Forget Judge Judy—even though reports claim she’s the highest paid woman on television. Forget Judge Wapner—even though he was the first TV judge on the old “People’s Court.” Why? Put me in a worship service, and my church seat miraculously transforms itself into a judge’s bench. Just replace Judge Judy’s pic above with mine, and you get the idea. Well, skip the best paid and the gender, but you get the picture.
I judge the music—is it loud and strong enough, too loud, or too hymn-like? Does it move my emotions? I judge the message—is it biblical, or touch my life, or is it how I’d approach the text? I judge it all! The premise underlying this: worship should meet my needs. I need the spiritual refreshing and encouraging and teaching to follow Jesus in this contrary culture that is my soul.
And when I do this, I totally miss the meaning of worship. Here’s just one passage that shows that: “He is wonderful! Praise him and bring an offering into his temple. Everyone on earth, now tremble and worship the Lord, majestic and holy” (Psalm 96:8-9. CEV). At the core of worship, we acknowledge the overwhelming value of God.
That’s the root of our English word “worship:” worthyship, or that God has more worth than anything else. The most common Greek word means to bow down, to respond to God’s greatness in humility.
Here’s where I erred. In worship, I most valued what God could give me, and I became judgmental. But worship focuses on God’s worth, not our needs. That brings humility, not self-absorption. I reversed the roles. Earlier, I watched the performance by the leaders as God helped them. All for my benefit. In truth, God watches the congregation perform worship as our leaders help us. That’s the meaning of the word “liturgy”—the work of the people.
So, if we wish to passionately pursue God, then we need to have the proper perspective on the object of worship. God. Ironically, the more we focus on God’s transcendence, the more our needs get met. But they become results of worship, not the purpose.
Kick Starting the Application
Why do you worship? Have you pondered that lately? Do you focus more on your desires or on the person of God? How can you enhance how you worship?
Do you worship? Some surveys indicate more people outside the gathered church claim allegiance to Christ than those within. I tend to agree with that. For those outside, I encourage you to meditate on the unique role of gathered worship. Obviously, if worship is life, then all we do should acknowledge God’s preeminence, but gathering has an essential role in healthy worship as well.
For all, followers of Jesus in church or outside, or those curious: how can worship transform how you follow?