What is the difference between a “worship service” and a “service of worship?” The answer to this question is critical to the future of the Church. It represents what I believe to be the heart and core of what it means to be the Church, the Body of Christ.
For many years, churches of all types and denominations have spent the bulk of their attention, time and resources on what takes place in their church facilities on Sunday mornings, calling these events worship services. Connecting worship to an event and calling it a “worship service,” in my opinion, has contributed to a distortion of the true meaning of Christian worship. The confusion becomes dangerous when these Sunday gatherings, some complete with state-of-the-art sound systems, and audiovisual equipment, become the primary focal point of our Christian life, and the centerpiece of our church’s image before the community. As an example, news reporters often refer to our church building as “houses of worship.”
To be sure, worship does take place every Sunday morning in church facilities across this nation and the world. Calling these gatherings “worship services” obscures the Biblical definition of worship. You do not find the term worship service anywhere in the New Testament. On the other hand, you do find the phrase “service of worship.” In Romans 12:1 (NASB), Paul wrote,
“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.”
Our “service of worship” according to this passage refers to giving our bodies as a living sacrifice to God. Worship therefore, is not a service to attend, but rather a sacrifice to render to God.
There is great value in gathering together for worship services on Sunday. Hebrews 10:24-25 says we should “consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some.” In this passage, the “assembling together” is for mutual edification and encouragement, not for worship.
Worship therefore, is much more than a gathering of believers. In the most basic sense of the word, it means to bring God honor, praise and glory! It is an attitude of the heart lived out in daily actions that glorify God. Jesus said it like this, “let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)
Yes, gathering with other followers of Jesus is important. However, we must guard against reducing worship to an event, a song, a feeling, or a gathering of people. Genuine, biblical worship springs from our hearts and finds expression through our service to God each day, not just in a “worship service” on Sunday.
I believe churches would have a greater impact on their communities if they spent as much of their resources helping members discover how to worship God through daily service, as they do helping them attend and enjoy worship services on Sunday.
What does worship look like for us? Is it a weekly worship service we attend or is it a daily service of worship we give?