Pauls Place
A place of reflection, joy and wonder

Threefold characteristics of Worship

There are certain elements of worship that can't be refuted, that it must be pleasing and glorifying to God. That's irrefutable. There are others that are more subjective than objective - although perhaps they all reflect the first premise - that worship must be pleasing and glorifying to God.

We worship a magnificent aweful God, whose might covers the ages, whose love extends to the giving of His Son, whose ways are a mystery, yet who knows the number of hairs on our heads. Therefore, I believe that worship should reflect that. The first characteristic I believe is BEAUTY. When worship extends beyond the rafters of our churches we recognise a type of beauty that cannot really be described - in fact it becomes a very attribute of God. I wonder why the musicians at the dedication of the Temple had to practice so hard and then to find that God came and messed up all their plans. Then when I think a little closer, I realise that these musicians had to prepare themselves, to bring an excellence in their worship that was to (imperfectly) reflect the perfectness of God. But their dedication to their task, brought a sweet smell to God, He honoured that with His very Presence. When our worship is excellent that same incense breaks forth into the very courtyards of heaven, the angels breathe in and they worship and rejoice - and the Holy Spirit comes and joins with us in that worship. When this happens there is a special beauty about it that is almost indescribable. Do not come to worship unprepared, come with worshipping hearts and a gift to God that is a thing most wonderful.

Paul talks about the chaos that existed in the Corinthian church and that brings me to the other two characteristics. Jesus talks about coming as children, with "simple" trust. Take the simplicity out of worship and it becomes a symphony - a great performance that may sound great and pleases the people but that is the glory already. Its like the man that prays aloud on the street corner - he already has his glory. Recently I heard a period of worship within a conference setting. This normally means for most people a great rock gospel band really "going for it". But in this case the whole congregation only sung one word in worship. The name of Jesus was on every lip. With no band, no music other than the voices singing it became a worship that was self-sustaining. It needed no prompting, no helping along. The worship of the people of God should be corporate and accessible to all, not to a few. The worship needs to be appropriate, it needs to be helpful, it needs to be SIMPLE. Over elaborating worship, making it complicated, or making it a performance is not worship, it is the same as the man praying on the street corner and only lasts as long as the prayer. Worship needs to be healing, building up, breaking down the strongholds.

Finally worship must be in UNITY. As a worship leader, I want the whole congregation to come into the presence of God, not just a few. I want the band, the singers, the pastors, the deacons and the congregation to come into the very presence of God, to worship at His footstool. If only half the congregation is with you, perhaps the preparation is not right, perhaps the content is not right. Again, worship needs to be healing, building up, breaking down the strongholds. When it is these things there will be Unity. I am not one for advocating a formal liturgy - but there does need to be order - Paul was very strict on this. There are ways of working that will give the opportunity for the congregation to be a part of the make up of the worship within each meeting, there ways of enabling the congregation to bring the Word to the people - without bringing chaos and disrepute and false teaching into the church. It seems to me that there were times (many times) in the Old Testament where there was corporate confession, corporate repentance. Use this as part of the worship - so in unity we come before God in repentance. There were times (many times) in the Old Testament when the people of God stood up and proclaimed what they believe - what the Anglican Church often calls the Creed. Personaly I think this should be done outside the church - because then we are standing up for what we believe! But nevertheless it is a useful thing done as a whole church. It is this unity we can build on in our worship.

So, the elements are pleasing and glorify to God (not the worship leader or the band), and the attributes of the worship are beauty, simplicity and unity - we have the presence of God in our midst. We have a worship where God will speak, where the blind will see, the lame walk, the sinner repents, and demons are cast out. This is worship.