worshipHave you ever heard someone say “worship service is about God not about entertainment”? I have, and I’ve said it myself. This is a reaction to the well-established trend to enhance the meeting times of churches to be more appealing to the unchurched and even the churched that find traditional worship services uninspiring.

What do we see in the Bible about worship? The word “worship” in all its forms is found 250 times in the NIV. 75 times in the New Testament. You can get a listing at http://yeldell.org/robin/bible/ Worship_NIV_NT.pdf.
(These counts include a few instances where the worship is in the NIV Bible section titles.)

Two dimensions of these worship passages are useful for this consideration, the religion dimension (pagan, Jewish, Christian) and context dimension (individual vs. group). Here are some examples of passages along these dimensions…

Religion: Jewish/Samaritan Worship
Context: Group Worship
John 4:22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.

Religion: Unclassified
Context: Individual Worship
John 9:38 Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.

Religion: Christian
Context: Individual Worship
Romans 12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.

What we find in this survey is that for Christian worship, it’s an individual activity. But we usually use the term worship to refer to a gathering of Christians to sing, pray, study, take the Lord’s Supper, etc. With the possible exception Acts 13:2, we don’t see the word worship associated with the meeting of saints. The word is absent in the key “meeting passages” of Acts 2:42ff, Acts 20:7ff, 1 Corinthians 11, 14,  1 Timothy 2, and Hebrews 10:24-25. The worship passage from Romans 12 is our most straightforward teaching about what true worship is. Christian worship is an individual act directed toward God.

Today, our Christian meetings are focused on either 1) worship/praise/edification optimized for church members, 2) worship/praise/feel-good/hope sessions optimized for the unchurched visitors, or 3) fellowship and edification of church members. Unfortunately the first two are the most common, the first approach being common in traditional, maintenance-focused churches, and the second approach used by churches bent on growth. The “meeting passages” clearly align with the third approach.

1 Corinthians 14:22-25 teaches that unbelievers are a secondary concern of the meeting times, but that we must maintain credibility. Nonetheless, unbelievers will be convicted by the prophesying of the group. They will benefit even though they are not the focus of the group.

So our meetings, unfortunately termed “worship service”, should be about one another, and only indirectly about God. Our 1, 2, or 4 hours a week together should be about one another, the other 164+ hours of the week should be about worship.