The Purpose of Worship

Today we will define why we need worship, what it is designed to do for us and in us. Much of today’s post was generated from my notes on a lecture about liturgical worship.

 

Today’s post will be a short one! I hope by now that this series has challenged you to examine your life through the lens of worship, and has helped you discover any areas in your life that you have not surrendered over to God. If you have not read the previous two posts, “Our Life is Our Worship” and “You Are What You Worship” I encourage you to go back and check them out before proceeding to the post below.

In my last post, we examined the idea that “You Are What You Worship.” We discovered that worship isn’t merely something we do, but worship does something to us as well. And, as sinners, we can often end up worshipping things that we should not be worshipping, even without fully realizing what we are doing.

The question now remains, how do we break the patterns in our life where we worship other things? The “simple” answer is to introduce counterformative patterns into our life to combat the “patterns of this world.” But, how do we introduce these counterformative patterns into our lives, so that we can begin to remove our subconscious acts of worship and allow the Holy Spirit to transform our entire being? I believe the answer lies in the spiritual disciplines, but before we get to those, I think, we first need to take some time to talk about the purpose of worship…

Consider this quote, from Pope Pius X:

“Worship is for the glory of God and the sanctification and edification of the faithful.”

This is a simple and succinct statement concerning the purpose of worship. Yet, there are a few, rather large, aspects to this purpose statement for worship. So, I’d like to break that statement down a bit.

First, worship is for the “glory of God.” As believers, we gather in worship to extol the nature of God; to celebrate His glory and His glorious attributes. Simple enough, right?

Second, worship is for the “sanctification” of the faithful. This one is a little trickier because sanctification is one of those churchy words that we use a lot, but are not always quite sure how to define what it means. Sanctification, simply put, is the biblical concept of making God’s people holy. Remember, holy simply means to be set apart. Therefore, the purpose of worship is also to shape us into people who are different from other people, set apart for God and His purpose. This is what we examined in the previous blog post about how worship is formative – it does something to us.

Finally, we see that worship is for the “edification” of the faithful, another churchy word. Now, edification is not about making people feel good. It is a word that communicates action, specifically the act of creation/building up. This is “architecture” language here (think “edifice”). Edification is the creation of a structure, the building up of Christian Community as the temple of God. Think of it this way, the gathered people are depicted as stones that are built together, through worship, to become the temple of God. What a great image!

In this simple quote from Pope Pius X we see a complex and beautiful image of worship emerge. Worship is so much more than simply singing songs. Worship is about giving glory to God, which transforms us into the people of God, who together form the living temple of God. Worship is something we do, but it also does something to us – and it is all for God’s purposes.

Another way to view worship is, as Constance Cherry describes, like a journey:

“[Worship is] a journey into God’s presence [gathered together], of hearing from God [reading of the Word], that celebrates Christ [at the communion table], and that sends us into the world changed by our encounter with God [when we are sent back out].”[1]

Worship is where we come together, unified in the Body of Christ, to celebrate God and what He has done for us. In worship we offer up praise, but we also experience the presence of God, and receive communication from Him. Worship shapes us into people that are separate/different from the rest of the world. Worship gathers us together, collectively, to construct a living temple dedicated to God.

Worship isn’t merely the hour, once a week, that we gather on a Sunday morning in the auditorium. Worship is every hour, of every day, in each week and month and year. Worship goes out into the world with us. Worship is in our families, our jobs, our relationships, our priorities, our interests, and our actions. Worship is who we are and what we do. Worship is all of us. Worship is our lives. This leads us naturally into the next question: what does it look like to live a life of worship? More on that, in the next post.

May the Lord bless you and keep you, and may His most Holy Spirit continue the good work in you until Christ has been fully formed in you. May you always remember that you were created to love and to worship God, and that He alone is worthy of your love and worship. God, continue to build us together in worship into your temple, that we may be the place where the lost people of this world can come to encounter your presence. Amen.

[1] Cherry, Constance M., The Worship Architect: A Blueprint for Designing Culturally Relevant and Biblically Faithful Services (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2010) p. 47

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