When we gather as a church family, we gather for one reason – to worship God; that is, to exalt the name of the Lord in one another’s hearts, and to have our desire and love for Him deepened in our own hearts. In doing so, we declare Him glorious before our community and invite them to become worshippers of God.
It is easy to speak about worship as our purpose and goal, but it often remains a bit abstract as to what we are actually talking about. Certainly, to worship God is to declare him to be worthy of all glory and to value Him above all, but how do we actually do that when we gather as the church ?
The Bible has given us several specific ways in which we should worship God when we come together as a church family. We will consider them below.
Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.1 Timothy 4:13
1. Preach/Teach the Bible (Acts 2:42-47, 1 Timothy 4:13)
When we think of a gathered worship service, most of us think of someone preaching or teaching the Bible – and for good reason. If God is to be exalted in our hearts and the hearts of others, we must hear from God through His Word. When we carefully listen to the Bible being taught, we proclaim the value of the Word and of God Who gave it to us. And not just any sermon or lesson will do. If the Bible is truly to be exalted, then the main point of the Biblical text must be the main point of the sermon or Bible lesson. That is called expositional preaching and teaching. Many today seek to teach their own ideas and sprinkle in Bible verses to add credibility. The church that teaches the ideas of men worships men. The church that teaches the Bible worships God.
2. Read the Bible (1 Timothy 4:13)
Where there is no Bible, there is no worship. Reading the Scriptures is most often thought of as something done privately (and certainly it should be), but it is also important for corporate worship. Reading the Bible publicly ties us to the Scriptures. If someone does not read the Bible at home, they should not be able to continue fasting from Scripture when the church gathers. If we seek to exalt God, we must exalt His Word – and one way to do that is by simply reading it.
I have stored up your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you.
Blessed are you, O Lord;
teach me your statutes!
With my lips I declare
all the rules of your mouth.
In the way of your testimonies I delight
as much as in all riches.
I will meditate on your precepts
and fix my eyes on your ways.
I will delight in your statutes;
I will not forget your word.Psalm 119:11-16
3. Memorize/Meditate on the Bible (Psalm 119:11-16)
People study and remember and think about what they value. A financial investor studies and remembers investment tactics. A sports fan studies and remembers players and statistics. A Christian studies, memorizes, and meditates on the Bible. Memorizing the Bible gives us stronger ability to fight temptation and gives us the tools to meditate on Scripture throughout the day when we may not have the written Word in front of us. A valuable way for the church to worship God is memorizing and meditating on the Bible together.
4. Fellowship around the Bible (Acts 2:42-47)
Often when we think of a “church fellowship”, the last thing we think of is the Bible. That is not only unfortunate, but biblically misguided. When the Bible talks about believers fellowshipping, it is not a reference to followers of Christ getting together for fried chicken and a good cup of coffee, while leaving God and His Word for a different time. Biblical church fellowship happens as we are exalting God and His Word in the lives of one another. Let’s use our relationships to point each other to Christ – we are worshipping God as we do so!
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47
5. Ordinances – Communion and Baptism (Acts 2:38-47)
Communion is a special kind of worship in the local church. It is a way for a church to remember the sacrifice of Christ that brought them together. It is a way for them to publicly declare who is in the family of God. It is also a way for them to anticipate the coming marriage super of the Lamb where every believer from all tribes, tongues, and nations will gather to feast together. The symbolism in each of these ways should lead our hearts to exalt God. Similarly, baptism is how the church publicly affirms that someone is indeed a follower of Christ – symbolizing physically what has taken place spiritually in their lives and adding them to their local body. These ways of worship praise God for creating a people for Himself and publicly declare to the world who those people are.
6. Giving (Acts 2:42-47)
We exalt God by giving. Understanding that we are merely stewards of our possessions is foundational to a right spirit of giving – all we have belongs to God anyway! What we value, we sacrifice for. What we sacrifice for, we treasure. If our treasure is truly found in God, we will joyfully sacrifice time, money, effort, and convenience for the sake of Him being known. The giving of God’s people is another way that He is exalted in our lives.
7. Prayer (Acts 2:42-47)
The Bible is how God talks to us. Prayer is how we talk to God. God uses both to change our hearts. Prayer in the life of the church takes on several different forms and yet is always for worship. When we praise God in prayer, we exalt His greatness and goodness. When we repent to God in prayer, we exalt His holiness, mercy, and grace. When we make requests to God in prayer, we exalt His kindness and fatherly love toward us. When we yield our desires to Him in prayer, we exalt His trustworthiness, His sovereignty and the goodness of His plan.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.Colossians 3:16
8. Singing (Colossians 3:16)
When people refer to “worship”, most often the particular form of worship they think of is singing. Though it is only one part of worship, it is an important one. It is in this form that we are able to combine the words that exalt God with the emotions that treasure Him. It is in singing that we proclaim most visibly that we not only know God, but that we love Him, treasure Him and are enthralled with Him. We teach one another both what to think and what to feel about God when we sing together in worship.
As we consider the different times that we gather as a church family, we seek to use these elements of worship as our guide. What may not be emphasized in the morning service becomes top priority for our evening gathering. What is emphasized strongly in the morning may not get a place of prominence in the evening. Let’s be intentional about what we do and understand why we do it. Worship is important; that is why we come together. How we worship matters to God – and it is Him that we seek to honor and exalt.