Every Sunday, millions of people walk into churches across the world to hear a message, sing, and pray. Unfortunately, in the United States, we have created a culture around going to church in order that we might be put into a better mood, feel happier, and “experience” the presence of God in a new way and then post about it on our social media. There is now a surge of phrases emerging in conversations on the sidewalk outside of our churches, phrases like: “I didn’t feel it today,” or “I couldn’t sing that song again, we sang it last week.”
Like many things in our consumer-focused society, we have made worship about us, our preferences, and our feelings. Emily Zell recently wrote that “it becomes problematic when we come to worship for the sake of an emotional high” (emphasis added). If we come to church or set aside quiet time with our chief motivation being to get a “spiritual high,” we are doing a disservice to ourselves. Worship (in this article worship references both corporate worship and how we live our lives) forms the people of God by providing us with a proper theology which in turn reorients our motivations.
Worship and Our Feelings
We have a kind, loving heavenly Father who desires that we know and enjoy him. We have been given the unique opportunity to worship the Father in particular and personal ways. It is important to note that there is a place for our feelings and our emotions in our times of worship.
For instance, recently we have had several articles come out about the season of Advent. The seasons of the church calendar aim to stir in our hearts different emotions and mental images to push us to see a specific aspect of Christ during that season. In advent, the Scripture plans we read or songs we sing are trying to get us to feel a sense of longing, of desire for Christ to return again. When our singing or reading is accompanied by feelings it is easier for us to continue in doing those disciplines everyday and it helps us to dive deeper into a personal relationship with the Lord. However important our feelings are to God, they are not the purpose of our worship.
The Value of Corporate Worship
A.W. Tozer says, “What we think about when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” We need corporate worship because in the church, we pray, sing songs, and listen to sermons that all build our theology (what we believe about God). Corporate worship gives us accountability with other believers in our community. By consistently attending the same church and placing ourselves under the doctrine of our churches, we are committing to reflect the beliefs of the church and more importantly, the teachings of the Bible. Thankfully, when we stop reflecting those things or when we miss church consistently, we have people who know us and are able to lovingly draw us back to the kindness of the Father. In this way, through good community and sound corporate worship, we are slowly formed to be compassionate, loving believers who walk humbly with one another and with God.
We Worship with Our Lives
Therefore, 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.
In addition so worship in our church services, we worship the Father with how we, as believers, live our lives. Worship is formative and manifests in a myriad of ways. We worship the Lord in how we do our homework, how we fold our laundry, how we greet people on our college campuses, and even in how we run on the treadmill. Each of these things is worship because each of these things and every small detail of our lives glorifies the Lord in how it represents His character or brings to light our desperate need for a savior, Jesus Christ.
There will be times when we need to pray or need to read our Bible for the first time in a while but we don’t seem to have a desire to do so. When we submit to what we know about God’s character, and when we pray even a one sentence prayer or simply open our Bible to a chapter we’ve read a dozen times, we are submitting to Him and developing obedience that helps to form us into a better light bearer of Christ’s Word.
In other segments of our “How ____________ forms the people of God” series we have explored the topics of community, liturgy, and prayer. Each of these practices helps form our worship which in turn forms us. Intentional community forms the people of God by providing us with accountability for how we live our lives. With gospel-centered community, we are able to make our day-to-day lives look more like Jesus’ and less like our broken ones. Through liturgy (consistent routines that shape our lives) we create patterns that help us to make time in our busy schedules to dive into the Word of God—even in times where it is hard or perhaps painful. Prayer allows us to enter into the throne room of God and petition Him about every burden, joy, fear, excitement, or trouble with a promise of peace in our souls.
Each of these practices helps form our daily lives, which forms our worship, shaping us as well. Let us now go, keeping in mind the prize set before us, to glorify the Father and one day be made perfect in His presence.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.