The obvious answer is: Yes or at least, it should be. And I think that is our (Christians in general) aim and desire. Yet we get sidetracked and distracted by, well, ourselves.
The ideas of worship in Scripture go far beyond what comes to most of our minds when we hear the word mentioned in connection to our Sunday type gatherings. Nevertheless, our corporate gatherings are part of worship. It is this weekly gathering of God’s people to pray, sing, listen, learn and give, that we are exploring.
The answers to the question: “Why do we gather?” will be varied; but I suspect that they would be something like: to worship God. At least my answer would be something like this.
But lest get real: we want to feel good when we go to church. We want to get strengthened for the week to come. We want to find comfort. We want to learn how we can live a better, more prosperous and victorious life. OK, so we have needs—at least I do; and we want God to fill these needs. Is that so bad? No, it is not. We are at least looking in the right direction.
Our theology may say we are there to worship God, that we are there to Glorify His Name, etc.; but our actions are much more centered on ourselves and our needs. We are consistently looking to GET SOMETHING from the music, preaching or even in our giving.
This is not to say that we are there completely for ourselves. Like most things in life, it is more complicated then a simple this or that. We want to worship God in spirit and truth and we also want to feel good and do well in life. This latter is not evil or bad. It is not diabolical to want to benefit from a relationship—even from a (individual and corporate) relationship with God, the Creator of all and the author and perfecter of our faith.
Then, why discuss this topic at all? I guess if you think the Church is all it could or should be; or if you think that as an individual you have no corporate (group) responsibility, then there is no need to consider this topic.
Consider the words “church service”. The word service denote, well, service. Not so much being served; rather, doing the serving. I wonder which idea “serving” or “being served” permeates our motives as we attend our gatherings.
Perhaps it is not so much the “forms” used in worship as it is the heart and attitude applying those forms. This is not to say that the content and structure of a Christian worship service are unimportant. On the contrary, how and what we do in corporate worship stems from, is a reflection of and informs our beliefs and understanding about God. Nevertheless, any form, no matter how Biblical or theologically correct, does not guarantee our hearts will be in the right place.
Our post enlightenment thinking has evolved into a very ME centric phenomenon. It affects our worship, our understanding of Scripture, how we see others and how we see our relationship with God.
Even the beautiful song “Heart of Worship” is tainted by individualism. What do you mean? The song says, “It’s all about you, Jesus”. Yes it does. Yet it starts out with “I’m coming back to the heart of worship…and all about you…it’s all about you, Jesus.” It says “I” messed it up and now “I” am doing something about it. This is not a condemnation of the song. I like it. It is a good song. A song of repentance. A song reminding us that it is about Him. Yet it, like much of our thinking, throws us into the middle of it – even when we are trying to make it about him.
Much the same could be said about a lot of what is sung in our churches. I, me, my, permeates not just our music but much of the service (form) itself. However, this is not about the music. I love good music, old and new. It is about the true heart of worship. Whatever form of music we use.
God loves us! We are members of His family! Yes, we can and should have an individual relationship with God. Yet it (salvation history) is NOT about US—it does include us. Sunday worship is NOT about us—it should include us!
First, it is about God. It is about expressing our individual and corporate love, thanksgiving and praise. Not because we need to feel good or we want to somehow influence God on our behalf or receive something from Him; but because He is God. Second, it is about serving our brothers and sisters in our community of faith. Our presence, our voices, our participation (even if we just sit there) our reaching out in love, our giving or our time, talent and treasure, to God and our brothers and sisters are all part of being in His family. Third, it is about being equipped to share the love and power of God with our families, neighbors, coworkers and even our enemies.
It all includes us; but it is not about us. This is very much a matter of perspective and priorities.
I do not sit in condemnation of any congregation. Rather this is a challenge for us all to rethink our relationship with God and His people; to shift more of our attention to God, the Body of Christ, reaching out to the world and less on what God and His Body (the Church) can do for us.
Peace and Blessings,