When people think of church often the main image they have is attending a “worship service” on a Sunday morning. Now there is plenty to be said about how there is much more to church than Sunday morning, but it is also important to explain what exactly Sunday morning is all about. I’ve written elsewhere about the reality that we all worship, whether you claim to be a “religious” person or not, but this post is about the worship that happens on Sunday mornings. As the great worship teacher/leader, Robert Webber, says, “Worship is the rehearsal of the Christ event through which one’s experience with God is established, maintained, and repaired.”
“Worship is the rehearsal of the Christ event…” Every week worship is to clearly show what God has done for the world in Jesus Christ. This is why the Church gathers; because God has done something in Jesus. Historically the way that the Christ event is proclaimed is through the reading and preaching of the Word of God and celebrating the Table of the Lord. Everything before that is a preamble to the main event, and everything afterwards is the resolution to the main event.
The way our “experience with God is established, maintained, and repaired” is through our response to God’s action. At Cobblestone we do the following.
God Calls- Call to Worship, Opening Prayers, Confession of Sin
We Respond- Prayers and Confession of Sin.
God Speaks- Assurance of Forgiveness, Reading of Scripture, Preaching of the Word
We Respond- Giving of our tithes and offerings.
God Acts- Communion. “Jesus… wants not just to influence us, but to rescue us; not just to inform us, but to heal us; not just to give us something to think about, but to feed us, and to feed us with himself. That’s what this meal is all about.” (N.T. Wright)
We Respond - We take Communion together and rejoice in song. Closing Prayer
God Sends- Benediction and Dismissal
We Respond- We go and serve.
Something really important to notice here is that worship is about what God has done and then our response to his work. As another pastor recently put it, “When people sometimes tell me they don’t get anything from worship, I am happy to answer, ‘That’s great! Because its not about you.’ Our culture needs a place — we need a place in our lives — to tell us that not everything is always about us, about our personal happiness, our convenience, our frantic timetables, or shrinking commitments.”
Why do we need this space where it isn’t about us and more importantly it is about God? My old pastor used to say, “true worship occurs when we set our affections on God. Our affections are not merely emotions, but our motives – the things that drive us and that we truly treasure. If we do not worship God, we worship other finite things. We set our hearts on relationships, careers, money, accomplishments, approval, comfort, control – deriving our meaning and sense of self-worth from them. When we worship God, we pull our affections off those things and set them on God.” We need our affections turned to God because when we worship those other things we realize that they don’t give us life; we realize instead that they lead to our spiritual death.
One of the ways that our church, and many other churches, have tried to ensure that our worship keeps its God-centered direction is to do a similar form of worship every week. While some are of the opinion that this may make worship rote for them, we must remember that worship is not about us; it is about what God has done and our response to his work. In the same way that a husband consistently tells his wife that he loves her, either as a meaningless routine or a life-giving habit, the choice is ours. We decide whether worship becomes rote or does not.