What is the Purpose of Worship?

I have been thinking a lot about worship lately. My recent post about beer and worship flows from that thinking.

I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist the pun.

Seriously, I have been thinking a lot lately about why we worship.

In some circles it thrives, but in other circles it dies. Some people are passionate and some are passive about worship. Some innovate, some replicate.

What is the purpose of worship?

In one of the comments in reply to my beer and the church posting, someone asked if I thought it was a fad. I do not think it is a fad because I think it points to a significant trend.

I believe it reflects an authentic attempt to find ways to introduce the teaching of Jesus Christ to people who do not relate to the institutional church.

There are many people who are exploring how to connect with those the church seems to have left behind or failed to reach. An example is Nadia Volz Weber’s work with the marginalized folks in our society that I wrote about last week.

In another sense, the seeker driven and purpose driven church emphases in the last thirty years reflect this same approach. The emergent church and, now, ancient-future worship explorations, all represent people within the Church struggling to be on mission in a post-modern and changing world.

The church has remained vital and relevant across the ages in direct relationship to its ability to reinvent itself for different cultures. The most effective reinventions have remained true to biblical models and found a way to articulate scriptural truths in new ways.

As you seek an opportunity for authentic encounter with God, in a church or even in a pub, think about these three traits which reflect the purpose of worship.

Not consuming but giving.

The earliest encounters between human beings and God involve people making offerings to God. From the story of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4 to the heavenly scene in Revelation 4, worship revolves around offerings being given to God.

The American consumer culture resists giving because our possessions define us. When worship asks us to give something back to God it creates a crisis of possession within us.

Whatever the location or style of worship, the focus should be on offering ourselves and that which we possess to God.  It is difficult but very simple at the same time.

Whenever our worship choices are defined by personal preferences then we are not focused on giving ourselves to God.

Not entertaining but revealing.

Worship involves exposing ourselves to God. It is about confession. It is about repentance. It is about honesty.

One knock against contemporary worship is its sleek production values and emphasis on quality performances. However, I have been in many a country church that would never allow the godly off-key woman or man a chance to sing the choir solo. The church has long struggled with the human desire to be entertained.

Perhaps the best worship is the worship that most reveals our faults.

Whenever our worship choices are defined by production values and not repentance then we are not focused on revealing ourselves to God.

Not empowering but humbling.

Worship, by definition, humbles us. We come to God, kneel before God, and admit that we cannot survive without God’s love.

In a society that teaches and preaches self-reliance, to worship God means to humble ourselves, and bow before the living God.

Worship is not about self-help, but about God-dependence.

Whenever our worship choices are defined by motivational messages and not humility and dependence then we are not focused upon our reliance upon God.

What is the purpose of worship?

Whether we worship in cathedrals, pubs, or homes, we best discover the purpose of worship through giving of ourselves, opening our very lives to God, and offering ourselves to God.

How do you experience worship? Do you see the purposes of worship differently or the same? What would you add to the conversation?