By Paul Smithson
It seems that many people today have lost sight of what worship is all about. Many assemble in the name of the Lord to be entertained by everything from rock music to circus animals and side shows. What is the purpose of the church’s assembly? Is it to offer up worship directed toward God or to provide entertainment directed toward the people?
The word “worship” in our Bible is translated from terms that literally mean, “to kiss the hand in token of reverence, to bow down before, or humbly beseech.” When Christians come together in their assembly it should be to worship God. Jesus declared, “True worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (Jn. 4:23-24). This statement tells us there are two things involved in properly worshipping God. First, our worship must be “in spirit”, i.e. our worship must be offered sincerely from the heart. This is not, however, the only requirement of acceptable worship. Jesus also stated that our worship must be “in truth,” i.e. as the truth directs. In His word, God not only tells us to worship, but gives us divine directions as to how we must worship Him.
In reading the New Testament we find five acts of worship in which the first century Christians involved themselves. They came together to study and hear God’s word proclaimed, to pray, and to sing. When meeting on the first day of the week they also partook of the Lord’s Supper and give of their means. (cf. Ac. 2:42; 20:7; Eph. 5:19; 1Cor. 11:23-29; 16:2). All these acts of worship are spiritual in nature. However, many today have left this pattern and have turned the Lord’s church into something more social than spiritual. Instead of assembling to worship God in the way God directs, the emphasis is on entertaining the audience.
Jesus taught that it is possible to worship Him in an unacceptable manner. “In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men” (Mt. 15:9). To worship God in an acceptable manner our worship must be in “spirit and truth”–with the proper attitude and as the truth of God directs.
The church of Jesus Christ and the purpose of its assemblies is spiritual in nature and not social. Jesus’ statement before Pilate plainly shows the nature of His kingdom. He said His “kingdom is not of this world” and that He came into the world “to bear witness of the truth” (Jn. 18:36-37). The purpose and work of the redeemed individuals that make up Christ kingdom is spiritual in nature. The “house of God, which is the church of the living God” is “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1Tim. 3:15). Jesus came to bear witness of the truth, a mission neither social or recreational. His church is the pillar and ground of that same truth. Thus, the church’s purpose is also one that is spiritual.
The church is made up of individuals whose birth is spiritual (Jn. 3:2-7), their walk in life is one that is spiritual (Gal. 5:16-17), their worship is spiritual (Jn. 4:24), and they are involved in a spiritual warfare (Eph. 6:12-13). One should certainly conclude that the work and worship of the church is spiritual! Yet many churches are involved in and offer every kind of social and materially centered program and activity one could imagine. The reasoning of many for offering such things in the name of the Lord is, “We must offer these things if we are going to reach the people in our fast pace society– especially our young people.” But such reasoning simply shows a lack of faith in the power of the word of God and the affect it can have on people of all ages if proclaimed in its purity. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth…” (Rom. 1:16).
Concerts, plays, shows, and other forms of entertainment can be enjoyable and have a place in life, but their place is not in the work and worship of the Lord’s church; for its nature is spiritual and not social.
In the picture John gives us of the Lord being worshiped in Revelation 5 we see that worship has nothing to do with the entertainment of the worshipers except for their joy of serving and adoring their Lord. “And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever. And the four living creatures kept saying, “Amen.” And the elders fell down and worshiped.” (Rev. 5:13-14). Let us not confuse worshiping God with entertaining ourselves.