What is labeled as Worship in our Churches today can take many forms. From pulsing lights to massive sounds and groovy beats to standing up straight orderly, focussing on a hymnal as we hear our fellows sing. Often people associate the quality of their Worship as they stirred their emotions or motivated themselves. Other times we associate the success of our offering with how it resonated with our appeal. Even though liturgical styles and musical preferences are important, I am not writing to discuss those in this article. I want to highlight some of the qualities that constitute fruitful Worship. Preacher, Paul David Tripp writes about the central vocation humans share.
“Human beings by their very nature are worshipers. Worship is not something we do; it defines who we are. You cannot divide human beings into those who worship and those who don’t. Everybody worships; it’s just a matter of what, or whom, we serve.”
What are some of the qualities that would constitute Christian Worship? Biblically we have some instructions as to what our Worship should contain.
- Worship in Spirit
In some of our Churches we have made the Holy Spirit a part of the program, yet, when we look at the book of Acts, we can see in the first Christian community the Holy Spirit was essentially governing the program (Acts.1:8; 5:3, 13:2). The very nature of our Worship includes both Spirit and Truth (Joh.4:20-24). A. W. Tozer wrote.
“Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God. For this reason, the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like.”
The Holy Spirit leading us does not directly translate into mystical experiences or weird ecstasies. There are too many oddities within some Churches that are attributed to the Working of the Holy Spirit, when in fact it is just manifestations of the flesh. The Holy always leads to us esteeming God properly (1 Cor.12:3; Joh.16:14; Rom.8:26).
Homer A. Kent wrote.
“Occasionally the criticism is heard that the Holy Spirit is not honored sufficiently by present-day Christians. However, if Christ is given the proper emphasis, then Christians are responding to the Spirit’s basic ministry of glorifying Christ. Any movement supposedly led by the Spirit that focuses most of the interest on the phenomena of the Spirit is contrary to this statement of Jesus. The Holy Spirit is honored when Christ is glorified in our lives.”
Worship, stimulated by the presence of the Holy Spirit will therefore both esteem Christ correctly and the truth of God’s Word clearly (John 17:17, 8:32). Worship is not just a dead ritual; it is to admire God’s truth.
- Worship in truth
Truth speaks of the content of our Worship (Joh.4:24, 16:13). As I have noted, our Worship cannot be afforded as a form of entertainment or self-adulation. Worship songs, that are constantly fixated on our benefits or self-importance simply will not do. We should be alarmed when the focus of our services starts and ends with hedonism. Our Worship should demonstrate our proper understanding of God’s self-disclosure in His word, affording Him our primary focus (Job.42:5). D.A. Carson writes.
“Worship is the proper response of all moral, sentient beings to God, ascribing all honor and worth to their Creator-God precisely because he is worthy, delightfully so.”
In some of our Churches, worship has become a means by which we introduce the speaker or collect money. Some of the leaders only come out their green rooms close to their time to speak. Leaders cannot expect a worshiping community with God at its center without expressing a deep urgency for God’s proper Worship amongst God’s people. Another element that includes true Worship is that we should seek to be doctrinally correct and theologically succinct. Our worship should line up with the correct New Testament teaching. Friend, Afrika Mhlope writes.
“There’s a difference between being filled with the Holy Spirit and being caught up in spiritism. With the latter there’s rejection of Biblical truth.”
Some of our services create the impression that we need to conjure the Holy Spirit before He arrives, sadly, He should be present everywhere because He is God.
- Worship in beauty
When God is the object of our Worship, we cannot but be overwhelmed with His beauty. Quickaholic Spiritualities and consumer-driven services always leave people wondering and searching for more. When we edify ourselves by focussing on God as the object of our Worship it refers to the appearance, He offers to us in this act.
Hildegard of Bingen describes what we experience when we become fixated on God.
“The kiss of Eternal life, and the warm embrace of God’s Word, are so sweet, and bring such pleasure, that you can never become bored with them; you always want more.”
When we desire to see God pleased in our services, the most natural extent would be our own satisfaction as well. These are the type of Worshippers God delights in, those that search for Him (2 Chron.16:9), and those that delight in Him (Ps.37:4).
- Worship in Holiness
In the Old Testament God seems to place a lot of emphasis on holiness (Ex.15:11). In the New Testament, we should not be expecting anything different. For the Christian, the purity of our Worship stems from our collective experience gazing upon the perfections of our Creator. God would stipulate how he wanted to be worshiped, and in the new dispensation, He relates the intention of our Worship. What are our hearts like when we Worship God? We bear the fruit of the Spirit, and our lives reflect what we gazed upon. We become what we behold, and our contemplation should be fixed on Jesus, the author, and finisher of our faith (Heb.12:1-2). Robert Coleman writes.
“True worship can only take place when we agree to God sitting not only on His throne in the center of the universe, but on the throne that stands in the center of our hearts.”
The fruit of holiness is a demand by God (1 Pet.1:16, 2:5, 9; Ps. 96:9) that will extend itself directly to our neighbor (1 Tim.2:8).
- Worship in love
This refers to the affection of our Worship. Service without true warmth leads to drudgery and boredom. Worship is a heartfelt reaction in gratitude towards the goodness of God. We love because He first loved us (1 Joh.4:19) and as the highest expression of that love we love the people of God (Matt.22:39). C. Welton Gaddy says,
“The chief aim of worship is to please God – whether by adoration and praise, prayer and proclamation, confessions and offerings, thanksgiving and commitment, or by all of these actions combined. The point of Worship is to recognize that “God alone matters”… “any potential or alteration in the purpose of Christian worship must be addressed and avoided. A constant temptation towards utilitarianism has to be rejected. To use Christian worship for any purpose other than for the glorification of God is to abuse it. God expects a Church to meet for divine worship without ulterior motives. Thus, worship is not convened so that Church budgets can be pledged, volunteers in ministry enlisted, programs promoted, attendance goals met, or personal problems solved. Authentic worship takes place only in order to honor God. People gather to worship God in order to give everything to God”.
- Worship in Order
Some might think that orderly worship stifles intimacy with the Holy Spirit or that tradition might deflate congregants. Scripture gives a lot of room for expression, freedom, and joy (1 Tim.2:8, Ps.84 &150). But what is important is to notice that Worship is not a mindless exercise. Throughout the Old and New Testaments, we find a calculated expression of what God deems necessary. This speaks of the method of our collective Worship. R.C. Sproul writes.
“The worship to which we are called in our renewed state is far too important to be left to personal preferences, to whims, or to marketing strategies. It is the pleasing of God that is at the heart of worship. Therefore, our worship must be informed at every point by the Word of God as we seek God’s own instructions for worship that is pleasing to Him.”
Order is the way God’s people harmonise with each other (Col.2:5) and welcome non-believers into the congregation (1 Cor.14:5-25, 33, 40).
- Worship in Humility
Worship will always lead us to a true estimation of ourselves and a true approximation of God. Humility is not thinking of ourselves less, but thinking less about ourselves. True worship understands the difference between the Creator and us as creatures. Humility refers to the posture of our worship. A.W. Tozer writes,
“It is delightful to worship God, but it is also a humbling thing, and the man who has not been humbled in the presence of God will never be a worshiper of God at all. He may be church member who keeps the rules and obeys the discipline, and who tithes and goes to conference, but he’ll never be a worshiper unless he is deeply humbling.”
James writes as a command to “humble yourselves” (Jam.4:10) and Peter cautions the same (1Pet.5:6). There is a high tax placed on how we should approach the Lord. Jesus is the highest expression of His Incarnational call comes clothed in humility (Phl.2:8). Worship should not be counted as a platform to display our giftedness or skill. Andrew Murray writes in his book on Humility.
“The root of all virtue and grace, of all faith and acceptable worship, is that we know that we have nothing but what we receive and bow in deepest humility to wait upon God for it.”
Worship is the reflection of our truest desire. We are created to Worship, and if we do not worship the One true God, lesser gods will arise and take priority, and temporary affections will become our obsession.
 Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands: People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change.
 The Knowledge of the Holy. Pg.12.
 Light in the Darkness: Studies in the Gospel of John, 2nd ed. Pg. 211-212
 Worship under the Word, in Worship by the Book, ed. Carson (Zondervan, 2002), Pg. 26.
 Hildegard in a Nutshell, Robert van der Weyer. Pg.29.
 The Gift of Worship. Pg. 40 & 210.
 A Taste of Heaven: Worship in the Light of Eternity.
 Worship: The Missing Jewel, Pg.4- 5.
 Humility, Pg.25.