We tend to think wrongly about worship! First, we tend to think that “worship” and “fellowship” are different. We tend to compartmentalize the Christian life, thinking that “worship” is what happens when we sing together at church (forgetting the reading the Word and hearing the Word as well as prayer is worship). We think that “worship” is what happens during the service while “fellowship” is what happens after the service is over.
Secondly, our culture has trumpeted “individualism” and that “life is all about me” so we tend to carry that over to the church. We think (sometimes consciously and sometimes unconsciously) that a worship style must suit our taste or that worship must be catered to newcomers. Because of the impact of our culture we think that worship is individualistic. “If I don’t get something out of worship” there must be something wrong with the worship leader or the pastor,” is how we think.
David Wells helps us to think much more biblically about these two issues. Read, think, and let it affect the way you view this Sunday.
Our koinonia, our fellowship, arises from the fact that we are “one” in Christ. We are not “one” in the sense that we do the same work, have the same interests, share the same musical tastes, have the same disposition, speak the same language, live in the same culture, belong to the same ethnic group, are part of the same generation, or have the same network of friends. We are one in Christ. The common grounding that we have is in this divine work, this antecedent grace, this uniting bond by the Spirit, in the Son, and before the Father. This is why we are summoned into church to express our common praise and adoration. We have received and believed the same gospel. We share the same faith. We worship before the same triune God. We belong in the same universal church. We may not use the same language in our praise, but we praise the same triune God. We come to worship from different places in our life, with different challenges, but we come to be instructed by the same Word of God. All of this is symbolically represented as we gather to share in the same Lord’s Supper. It is these truths that give our worship its content.
Here, in this one word, we have captured both the vertical dimension of our worship and the horizontal. Worship is centrally about bringing our praise and adoration to God— Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And yet it is the gathered church, in a specific location, that does this. We also speak to one another as we worship God. We join our voices as we sing and hear each other sing. We participate together in the praise, confess our sins together, and with one voice join in the prayer that is offered publicly. That prayer is not an individual’s prayer that the rest of the congregation overhears. It is the congregation’s prayer, voiced by an individual on its behalf. We hear in each other’s presence the words of assurance. We listen together to the exposition of God’s Word, and together we receive the benediction. Today, though, the prospect of this wonderful, intergenerational, multiethnic experience, the experience of the one people of God, has fallen before so many cultural impulses.
Wells, David F. (2014-01-31). God in the Whirlwind: How the Holy-love of God Reorients Our World (Kindle Locations 3264-3280). Crossway. Kindle Edition.