Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Enter to Serve and Depart to Worship

Are we done? Calling our Sunday services "worship" services, that is. 

Let me ask you a question. Where will you be worshiping this weekend? That's NOT the same question as "Where will you be going to church this Sunday?" Today I worshiped God by lifting, running, and doing farm work. Oh, and eating. This weekend I will be mowing, trimming trees, running, and speaking 3 times on Sunday. I do not go to church to worship. I go as a worshipper. That's because worship is, according to the clear teaching of Paul, daily (Rom. 12:1-2). And when we do go to church, the reason we do so is not for worship. Again, Paul is clear: when we come together as a church, we do so for mutual edification (see 1 Cor. 14:26). 

Howard Marshall was professor of New Testament at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. Among his many publications is a major work on the theology of the New Testament. 

In an important essay called "Did the Early Christians Worship God?" (Churchman 99 [1985] p. 220), he writes:

It is true that Christian meetings can be described from the outside as occasions for worshipping God and also that elements of service to God took place in them, but the remarkable fact is that Christian meetings are not said to take place specifically to worship God and the language of worship is not used as a means of referring to them or describing them. To sum up what goes in a Christian meeting as being specifically for the purpose of "worship" is without New Testament precedent. "Worship" is not an umbrella-term for what goes on when Christians gather together.

If we want to meet with God and worship him, we do not have to go to any special place be it in Jerusalem, Gerizim, or a church building. To truly worship God, I need to change the whole direction and focus of my life. Worship means showing my love for Christ by living for him at home, with my friends, at my workplace, and in my leisure. Worship can't be confined to a building one day a week. Someone has said, "To say 'I'm going to church to worship this Sunday' is about as ridiculous as saying 'I'm going to bed to breathe for a while.'" Worship includes the whole of life. 

"Edification service." That's what it is. To reverse an old slogan seen on a church's bulletin board:

Enter to serve and depart to worship.