in their midst. This seems less formal and more familial. In Acts 6, they people were concerned about the rationing and distribution of the food, not because they were eating as a part of worship, but because worship was as much a part of their daily lives as was eating. In Acts 7, a sermon is delivered to the public community, which clearly took place outside of their “walls.” Over and again, worship was not then the formalized, time-blocked experience we often participate in today.

The point is not to disparage what we do today. We gather to worship, which is Scriptural and appropriate (cf. Hebrews 10.24-25). The point of this article is to bring attention to what we don’t do. Where is our daily participation? Where is our eating from house to house? Where is our community prayers during hard times? Where is our time of less formal worship where many speak?

This past Wednesday evening, when we gathered to pray for our hurt and sick, where we gathered to sing songs of peace, where we gathered to join hands and look one another in the eyes as we sang of our faith in God’s love, compassion, and provision—that was a picture of true and sincere worship! Worship is not about formality and perfect presentations, but about loving expressions towards God. God’s people come together to express sincere concern for God’s Word, God’s work, and God’s people.

So my brothers comments about a five minute sermon might not be far off, if we expand our understanding of how worship should be done. We worship God when we love and serve our brothers and sisters. Consider Paul’s definition when he says, “Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing; this is your true worship” (Romans 12.1). Our living is our worship, if we are sacrificing ourselves to God daily.