What I post each week on “From the Pastor’s Desk” will introduce and lead into our current teaching series, “The Church: Upward, Inward, Outward,” as will the links to other articles or posts that I include in my posts.
As a quick review, the topic of last week’s post (here) and this past Sunday’s teaching was relationships. We as God’s people must rethink and truly relearn the definition of “relationship” in light of what Scripture teaches. This begins by (re)learning that God himself is life and that the meaning of “life” can be understood solely by considering something’s connection and/or relation to the only living and true God. How are we connected to God / who are we in relation to him? The answer to this question (an “upward” question) is of primary importance in understanding anything about the life of the Church – whether upward, inward, or outward.
Having considered the nature of our relationship to God last week (both as individuals and as the Church), how, practically speaking, do we relate to and interact with him? The simple answer is “worship.”
Finding a unifying definition of worship is no easy task because of the diverse conceptions about “worship” even among true believers. (Remember the Christian family tree!). Is worship individual or corporate, what I do or what we do? Is worship what I experience or feel, or something in which we participate and share; something by which I bless God and he blesses me, or by which we bless God and he blesses us; something by which we show our love to God, or by which we encourage others? Or is it some mysterious combination of all the above, plus even more I have not listed? How do you define worship?
In a qualified sense, we can say for individual believers, “All of life is worship,” because they, having been reborn and possessing new hearts, are seeking to glorify God and to enjoy him in all aspects of life. In this world, though, all true believers still battle with sin and, as a result, worship imperfectly and hold imperfect views about worship. Consequently, the Lord has not left matters of worship to personal preference or priority. Individuals can truly worship as believers (i.e., because of the Holy Spirit working within them); but believers cannot truly worship only as individuals (i.e., when, where, or how they want to worship).
A true understanding of worship begins with a corporate mindset, not personal experience or perspective, with the work of God in and among the Church, not in or for an individual believer.
What about the Church, then? Can we say for the Church, as a corporate entity, “All of Church life is worship” (e.g. Bible studies, age and stage ministries, etc.)? Again, this might be true in a qualified sense (as was the case with individual believers), but in Scripture, the Church’s worship (i.e., its public assembly or corporate gathering) is defined much more clearly. At CPC, how do we define worship, how much liberty do we have in worship, and how do we make decisions about worship? Does the weekly time of corporate worship belong to us, so that we might decide how we can better love and honor God? Or does it belong to our Lord, who tells us how to love and honor him by obeying principles derived from his word?
Though the “upward” topic of worship might initially seem unrelated to “inward” (i.e., inside the Church) and “outward” (i.e., outside the Church) topics, our upward interaction with God is foundational for all other interactions, whether inward or outward. A proper understanding and application of what the Bible teaches about corporate worship must be the centerpiece, the heartbeat of our life at CPC.
The confusion surrounding worship is one of the primary causes of conflict(s) in the Church (big “C”) and in churches (little “c”). Particularly in local congregations, if there is no consensus about (1) what worship is and (2) what worship entails, is it any surprise that other conflicts arise? In other words, if a congregation is divided about how to interact with God himself, will not that congregation eventually be divided in their interactions with one another? This might sound strange at first, almost as if I am advocating for forced compliance with a particular model of worship: “Here is the only right way to worship God; thou shalt do it!” That is not what I am implying!!! What I am doing is highlighting the impact corporate worship has upon all other aspects of church life, in a particular body of believers. Where or when I heard this, I do not remember, but I urge you to remember the following “proverb” whenever you think about CPC or any other church…
As goes worship, so goes the Church.
The Bible proves that saying to be abundantly true, both in the OT and the NT. A church’s understanding of and participation in corporate worship is the foremost indicator of what a church values and the best predictor of where it is going.
Do you agree or disagree? Either way, I commend to you the following articles to read this week and look forward to continuing our teaching time and discussion this Sunday evening!