The Worship of the Church
The Psalter ends with Psalm 150:6: “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Praise the LORD!” God has created us and given us breath so that we can worship Him and give Him praise.
In December 2009, after I had just landed in Atlanta, I received the news that the beloved grandfather of my wife had died and was with Jesus. A few days later at the funeral, as I was standing at the open casket, I had to think of the words of Psalm 150:6 and what an incredible gift from God it is to have breath and to be able to give praise to our holy God.
My countryman Johann Sebastian Bach wisely signed the music that he had composed with the letters SDG for soli Deo gloria, which means “To the glory of God alone.” Bach also wrote that “the aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul.”
That is exactly what worship is all about—the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul. Of all the things that a Bible-believing church does, nothing is more important than when the church comes together in corporate worship. For it is in corporate worship that God’s people together declare that God is worthy of our highest praise and adoration for who He is and for what He has done.
In Exodus 20:3, God says, “You shall have no other gods before me,” and two verses later, He says, “You shall not worship them or serve them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God” (NASB). If God is truly our first love, if He truly is our God, then we will become more and more passionate about godly worship that celebrates and glorifies Him.
According to John 4:24, godly worship is worship “in spirit and truth.” Therefore, our worship services need to be clearly guided by Scripture and they need to be filled with the Word of God and with the Holy Spirit. James Montgomery Boice was right when he said, “The Bible and the teachings of the Bible need to be central in worship.” Biblical worship is marked by God-centered preaching, the reading of Scripture, praise, prayer, and the administration of the sacraments. The focus is on God, on who He is and what He has done. When our worship services have that focus, God is glorified and we are refreshed in our souls and strengthened in our faith.
My church, Gospel Church München in Munich, Germany, ministers in a very secular environment. Many people there initially don’t think that it is important to come regularly to a worship service. Also, many non-Christians in Munich don’t want you to talk to them in a personal conversation about Christ and the teachings of the Bible. The amazing thing that I have observed in the midst of this very secular environment is this: every Sunday, God is bringing a good number of non-Christians to our worship service, and because it is a worship service, the non-Christians are suddenly OK with the pastor’s preaching for about thirty-five minutes on a passage from the Bible. God is using the preached Word to glorify Himself, save the lost, and build up His church. An encouraging number of non-Christians return to our worship services, and often they are converted after they have come to the services for months or even years.
At the same time, God is using the worship services to disciple the Christians and make them more like Christ. As they fall more in love with Christ, they start coming more often to worship. The cumulative effect of the preached Word can be seen as their lives are changed to the glory of God.
What we do and hear during our corporate worship services on Sundays is what should drive, guide, and encourage us during the rest of the week. In that sense, corporate worship should overflow in a natural way in our worshiping God in all areas of life: to glorify God at school, at the workplace, in our families, and in our other relationships.
Amid the fast pace of daily life, it is important for families and single people to take time for worshiping God through a quiet time in Scripture and in prayer, and through a time of praying out loud, which can take place, for example, while driving or in formal family worship. God-centered worship glorifies God and it fuels our love for God and man. Soli Deo gloria.