Why did Jesus take his disciples so far north to ask them a couple simple questions? Caesarea Philippi was in pagan territory after all! Let’s take an unofficial tour and see this famous bible story with new eyes…
Worship is a meeting between God and his people. Like all other meetings between two people, a certain amount of form is necessary. . . . God has already established the structural ingredients needed in a meeting with him, and we cannot improve on these forms. We simply need to understand what they are and practice them in faith, believing that we really are meeting God in…Preparation [Gathering], Word, Table [Communion], and Dismissal [Sending].
Worship is not for the purpose of remembering the Reformation, hailing the founding of America, saluting mothers, boy scouts, girl scouts, or grandparents. Worship does not celebrate Independence Day, Memorial Day, or Labor Day.
Worship remembers the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. . . . All that goes into an actual service of worship must pertain to the event of God revealing himself to us, becoming incarnate in our history, and redeeming us from the power of the evil one, setting us free to enjoy him forever.
Scriptures read and preached forms my entire life in the world—personal, family, vocation, ethical. In this way worship sets the world in order, educates me about my place in it, and inspires me to understand God’s ways of dealing with me and with his people.
This past weekend, we had a tech crisis. But in the middle of a crisis, our bigger problem was loving one another. All of life is worship and that includes the way we love another another.
All of life is worship, but how is worship a declaration of war? What other things are going to war for our heart, souls, minds and strengths? What is the connection with allegiance? We walk and talk this week about how worship is war.
I have a confession.
I grew up thinking that worship was only for believers. Now, I think you can make a case that only a believer can worship God in spirit and in truth, but how should we arrange our services with the third audience, the outside world, in mind?
A number of years ago, I took a class called “Perspectives on the World Christian Movement”. It’s not a very exciting title, I know, but the class changed my whole perspective on worship. Every week we had a different speaker who helped us understand what God has been doing in the world to build his Kingdom starting in the OLD TESTAMENT! Did you know that God’s heart has ALWAYS been to have the nations hear the good news? I hadn’t realized that this was God’s message to Adam and Eve, to Abraham, to David and on and on…to Jesus and then the early church. God has always wanted his people to be a light and welcome anyone who comes. As God says in the Psalms (46:10, 47:1, 18:49, 22:27)
“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy.
Therefore I will praise you, Lord, among the nations; I will sing the praises of your name.
All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him…
And as author and pastor, Tim Keller, writes,
It is a false dichotomy to insist that if we are seeking to please God we must not ask what the unchurched feel or think about our worship…God wants the world to overhear us worshipping him. God directs his people not to simply worship, but to sing his praises “before the nations.” We are not to simply communicate the gospel to them, but celebrate the gospel before them.*
Did you know that this happens at ECC? We have people to walk up to our pastors after service and say, “I’m not a believer, but I’m thinking about what you said…” We have people who are sitting in the seats who come to church, but aren’t following Jesus Monday through Saturday.
This is why I think Keller’s emphasis on the gospel is so important. Not just because unbelievers need to hear it (and they do!), but that the gospel is what all three groups need to hear! God wants us to tell him about what he has done for us in Jesus. Believers need to be reminded and shaped by the gospel. Un-believers need to be saved by the gospel.
We can focus only on seekers instead of encouraging believers and get lost in making Jesus “relevant”.
We can focus only on building up believers and make things incomprehensible and outdated for seekers.
We need to make sure that our services are fresh, conversational and understandable while always focusing on the gospel.
By focusing on the gospel, we bring all three audiences together in worship.
*Tim Keller quote from “Evangelistic Worship” as used in Rhythms of Grace. Thanks to Mike Cosper for the concept of the three audiences in worship. His book is an excellent read. I highly recommend it!
Who comes to church?
Does that sound like a stupid question?
I mean when you stand outside of our church on the weekend and watch the cars enter the parking lot, it’s obvious, right? People are coming to church! They might be different in age, background, race or status, but they are all people!
But is that it?
The less obvious answer is that God comes to church too…in us.
Paul asks us in 1 Corinthians 3:16,
“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s spirit dwells in you?”
So when we come together as a church, God comes with us. God is everywhere, I know. But God’s spirit lives inside us as scattered temples that gather together as a larger temple to worship as a community. Paul expands this thought in Ephesians…
…you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. -1 Corinthians 3:16
So we are scattered temples of God through out the world. But that’s not the whole picture. While it might seem strange to us as American Christians, this isn’t written to you as an individual! This is written to all of us as the church community! We are all being built up into a big temple together with Jesus as the cornerstone.
Another crazy thought is that the goal of us coming together isn’t just to meet with God in worship. Think about it. God’s spirit lives inside of you. Because of the work of Jesus, you can meet with the spirit of God anytime and anyplace. So why would we come together? We come together to meet with other people who are also filled with God’s spirit. Gathered worship is the meeting of God’s people, filled with God’s spirit.
And this brings us back to “worship scattered”. We gather together to be built up into a holy temple of the Lord which is then scattered throughout the world during the week where we continue to worship God with our lives. As author Mike Cosper writes,
“Gathered worship then feeds scattered worship, building up and equipping worshipers to live in the power and wonder of the gospel…Likewise, scattered worship feeds gathered, as each worshiper brings his or her growth, suffering and maturing faith to the gathering.”**
Colossians 3:16-17 has this same idea…it starts with gathered worship…
Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.
And moves to scattered worship…
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
This is the rhythm of worship that God has designed for us. All of life is worship. We come together to encourage, learn and grow and then be sent out again to worship in the world. And we do it all, “in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. That is worship…scattered and gathered.
* This is a continuation of the blog post, “Worship Scattered”.
** Thanks to Mike Cosper for the content on “worship gathered” and “worship scattered” from Chapter 5 of his book, Rhythms of Grace. It’s an excellent read. I highly recommend it!
I have a picture of my parents sitting on a swing at their apartment in Chicago. It was taken before I was born when they were young, newly weds. I love this black and white photo. In fact, I am fascinated by my parent’s life BEFORE I was born. I think many of us are fascinated by what comes before. That is why we have prequels to movies, right?
Did you know that there was worship before Creation?
Let’s break it down first. What is worship? Well, the word actually comes from the Old English meaning to “ascribe worth” to something or someone. So, let’s think about it. Before creation the Father, Son and Holy Spirit were in a loving community. They ascribed perfect love, worth and glory to each other. And that will happen for all eternity. The three persons of the Trinity always keep the worth and wonder of one another in view. It is out of this loving relationship that creation sprang forth and it added to the glory and worth of God.
This might seem strange to you because we live in a “selfie-culture” where everyone seems to be trying glorify themselves and their lives for all of their “followers”. Music artists proclaim that they are the best and athletes that they are “#1”. Is God just trying to make himself look good?
Think about it in terms of a couple who is newly in love. They can’t STOP talking about each other! They want to be together all the time! It comes up in conversation whether you want to talk about it or not! They can’t stop giving glory to each other because they see what an amazing thing this new love is.
God is doing just that. The Father says, “This is my Son, with whom I am well pleased!” The Son says, “Father, I want those you have given me to…see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.” The Holy Spirit doesn’t speak in red letter in your Bible, but is always pointing to the worth and glory of the Jesus and the Father.
So actually, God giving worth to himself is nothing like our “selfie-culture”. God’s view is never exaggerated. God is always perfect in His justice, goodness and truth. God is just helping us see Himself as he really is. And that is a true gift. When we give worship and glory to God, we are declaring, “Look, isn’t God wonderful!” (because He really IS!) This is the true worship from before the creation of the world.