What is worship?

Worship is more than a song or a speech. Worship is more than a performance or an event on Sunday. 

Worship is an inward feeling and outward action that reflect the worth of God.

A church’s worship service is to be focused on God. Not just leaders, but the entire congregation are to realize as they gather together they are in the presence of God and respond appropriately. But often, a worship service is derailed by selfishness and self-centered attitudes.

Worship that is focused on you ceases to be worship.

The Corinthian church had some similar problems in their public worship service. Though Paul gave specific instructions in 1 Corinthians 11 to that culture, the principles on dealing with worship problems are timeless. I discovered three principles to help our worship services.

Public worship should honor authority (Read 1 Corinthians 11:1-16)

The Christian faith brought freedom to all. All are equal at the foot of the cross: Greek and Jew, male and female, master and slave. But some carried their freedom to excess. Women in that culture showed submission to their husband by wearing a veil. Women were flaunting their freedom and attending the worship service without a veil and it was causing problems in the worship service. In Corinth, unveiled women were either cultic priestesses or prostitutes.

Paul goes back to Creation and reminds the Corinthians of God’s line of authority. God – Jesus – Husband – Wife. Family authority is not cultural or legalistic. It is Biblical.

The authority of a husband does not mean superiority. Jesus was not less of God than the Father but He was subject to Him. A wife is not less a person because she is subject to her husband. No organization functions successfully without recognized authority to whom others submit.

In addition, unveiled or short hair on women, as well as veiled or long-haired men was a disgrace. Paul encouraged the Corinthians for men to look like men and women to look like women. God made differences between men and women. What a person wears sends a message. Christians should not dress or act in a way that suggests a person is sexually unfaithful, homosexual, or a devotee of a non-Christian religion or cult.

What we are on the outside should represent who we are on the inside.

When worship is more about expressing our independence and self-centered attitudes and less about our submission to the Lordship of Christ, it is dangerously close to idolatry. Worship should lead to a deeper submission to God and to those He places as our authority.

Public worship should unite the church (See 1 Corinthians 11:17-22)

Since its beginning, the church has always been a place to eat together. But Paul had no praise for how the Corinthians gathered to eat together. They were doing more harm than good.

The Love Feast practiced by the early church was like a giant potluck. Everyone brought what they could so all could share. The church was the only place where all the barriers were down: Greek and Gentile, men and women, rich and poor, master and slave all ate together. Possibly it was the only good meal for the poor all week. But the rich decided to have a separate meal and then eat the Lord’s Supper together. What was supposed to be a time of unity and thanksgiving become a time of division and judgment.

A church is not true to itself if it is not a place of sharing together.

The church is to be a place to share what we have with one another. It’s better not to meet, stay at home and eat.

Public worship should exalt Jesus (See 1 Corinthians 11:23-34)

Following the scolding about what they were doing wrong, Paul reminds them of how they were supposed to conduct the Lord’s Supper.

They were to look back at what Jesus did for them on the cross. The bread and cup they ate would remind them of Jesus’ body and blood that was sacrificed for them. It was not the literal blood of Jesus because He was still in His body. The “cup” represented the new covenant – Jesus’ blood removed the sins of all who put their faith in Him.

They were to look forward. Jesus would return and bring all believers together.

They were to look inside. They should examine themselves for sin and confess it to be clean. They were experts at examining everybody else except themselves.

They were to look around. They should wait for each other and eat together. They should have interest in others before themselves.

Paul didn’t say we had to be worthy to take the Lord’s Supper. He said we should partake in a worthy manner. How?

  1. Examine yourself.
  2. Judge the body rightly – Jesus and the Church
  3. Wait for one another.

The Lord’s Supper is a family meal. The Lord of the family desires His children to love and care for one another.

it is easy to let selfishness slip into congregational life. When we are more concerned with the style of music, temperature of the church, the participants and personalities of the congregation, or a myriad of other distractions, we lose focus on why we are to gather together – worship God.

One Sunday a lady announced to her pastor that it was her last Sunday at church. She said, “In every church service I see young people on their cell phones not paying attention. We have too much gossip and I know some of the people don’t live much of a Christian life. So, I’ve decided I should leave this church.” The pastor responded, “I’m sorry to hear that. Would you do one thing before you leave? Can go back to our kitchen and get me a glass of water, trying not to spill a drop?” She responded with a “Sure.” When she returned, he asked if she spilled any water. “Obviously, not”, she said. Then he asked her if she noticed anyone on their cell phone or anyone gossiping. She replied, “I didn’t notice anyone. I was too busy concentrating on the glass of water.” He wisely reported to her. “It’s interesting that when you’re focused on one thing, you don’t notice others. If we could focus on God in our worship, we would seldom notice the faults of others. When our focus is on others, we cannot clearly focus on God.”

May your worship be truly centered on God. He deserves all our praise and adoration.