Theology and Practice: Worship

In English, His proper name is Jehovah.

He still answers to a lot of other things, but the business of worship is “calling on the name of the Lord.” That is a very ancient phrase that refers to celebrating the greatness and goodness of some important person. It includes bringing gifts that represent what their benevolence and protection provides to you. It is public promotion and acknowledgement. It means promoting that person’s fame based on their position. Thus, “their name” is a reference to their role in your life. So in English we call Jehovah things like God, Lord, Savior, Creator, etc. We call those “honorifics.”

Worship is shouting, singing, making offerings and similar activities and rituals related to focusing the attention on God. Worship does not include teaching and preaching. Those activities can be conducted in conjunction to gathering for worship, but they are not worship. The modern Western habit of referring to preaching as the “sacrament of the Word” is not biblical. Whatever else it is, it has become a way of focusing attention on the man, not His God. It elevates the preacher far too closely to God Himself.

Saying this does not hinge on some imaginary divine order of things, but is the proper answer to our cultural failures. A critical element of worship is recognizing the tension between the way things were done in some previous cultural context and the way we do things now. The New Testament Christian church meeting was based on the synagogue habit. The structure of synagogue meetings included the awareness that the only place one can hold formal corporate worship was in the Temple. That was commanded by God under the Covenant of Moses.

We are not under Moses and the Temple no longer exists. The collection of offering rituals commanded for Temple worship no longer apply. Christ is the one ritual sacrifice for all time. We now worship Him not in any temple, but in Spirit and in Truth. The location and setting are immaterial; what matters are the psychological effects on the worshiper. Thus, we develop a worship experience that pushes aside the world and brings our focus onto God alone.

As a counter to the particular sins of our age, I would suggest our best worship setting is as close to nature as the context permits. There’s nothing wrong with fitting a natural setting to the safe gathering of however many bodies show up, and all that it entails, but most public parks are much better than so-called “worship centers” commonly used in Western Christian worship. We need to get away from the imagery of building temples, because it takes the focus away from the nature of God as Spirit and puts too much emphasis on the “sacred” facilities. This only encourages materialism. We need the imagery of you and I as temples of God, that our lives are devoted to His sacred uses, not some material repository that separates us from our holiness.

Whatever reason we might have had for making preaching such a critical part of worship, it has turned out to be a mistake. We need to separate the preaching and prophetic word from worship rituals because our culture cannot avoid worshiping the speaker. We need to avoid placing ministering to people in proximity to ministering to God because it approaches blasphemy even at the best of times. Let us endeavor to stop calling New Testament synagogue meetings “worship.” Let us bring the sacrifice of our lives and and our worship in purity.

Let’s make worship about God and God alone.

About Ed Hurst

Avid cyclist, Disabled Veteran, Bible History teacher, and wannabe writer; retired.
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5 Responses to Theology and Practice: Worship

  1. forrealone says:

    ‘We need to get away from the imagery of building temples, because it takes the focus away from the nature of God as Spirit and puts too much emphasis on the “sacred” facilities. This only encourages materialism’ One of the prime motivators for me walking away from “church” was their intense push to build worship centers that placed members in an outrageous position of debt. How could those in need of help, the ones in the community, ever get that when the church was straddled with paying for this mighty edifice of ostentatiousness? To me, it was another example of hypocrisy.


  2. Ed Hurst says:

    Amen, Sister. It’s bad enough we have all kinds of secular regulations to deal with, but then churches throw vast resources building a fancy structures, when those resources could have been better used elsewhere.


  3. Iain says:

    There was a closet under the stairs leading from the former parsonage, now Sunday school classrooms and Wednesday meeting place, that led to the basement. It was repurposed as a quiet place for prayer and I often used it before Sunday service or Wednesday Prayer meetin’ to orient myself, our former Pastor and a couple or throuple of elders would pray every Sunday morning. A lot of Glory to God came out of that closet. The last time I needed it, it was being used as storage. I truly cannot express the sadness that weighed on my heart when I saw that. Gordon Noble preached what the people under his covering NEEDED to hear and sometimes it was a true toe stomper. The new guy, for all his likeableness preaches what the people WANT to hear. Our Church went from being something unique and special to just another “numbers are our success” Evangelical “salvation” mill. God’s blessings no longer shower it and the sad part is; no one noticed, in fact many are supremely pleased. The true dat be I didn’t leave them, they left me.
    PS. God used GN as a guide on my journey that led me to the covenant family of Radix Fidem: Faith Root.


  4. Ed Hurst says:

    What a heart-breaking tale, Bro. I have seen such things myself, so I know how it feels.


  5. Jay DiNitto says:

    There’s nothing wrong with buildings–it’s stated pretty bluntly that the early church met in homes–but that it’s an unofficial requirement for churches to have buildings is an artifact of materialism. Just another useless hurdle from our pal, Western civ.


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