The writers of the New Testament spent very little time describing their worship services. Justin Martyr’s account is probably the most well-known and earliest description, but aside from not wearing jewelry and hair coverings and rules on tongues, there’s just not much practical detail in the canonical texts as to what these mysterious gatherings should look like. And what is offered (mostly by Paul) is usually in admonishment to a current issue in the early church. They do, however, take up much more real estate talking about the things that happened before the worshiping took place.
There are so many accounts in Scripture suffixed by: “…and they worshiped God”. I don’t know of one that begins “They worshiped God and…” Here’s my point: worship in the New Testament is clearly a response of some event that has happened, not just as the starting point of transformation. So, which is the chicken and which is the egg? I think it’s both. It’s the chegg.
A beggar, lame from birth, was healed. “And all the people saw him walking and praising God.” (Acts 3:9)
An Ethiopian man became a follower of Jesus. “And [he] went on his way rejoicing.” (Acts 8:39)
God gives the Holy Spirit to, yes, even the Gentiles. “And they glorified God.” (Acts 11:18)
You get the point. The tragedy is that in our busy, modern, easily compartmentable lives, ‘worship’ can be reduced to, at best, the time we drag ourselves to a building to be filled up for the coming week and, at worst, a proper noun for an hour on Sunday morning. What if we more often viewed Sunday (or whatever day you gather to worship with other believers) as the culmination of our week, not just Day 1? The time we eagerly gather with our brothers and sisters in Jesus to proclaim all He’s done in our lives and through us. To tell of how we’ve felt and seen His power at work and to praise Him for it. Would it reframe the art of praising the Father? It is and should be a time of spiritual refilling, but worship without reason is just Pharisaical religion.
Worship is cyclical. That means we worship because and we worship to. Don’t you think the beggar, the Ethiopian eunuch, and the Jews in Acts were conformed ever so slightly more to the image of Christ as a result of their worship? If we focus too much on worship as a cause (a spiritual gas pump), we condition ourselves to forget the whole reason we’re worshiping. We could start thinking worship is purely for ourselves. Our fix. Worship is, first and always, for the Father. It is both the ending point and the starting point for the Christian which propels us back into its own gravity.
True worship causes itself. But it requires fuel. And as I examine my life there is often far too much resisting transformation and far too little fuel.
What is worship to you? Cause or effect?