By David Shead
What is corporate worship?
“Worship” is the word that sums up the whole of life.
“Worship” describes the entire orientation of your life; your attitude of humble submission and service towards the thing or person that you most value in all of existence, whether that’s yourself (or another part of the creation like money, or leisure, etc.), or the true and living God.
According to the Bible, God is the only one we should worship. To worship anyone or anything else is blasphemous idolatry, because it simultaneously exalts something that is not God into the position of God, while also dethroning the one, true God from his rightful place of glory. “Worship the Lord your God and serve him only,” said Jesus (Matthew 4:10, quoting Deuteronomy 6:13).
We worship God when we appropriately honour him. And because of who God is (the source, means, and goal of all things – Rom 11:36), to “appropriately honour” him means to give him everything and to do everything in glad obedience to him and for his glory. That is why true worship of the living God is about the whole of life. At every moment of every day, everything we do is worship (Romans 12:1).
This means that there is nothing we can do that is more or less “worshipful” than anything else. Whether I am cleaning my teeth, or being productive at work, or telling my friends about Jesus, everything I do is an act of worship – and equally worship. We don’t worship God on Sundays, but not during the week. We don’t worship God when we do “spiritual” things but not when we do “secular” things. We don’t worship God when we’re singing, but not when we’re speaking (or listening, or eating, or sleeping, or driving, or exercising, or … you get the picture!). Worship is our whole life.
However, we must be careful not to distort this truth. Some people are so keen to stress that “worship isn’t just about what we do in church on Sundays” that they make the mistake of suggesting that we don’t actually worship in church on Sundays at all. This is not true. If worship is all of life, and if church on Sundays is part of my life, then, while church is no more “worship” than anything else (it is not even more “worshipful”), it is also no less “worship”. I do worship God in church (just as I worship him all the rest of the week).
The question, then, is: is there anything different or particular about Sunday church worship? Yes and no.
The “no” we’ve already seen. Sunday church worship is not more true worship or more “worshipful” worship than Monday to Saturday worship.
However, there is also a “yes”. And that is to say that corporate worship (worship of the body together) has a particular and very important place within the totality of our worship:
- It declares the future. Corporate worship is God’s ultimate goal for us. All God’s chosen ones, from every nation, tribe, people and language, will one day gather together around the heavenly throne in worship (Revelation 7:9-12). Corporate worship is therefore a picture and dress-rehearsal of what God has saved us for and who God has made us to be.
- It declares the present. But corporate worship is also the visible declaration of the unity of God’s people in their union with Christ in the present. We come together as one body in submission under Jesus our head (Ephesians 2:11-22 & 4:11-16). That is who we are right now – Christ’s body.
- It connects the two. Corporate worship is the most fundamental God-given context in our earthly lives for our instruction, correction, encouragement and strengthening as God’s people. Sunday church is where God’s people are refueled for a life of energetic and faithful worship the rest of the week, and where we are thereby strengthened to keep going to the end (Hebrews 10:25).
In other words, corporate worship declares both our future and our present, and is one of God’s primary means for connecting the two – for bringing his present body (his church) to its future glory.
For more in this Series:
What is corporate worship? (this one)
Why Sing? (Part 2 of 9)
What is the ‘shape’ of the corporate worship gathering? (Part 3 of 9)
What makes for good and effective singing? (Part 4 of 9)
Five principles for choosing songs (Part 5 of 9)
Choosing Songs – planning (Part 6 of 9)
Choosing Songs – preparation (Part 7 of 9)
Choosing Songs – order (Part 8 of 9)
Choosing New Songs (Part 9 of 9)