Reforming Worship

by Steven Shepard

Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD our Maker. (Psalm 95:6-7)

In writing about reforming worship I am referring to what takes place at our church services. There is also a proper biblical meaning for worship that goes beyond simply singing and praying in church. The problem is that genuine worship as revealed in the Bible is often hindered in many church services instead of helped.

We must begin with an understanding of what worship is. Psalm 95 captures its meaning. The Hebrew word “worship” means to bow the knee or prostrate oneself, which represents something far more profound than merely the outward position of the body. What matters to God is our hearts. Worship involves surrendering and subjecting all that we are to God. We see this meaning also in Romans 12:1: “… I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” God calls us to surrender our whole life to Him, and we respond by continually confronting and adjusting our attitudes. God is after repentance, humility, profound respect, gratitude, obedience, and love. This should also be the goal in our corporate worship services. Worship is not about entertainment, or our feelings, or personal experience. It should not be centered upon ourselves at all. Worship is about exalting a holy and sovereign God and subjecting everything we are to Him. And worship goes way beyond Sunday morning. It involves the way we live every moment of our lives.

But what do we see manifest today in so many local churches throughout the world? The attention, mind, and senses are drawn to the front, to a brightly lit platform where talented musicians perform polished numbers with ear splitting volume. (I have been to services where ear plugs are even offered to the worshippers). If this were a Christian concert, that would be fine, but this is supposed to be a worship service. The attention should not be on the great music, the rhythm, or the worship band, but on God. At such times I look around only to see that most of the people are not singing. They are disengaged and have become a passive audience to a program.

Here are three ways to reform our church services so that true worship might be encouraged instead of hindered:
• Teach and renew our minds about the meaning of worship.
• Insist on song lyrics that are profoundly God-centered. Sentimental songs about our own feelings and experiences are not helpful. Songs should be about the greatness of God, what He has done for us in Christ, or express our surrender to Him.
• Musicians should accompany but not dominate the singing. The volume should be low enough so that the voices of the congregation can be heard. Again, worship is not a performance, but a congregational experience, where the whole body of Christ is actively engaged.

Let us not just accept whatever pop Christianity serves up, but insist upon God’s standard for worship. As we set apart our lives for Christ alone – we will become more and more conformed to His image and we will know His abiding presence.