How can I get more out of worship?
Football is America’s favorite spectator sport. An English visitor described the game as 22 men in desperate need of rest, being watched by 70,000 people in desperate need of exercise. And the math only gets worse.
The NFL estimates that 100 million people watch by television some part of a football game on any given Sunday. Given that 1,643 people make NFL rosters each year, that’s a ratio of 60,864 fans per player. Watching every mistake, every penalty. Every fan sure he or she could do it better.
We can afford to be spectators in some areas of our lives. But not with our souls. You and I will each stand personally before the God of the universe one day, to give account for the years he gave us to live. Here will be his first question: did you “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37)? Did you worship your Maker? We need to know what worship is, what it isn’t, and why it matters so much to our God and to our souls.
What is worship?
Let’s begin with what worship is, as God sees it. It’s not what our culture thinks it is, or even what many church attenders think it is. God defines worship as “love”: “Love the Lord your God.” Love is a verb, not a noun or an adjective here. It requires doing, not just attending, watching, or believing. You haven’t worshipped by attending church, listening to a sermon, singing hymns, or giving money. You’ve only worshipped when you’ve loved, adored, and honored. Worship is love.
Worship is loving God: “Love the Lord your God.” Worship is about God, not us. It’s not about what we “get” from the hour, but what we give to God. You are not the audience, and staff members are not the performers. Church ministers’ job is to help you do your job, to be worship “coaches,” to lead you to love God.
And worship is loving God in every way a human can love.
- With all our “hearts.” The word refers to our emotions, our senses. Worship involves an intuitive expression of love for God.
- With all our “souls.” The word means the life force itself, that which gives our bodies life, our very essence. Not as a peripheral matter but as your highest purpose and value today. Worship involves a passionate love for God.
- With all our “minds.” We are to have no ungodly thoughts, or songs, or movies, or television shows, or books in our minds. We are to think about our faith, to study God’s word, to engage intellectually in the worship of God.
- Mark’s version adds that we are to love God with all our “strength” (Mark 12:30). This means to love God with our actions, when the worship hour is done. God is looking for Monday Christians, Monday worshippers, Monday disciples.
Did you know that you can love God in the same way you love anyone else who matters to you? You can spend the day with him—talking with him, thinking about him. Tell him how you feel, what you’re thinking. Thank him for the good things you experience, for “every good and perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17). Ask him for what you need, and praise him for what he gives. Spend the day with Jesus. Love him. Worship him. This is his first commandment, his first expectation, for every day.
What worship is not
By these standards, worship is not performance, whether by the pastor or other worship leaders. God has called church leaders to help you worship God, but the attenders are the performers. Don’t evaluate worship today by the preacher’s performance, but by yours.
Worship is not entertainment. It is to be exciting and encouraging, but we are not in the entertainment business. Worship leaders do not exist to impress the congregation as their audience. Rather, the congregation is present to impress God.
Worship is not therapy. God helps us as we worship him, but our first purpose is to express our love for him. Interestingly, we get far more out of worship when we come, not for us, but for him. When we worship for his sake more than our own.
Worship is not evangelism. Evangelism results from worship, as people see Christ in our joy. But God doesn’t evaluate worship by how many public decisions get made at the front of the church. He measures our worship by how many hearts adore him all across the church.
Worship is not about us. It is about loving God, every service and every day.
Why does worship matter?
God made us for worship. This is why we were created. It’s why he gave us free will—so we could choose to worship him. Love must be a choice. God made us to make this choice. Nothing else fulfills us. Augustine was right: “Our hearts are restless until they rest in him.”
God empowers us when we worship. When did God empower Isaiah to go for him, Daniel to face the lions, the first Christians to witness at Pentecost? When did God shake the doorposts in Jerusalem and the prison bars in Philippi? When did Jesus reveal his heavenly splendor to John on Patmos? In worship. The power to serve God is found in worshipping God. If you want God’s power for your life and purpose, you must worship God every day. That’s how he empowers us.
And God deserves our worship. We love him because he first loved us (1 John 4:10). He created and redeemed us, and made us a place in his perfect heaven forever. He watched his Son die on our cross, to save our souls and purchase our salvation. He gave everything for us. He deserves our worship.
When did he last receive yours?