Public Worship in a Secular World

What, Why and How, Session 1

Wednesday Night Connection | Bethlehem Baptist Church


The following is a lightly edited transcript.

I will praise the name of God with a song;
   I will magnify him with thanksgiving.
This will please the Lord more than an ox
     or a bull with horns and hoofs. (Psalms 69:30–31)

That second verse says that when we praise the name of God and magnify him with thanksgiving, he is happy. He’s pleased.

I’ve talked to enough people recently, even today, to know that more and more people are coming out of backgrounds in which the concept of anybody being pleased by what they do — not to mention God Almighty, infinite in holiness — is incomprehensible and emotionally almost impossible.

Those people come to worship on Sunday morning and hear me summon everyone to worship. The miracle that people need is the miracle of believing that God is smiling. He’s really happy with what’s going on here. We will never worship in the spirit that God means for us to worship unless, when we look up on Sunday morning, with our eyes closed and our mind’s eye set on the throne of the universe, we see a Father who is absolutely delighted with the efforts of his children.

Any of you whose child or niece or a nephew has ever done a little piano concert, or a little skit at school, or a little speech in kindergarten will know it really doesn’t take much to please you!

My kids have all gone through Creative Expression nights at Calvin Christian School. They have to memorize a poem or read something or do something, and we’re blessed to have a school in which there are hundreds of good parents. You can just watch the parents lavish their delights upon these absolutely bumbling efforts of the children to do their best. If that’s the heart of a parent on earth, as Hebrews 12 says, then how much better is the inventor of parenthood and the inventor of the hearts of good parents?

Why, What, and How

This class is called “Public Worship in a Secular World.” I have no syllabus for you, because I am praying and preparing right up to the last minute each day. I am only one jump ahead of you in my learning and thinking and praying. That may be a negative for some of you who like structure, but it’s also a positive in that I’m really wide open to altering the nature of this course as you ask questions.

Let me read the outline for this course that was printed in the earlier course description list.

We will discuss the biblical foundations for worship, the forms of worship, and what worship might look like if structured for varying participants at Bethlehem in the future. This will be both a biblical study and a time for input and discussion on how to experience the truth and beauty of God’s presence most fully in our worship together.

The leadership of the church longs to meet God with you in the most authentic way in our worship services. This is one of our greatest joys week in and week out. We are eager to be committed to those abiding and changeless realities that give strength to our lives, but also to be sensitive to styles and patterns and sounds and forms that differ among churches, age groups, cultures, social classes, etc. Come and seek God with us concerning some of these things and their implications for our future together.

I have somewhat of an outline in my mind for how these five sessions will go. The first session tonight is the why of worship. Next week we’ll tackle the what of worship. And in the three weeks following that, we’ll tackle the how of worship, which gets more practical as we go along.

If it sounds odd to you to start with the why before the what (it sounds odd to me; how can you ask, “Why?” about something if you don’t know what the something is?), I just feel deep down that if I were to go into a long, extended lesson on the nature of worship without establishing some profound reasons why to do it, it wouldn’t click right.

“The miracle that people need is the miracle of believing that God is smiling.”

I feel like we need to talk tonight about why it’s so important. I’m just going to assume that you’ve got some general, vague notion of what I’m talking about when I say worship. You’ve probably got a lot of different ideas in your minds, but I’m just going to reckon with all that difference and all that ambiguity, and let it go. If you want clarity about what I’m talking about as we go along, you can ask it. But I’m going to start with the why rather than the what.

So, that’s the general outline. I don’t know whether or not next week’s what will expand or contract, or the how will alter, but that’s my plan. I see things I can say under each of those three categories in five sessions; and I’ll be open to adjusting things to your interests.

Why Worship?

I have five answers to the question “Why do we worship together?” I’ll explain why we must and why it’s a glorious thing to do. I’ll summarize them for you very quickly, in three words each: because of God, because of man, because of Satan, because of ministry, and because of missions. I have explanations and texts under each of those five reasons for why we worship.

God’s Person, Purpose, and Pleasures

Of course, we have to start with number one: we worship because of God. Under this I have three ways of answering the question. First, because of who God is; second, because of what his purpose is; and third, because of what he’s pleased by. So, let’s take each of those three.

Who God Is

The basic statement here is this: God is infinitely valuable. If you’ve brought a Bible along or want to reach for one in the pew, I want to read some verses from Revelation 4. I want to draw a connection between the word holy and the word worthy.

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
   the whole earth is full of his glory! (Isaiah 6:3)

That’s the psalm sung by the seraphim around the throne of God in Isaiah 6. It’s also sung by the four living creatures in Revelation 4, as we get a glimpse into heaven of the awesome worship that’s taking place there now and will be in the future, by us as well. I want to read Revelation 4:8–11. Watch for the words holy and worthy.

And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say,

   “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,
      who was and is and is to come!”

And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying,

   “Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
      to receive glory and honor and power,
   for you created all things,
      and by your will they existed and were created.” (Revelation 4:8–11)

Mark that: day and night, they never cease to sing. If you believe that would get boring, then you need to just step back and rethink how infinitely worthy God is. An infinitely worthy God never ceases to present infinitely worthy reasons to sing a fresh new song every second of eternity.

What Does ‘Holy’ Mean?

“Holy, holy, holy” is one part of the song sung in the heavenly worship, and “Worthy are you” is the other part of the song. I want to make a case that those are almost the same thing by just defining holiness for you. What does the holiness of God refer to, that makes it the very center of worship in heaven? Holy, holy, thrice holy is the Lord God Almighty.

You all know the basic meaning of holiness. Maybe not all of you, but some of you do. Set apart is the most common meaning. That is, on the one hand you have the common thing, and on the other hand you set apart the holy thing. It’s not common. It’s not ordinary. It’s not mundane. You set it apart.

Now, there are two ways to set things apart. What’s it called when you set apart a person with bubonic plague? Quarantine. Where does the United States have all of its gold? Fort Knox. There are two different ways of setting things apart. You can quarantine things because they’re dangerous and sick, or you can build a big, high brick wall with barbed wire on top, and put it in a city or a fort, and that’s a radically different setting apart. That’s holiness. God isn’t holy because he’s sick; he’s holy because he’s gold.

I think sometimes when we say, “set apart,” it communicates nothing. So what? Set apart? Where, when, why? To say, “set apart,” communicates very little that makes me worship. “God is set apart.” So what?

But if you say, “It’s like being set apart because he’s like gold,” then you understand that you set gold apart in a very special place because of its tremendous value. The economy of the world hangs on there being a lot of gold available, evidently. If it vanishes or something happens to it, all kinds of chaos enters into the world. That is exactly what would happen if God weren’t infinitely valuable in his distinction from the world.

That’s my understanding of holiness, and I could take you through texts that would show you that God’s worth. That’s why I connect it with “Worthy are you.” God’s worth and value are virtually synonymous with his holiness.

We All Value

Therefore, the first and fundamental reason for why we worship (that is, why we ascribe worth to God) is because he’s infinitely valuable. Let me just dwell on this a little longer, because I want you to feel his worth tonight. You all believe in values. Even the public schools of Minneapolis have values, believe it or not.

My son, Benjamin, is now at Roosevelt High School. Now, I took this little piece of paper he brought home called “Rights and Responsibilities of Students in Minneapolis Public High Schools.” I read it from cover to cover looking for values. I’m looking for values everywhere.

I want to know what makes these people tick, because I don’t know how you live without values. We’re in a pluralist, secular culture that claims not to put anybody’s values on anybody else, which is crazy because we have “Thou shalt not kill” built into our laws, as well as “Don’t steal” and “Don’t commit perjury.” I mean, our laws are just shot through with values.

Well, I found them all over the place in this document. Let me give you a sentence. Under “Student Publications” there’s a little paragraph about censorship. I memorized this sentence: “Nothing shall be published which is libelous, malicious, or obscene.” Period.

“An infinitely worthy God never ceases to present infinitely worthy reasons to sing a fresh new song every second of eternity.”

I took Benjamin to the breakfast table the next morning and I said, “We’re going to have a quiz here on value clarification. What are the values behind these three words?” You tell me now.

What’s the value behind the rule that nothing libelous will be published? The value of truth. There are different ways to say it, but truth is valued behind that word.

Nothing shall be published that is malicious. What’s the value behind that? Being kind. What are some other words? Thoughtful? I thought of the word good, because I’m going to wind up saying three very famous values in just a minute, but they’re all there. So, goodness is the opposite of being malicious to somebody; being good to them and kind to them.

The third is obscenity. This was a little harder to get out of them. I said, “What’s the value behind not publishing obscene things?” I’d be interested in what you think the value is there. Purity? Morality? Beauty? That’s the one I thought of. That finished my trilogy of values. Truth, goodness, and beauty. There they are. Everything is there.

Truth is valued. Goodness is valued. And some form of beauty is valued. If something is not beautiful — destructive and ugly and obscene — then we won’t have any of that. We desire what is appropriate and beautiful.

I only mention that to say that we human beings are built with values. We can’t live without valuing something. No matter what people are saying about how they don’t count or are unimportant, you can’t live without them.

Fountain of Value

Here’s the point with God: God is the fountain of all value. Do you believe that? God is truth. God is love. God is beauty. Everything beautiful is beautiful because it comes from God. Everything loving and good and kind is so because it comes from God. Everything true comes from God, because he is truth. Truth means God. God is the source and fountain of all that is true and good and beautiful.

If that’s true, then you can do some exercises with your emotions and say, “Am I moved by any truth in this world? Am I moved emotionally by any beauty in this world? Am I moved emotionally by any goodness in this world?” If you are, let your heart and mind run up the beam into God. Let it grow as it goes, because it gets wider and bigger all the way up, unlike most streams and rivers that get wider as they come down.

God is valuable because he’s the source of all value. I thought, for example, of just listing these things. I tried to think of what people get excited about in the world. Nobody gets excited about God; I just take that for granted. Nobody in the world is excited about God. He’s ignored. He’s not on the agenda of American society, which is the greatest outrage in the world.

We Must Value God

I was talking to a young woman yesterday who’s not a believer, and she just kept giving me reasons why she and the people she works with who are in social services are good people. How could God not accept them?

I just kept coming back, acknowledging that there are fragments of the image of God, these fragments and echoes and pieces of God that are showing through. But I kept saying, “Do any of these people do that for God’s sake? Do they care about God? Do they talk to God? Do they give God two seconds of their life in seeking to please him? Do you believe that the greatest and first commandment is ‘you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart?’”

She said, “No,” and I said, “That’s the ultimate moral outrage in the universe.” I don’t care what people do to each other. If they’re blackballing God, that’s the ultimate outrage.

Better Than Everything

Everybody seeks excitement in something. I want to understand what works in people’s hearts out there. Here’s my list; I just related each one to God.

Some people get excited about strengths, muscular strength or military strength or whatever. God is stronger than anything, infinitely stronger than whatever you get excited about. God is strong! Do you get excited about strength? He’s strong!

God is beautiful, infinitely more beautiful than any sunset, any canyon, any forest, any north woods, any northern lights, any night sky. He is infinitely more beautiful than whatever moves you.

If you admire imagination and say, “Look at that poem,” or, “What a drama,” or, “What a movie,” or, “What a wild and wonderful imagination”; God thought up imagination! God thought up the imagining power of the imaginer. If you admire imagination, God is infinitely more imaginative than anything you’ve ever admired in an imagination.

If you admire a person who is disciplined, God’s got it all together. He is never undisciplined. He never says, “Oops, I forgot,” or procrastinates — never. If you like discipline, you’ve got a God totally, one hundred percent in control of his life.

If you like kindness, that’s the essence of God. God is love. Jesus shows the heart of God, and he dies for unworthy people. If you like kindness, how can you not stand in awe of God?

If you like when people sacrifice for others, God is the greatest sacrificer.

If you like bigness — skyscrapers, jumbo jets, or whatever — God makes everything you’re standing in awe of look infinitesimal because he’s so big and great.

If you like music, God thought up music. He is a musical God; we’re going to talk more about music.

If you like technology and computers and science, God wrote the book of nature that we are spending all of our time trying to decipher, and when one little human scientist thinks he’s catching one a little bit, just remind yourself: God wrote the book! He knows everything. These computers that we’re so wowed by and don’t understand are child’s play to God. That’s the way my mind goes as I think of worship. What a tragedy that people can’t see that God is infinitely worthy of getting excited about.

God Purposes Worship

God’s purpose in creating the world is to be worshiped, praised, glorified. What does Jesus say to the harlot at the well? What did Jesus say to her? God is seeking those who worship him in Spirit and truth.

God is a worship seeker. He wants people to worship him. That’s one of the reasons why he’s so delighted on Sunday morning or anytime you bow and worship before the Lord. He is a worship seeker. It is his purpose.

If you’ve got your Bible, let’s go to Ephesians 1. This was one of the texts that probably changed my theology as much as anything back in 1970 or 1971. I worked my way through this book in detail when I was in school.

I was doing this little exercise called “arcing” that some of you may have studied with Tom Steller or others. It’s just a way of relating the propositions in a text. And I came to see more clearly than ever what the main point of this eleven-verse-long sentence in the original language is. It starts at Ephesians 1:3 and goes to 1:14. I want to show you three phrases. They’re the same phrase. One’s in Ephesians 1:6, one’s in 1:12, and one’s in 1:14.

“God’s worth and value are virtually synonymous with his holiness.”

Ephesians 1:4–5: “In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.” Why? “To the praise of his glorious grace. Literally translated, it reads: “to the praise of the glory of his grace.” That’s why he predestined us in love to be his children.

“We who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:12). That’s why you live, according to Paul.

Ephesians 1:14: “[The Holy Spirit] is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” Why? “To the praise of his glory.” There it is. Three times in one long Greek sentence.

Summing it up, it means this: God does everything he does to move people to praise the glory of his grace. God wants your worship. His purpose is to be praised. This is the reason he redeemed us. This is the reason he predestined us. It’s the reason he is sanctifying us. It’s the reason he will glorify us. It’s the reason he created us. It’s the reason Jesus will come back. The whole sweep of history has this one ultimate purpose: that we might praise his glory, which comes to its apex in his grace.

There are a lot of other verses I could use to demonstrate that, but I think I’ll just leave it at that. I’ll read you this striking sentence, which I copied today from a book called Touch the World Through Prayer by Wesley Duewel. “There are far more commands to praise in the Bible than there are commands to pray. And we do far more praying than we do praising.”

He defines prayer as petition or intercession. “There are far more commands to praise in the Bible than there are commands to pray.” In other words, God wills, God commands, that we praise him. That’s his purpose for us. God is infinitely worthy. God purposes to be worshiped.

Worship Pleases God

Third, God is pleased by our worship (Psalm 69:30–31). God delights in the worship of imperfect sinners who come to him as empty, helpless, needy people and drink at the fountain of grace.

The way to glorify a fountain is to get down on your knees and drink, and look up now and then and say, “Ahh!” The way to glorify a fountain is not to haul buckets of muddy, human labor up a mountain of morality, and dump it in to the fountain. On your face, helpless and thirsty, is a wonderful posture for worship. And if God so grants it, by the end of the service or hour of praise, you might be on your feet. You might be so refreshed, so renewed, that worship can also take the form of acclamation and positive shouting for joy. But God is so glorified by thirsty saints.

I believe that on Sunday morning most people come unprepared to worship but desiring to worship. They are unable emotionally to rise very high but longing to desire to rise very high. Therefore, I’m constantly praying behind this pulpit for the fountain to be so delectable, the refreshment strong enough, that by the time we’re done, worship can carry you in praise and gladness right on through the rest of the day and part way through the week.

Worship Befits God’s People

My second answer to the question “Why worship?” is that we worship because of man. The first answer was because of God, and now the second one is because of man. And what I mean here is that we were made to worship. It fits who God is to worship, and it fits who we are to worship. Not to be a worshiping person is to be living out of character, and therefore to welcome dissonance into your life as a human.

If God made you to worship, then to live without a theme of worship running through your life is to welcome dissonance and confusion and disintegration into your life. If you make a bowl to hold something like water and you use it for acid, it will probably go bad as a bowl.

We humans are killing ourselves with broken cisterns that can hold no water. We are trying to make ourselves repositories for kinds of entertainment and excitement through many innocent things, and God is willing to fill that bowl up with what we were made to be filled with. He wants us to break forth in the kind of excitement that you feel at a ball game, or wherever you get excited.

If we could ever get to the point where God fills that void that we were made with, so many other things in our lives would fall into place. So many testimonies go to that effect! When a person learns to worship, everything seems to get right, get fixed. And if we don’t worship, things get worse.

Seemly Deed

I did a little study in the original language on a word I’d never looked at before. I invite you to look at Psalm 147:1 with me.

Praise the Lord!
   For it is good to sing praises to our God;
   for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.

“And a song of praise is fitting.” What does that mean? Fitting, becoming, beautiful, seemly, comely, appropriate. Now, what does that mean? A song of praise fits. Isn’t that great?

Here you are, a human being, and if you were to say to the universe, “Why am I here? What am I made for? How am I different from a snail?” do you know what God’s answer would be? “You are fit to praise me.”

That’s the essence of humanity. That’s the essence of the image of God. You are fit, and therefore, when a song of praise rises, it fits. It’s becoming. It’s appropriate. It decorates. It’s a proper garment. Do you know how some clothes don’t fit, don’t enhance the body? Well, a garment of praise is perfect for the human soul. It’s perfect for the human soul. That’s why we were made.

Noisy Atmosphere

It’s okay if you shout on Sunday morning. I’ve tried to invite more interaction and response with “Amen” and “Yes” and “Mm-hmm.” I like a grunting congregation. Especially when you are heralding precious and good things, or when you’re praying.

Last Sunday morning, when David Michael prayed his prayer of praise, it happened. David carried us right into the presence of God and you couldn’t help yourselves, whoever you were. Hundreds of people were saying, “Yes! Mm-hmm.” And when he was done, everybody said, “Amen!” Now, that doesn’t always happen. But that ought to be happening, I believe.

As far as being on your face, I suppose we need to teach and create the freedom so that if you turned around in your pew and knelt down, people around you wouldn’t think, Good grief, what’s she doing? Trying to get attention to herself or something?

We need to create a culture in which, if somebody is moved to go on their face before the Lord, others are not going to be judgmental and condemning. I take some of the responsibility for not having made that plain enough or created an atmosphere free enough for people to feel as free as you might like.

Only God Fills You

One thing satisfies the human soul, and that is God. I could give you numerous texts. Let me just list some of them, rather than reading them all.

Whom have I in heaven but you?
   And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
   but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:25–26)

One thing have I asked of the Lord,
     that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
     all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
   and to inquire in his temple. (Psalms 27:4)

One thing will satisfy this man of God: beholding the beauty of the Lord. You were made for one main thing. If you don’t get that one main thing into your life, all the other things won’t work. They leave you empty in the end.

As a deer pants for flowing streams,
   so pants my soul for you, O God. (Psalm 42:1)

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
   my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
   as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. (Psalm 63:1)

The reason it is hard for some people to worship is because they’ve never tasted that. They know in their head that God is good, God is great, God is true, God is lovely; but they’ve never felt in their heart. That’s a very great tragedy. And that’s what we’re striving to overcome.

We’ll talk a lot more about that. I don’t want to load you with guilt about that tonight. I hope to stir up a longing in you. I intend to help you with that warfare, because we all experience it from time to time.

Praise Is Joyful

I’ve got a long list of texts here:

  • “Make a joyful noise to the Lord!” (Psalm 100:1).
  • “Shout for joy to the God of Jacob!” (Psalm 81:1).
  • “Make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! . . . The Lord is a great God” (Psalm 95:1, 3).
  • “Make a joyful noise to the Lord” (Psalm 98:4).
  • “Let them ever sing for joy” (Psalm 5:11).
  • “They shall be jubilant with joy!” (Psalm 68:3).
  • “Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy!” (Psalm 47:1).

The point of all those texts is this: worship is very satisfying. If it isn’t, we’re not doing it right. Worship is very satisfying to the human soul. If you have to force yourself to clap, then don’t clap. It isn’t working. If you have to force yourself to say, “Amen” at the end of a prayer of praise, don’t say it. It isn’t working, and God forbid we that be hypocrites. But when it’s working, when God is working and the heart is responding, there is jubilation in the presence of a great God.

Nehemiah 8 talks about a holy feast that Israel was having. Ezra said, “This day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). I’ve got a banner in my study at home that says, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Coming Home

It’s a very satisfying thing to worship the living God. Steve Nicholson, who led the retreat for us over the weekend, asked why it is that, week in and week out, people come in to his church during the half hour of worship and just cry through the whole thing. It’s happened here at Bethlehem too.

The striking way he explained it was this: “It’s just like coming home for a lot of people.” They’ve been away from the church ten, twenty years; they gave up on it; or they grew up in some nominal, empty service, where nobody meant anything they said.

“God is the fountain of all value. God is truth. God is love. God is beauty.”

And for some reason, God drew them, they sit down, and for thirty minutes people are actually emotionally engaged with their Father. And they just cry for half an hour, because they’re the prodigal saying, “This is what I have been made for. This is what I ran from all my days.” And it feels strangely, sadly, wonderfully good.”

The sentence that summarizes my Christian Hedonism is: “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.” It is the best news in all the world. I can’t improve on the sentence. I can’t improve on the message. I can’t think of anything more glorious than that the God of all the universe thought up a way of relating to us such that he gets maximum glory when I get maximum joy.

There can’t be any better situation in the universe, can there? Can anybody think of a better situation than that? When my joy is maximum, his glory is maximum, because he gets the reverberations of value that come from my delight in him.

On the Prelude

What about worship before there service, namely during the five or ten minutes while Leah is playing? We need to teach this again and again. We haven’t taught for a long time on what to do at that moment.

Our deep desire, for those of you who wonder, is not that we be unfriendly with people, but that we would run hard after God, seeking the Lord, seeking power upon me as the preacher, upon Dean and the choir, upon Leah, upon all these visitors, and upon each other. We pray that needs would be met, and the Holy Spirit would come, and healings would happen, and salvation would occur. That’s what at stake in the prelude.

I attended nine churches on my study leave. And my heart broke every time, because there was so little earnestness. I looked around and thought, Does anybody care about what’s going on here? Does anybody come here to meet God?

Worship Serves Others

“Be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart” (Ephesians 5:18–19). To whom? To the Lord, with all your heart.

Notice those two directions. Mark that now. Do you feel the Holy Spirit? “Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord.” That’s corporate worship.

Some of our songs are clearly addressed to Jesus. But even at that moment, it’s not wrong to think, People are hearing me sing. They’re hearing us sing. Visitors are listening. And the people around me who are discouraged are hearing me sing. Or if you’re quiet and too downcast to open your mouth, you’re hearing them sing and all of that is ministry. Mighty ministry!

But some of our songs are addressed to one another. When we do that, and we address one another, and call each other to do something, don’t think that we’re not singing to God at that moment. I hope you can include the fact that we have an audience of One listening in. If our hearts are right and I’m saying to Dean, “Praise God, Dean,” what I really mean is this: “God, do you hear this? I love you that much. I value you that much. I’m commending you to Dean.”

In both kinds of singing we should be going both ways. Ministry is happening. Second Corinthians 4:16–18 talks about being renewed in the inner man day by day. We are because we set our minds (or focus) on things not on earth but in heaven — things that are not visible but invisible because they’re eternal. And that’s what we do in worship.

A quote from Spurgeon: “When we bless God for mercies, we prolong them. When we bless God for miseries, we usually end them.” And that is ministry. Blessing God for your mercies draws those mercies out, and they minister to you longer. When you bless God for your tribulations, they generally are lessened, made smaller, made more manageable. The true spiritual significance of them is brought out. We could talk for hours on how worship ministers to people.

Worship Sustains Missions

We worship God because of missions. Remember last Sunday morning with Paul and Silas? Last Sunday morning I stressed how Paul and Silas were witnessing to the prisoners by their songs. The prisoners were all listening to these hymns. But there’s one thing I want to stress now.

I believe that if Paul and Silas sang in a dungeon, they sang on the road. I mean, do you think that they only sang in dungeons? You have Luke and Paul and Timothy and Silas and Epaphras and a few others. They don’t have any cars, they don’t have any trains or planes. They walk everywhere, or they go on donkeys or horses. And they go slow, from Troas down to Ephesus or wherever. What do you think they do all that time? Well, they talk and they sing, because it sustains them in mission.

“God’s purpose in creating the world is to be worshiped, praised, glorified.”

Here’s the basic theological reason for why missions calls for worship. Missions seeks worshipers, right? The goal of missions is to find people whom God is preparing to become worshipers of himself, and to present them with the gospel of how to unite with the Father. God will receive their worship forever and ever, and he’ll be glorified and they’ll be satisfied forever. That’s the goal of missions.

Therefore, how can a church be an authentic, missional church and not have worship at the center? How inauthentic it would be to say, “Go and make worshipers, and we’ll stay here and not do it.”

It’s unthinkable that we would desire our missionaries to create worshipers for the living God, who would stand before him with tremendous white-hot affection forever and ever, while we’re not cultivating it at all back home. That’s unthinkable! Therefore, if we believe in missions, we will be a worshiping church.

There are commands for all the nations to worship and there are promises that all the nations will worship. Therefore, what we’re doing when we worship is just rehearsing the great consummation when all those promises come true and all those commands get fulfilled.

We’re going to get really practical as we move along. We’ll talk about what worship is, what some of its various forms are in the Scriptures, and so on. Then we’ll talk about how to worship, and then we’ll get even more specific about our worship services as we move along.