Worship as Serving Others
I would encourage any believer seeking to live a life that pleases God (a life of worship) to find a copy of Martin Luther’s small treatise called “The Freedom of a Christian,” or in some translations, “Christian Liberty.” You will find in this writing an excellent source of wisdom in regards to what it means to live a truly Christian life. A short quote will suffice now, which reads:
“This is the truly Christian life. Here faith is truly active through love (Galatians 5:6), that is, it finds expression in works of the freest service, cheerfully and lovingly done, with which a man willingly serves another without hope of reward; and for himself he is satisfied with the fullness and wealth of his faith.” (Martin Luther, “The Freedom of a Christian” in Martin Luther’s Basic Writings, ed. by Timothy F. Lull (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1989), 617.)
In the context of his treatise Luther is showing how one might serve God and thank Him in life—by serving the neighbor and the person in need. Luther reiterates the concept that worship is a response of thankfulness to God for what He has given us in Christ, and that response works itself out in life as we love God by loving our neighbor.
We can examine the goal for living the Christian life in the worship of God in Paul’s words in Ephesians 4:13. Paul indicates that the point of the lifestyle of worship within the Church is to “attain to the unity of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” Although we find this concise phrase describing the results of a healthy Church life in Ephesians, we also find this end goal for our worship described in Romans 15:1-7.
In Romans 15 we discover Paul using worship terminology to discuss the fellowship of Christians loving and serving one another. He is expecting the combined Christian effort of living godly lives to issue forth in a unity of purpose and voice. “That with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (15:6). Obviously, from the perspective of the larger context, our unified “voice” is not necessarily vocal, but a reflection of our daily lives of obedience and service (i.e., faith). As Vigen Guroian observes,
“The word liturgy [i.e., the service of the people] derives from the Greek leitourgia. The Greek connotes an action through which persons come together to become something corporately which they were not as separate individuals. It means a gathering whose unifying purpose is to serve (minister to) the world on behalf of God.” [Vigen Guroian, “Seeing Worship as Ethics: An Orthodox Perspective” in The Journal of Religious Ethics 13 (1985), 334.]
In this pattern of the worship life, we are to be others focused. Paul refers to our “neighbor” (15:2) and his or her needs as that which determines our activity. He even points to Christ as an example of this outward focus (15:3). It is clear here, and in other places, that the life of worship is one of actively serving God by serving others.
Consider this: As the church gathers corporately for “worship” it may be more appropriate to consider it as the primary opportunity for God to communicate Himself to us through His word, the preaching of Christ (“God with us”), and prayer. As we experience His self-revelation we will respond with song and thanksgiving, as we well should, along with many other public expressions. Yet our response should not—cannot—stop at the end of the worship service.
Our response to God’s communicating to us flows out of the “worship service” into our lives. We take His revelation to others in caring for them, serving them and loving those around us. By doing so, we continue our worship activity (see the “present your bodies” idea from Romans 12:1-2) as a thankful expression of love to Him.
In Romans 12, Paul explains some of the basics of the proper functioning of the Body of Christ. There are many members (individual Christians, vs. 4) and yet only one body (the church, vs. 5). Each individual has been given a measure of faith (vs. 3) to serve others (vss. 5 and 6). The grace and faith given, however, is not in equal measure for some have more, some less, but just as much as is necessary for the individual (see vs. 6), and each member has a different function, or a different job to do (vs. 4). With these differing and numerous functions, or gifts, we serve one another, and the gifts Paul lists are set in the context of use within the community of believers, for he uses the phrase “one another” three times before the end of the chapter.
This is the full circle of worship in Romans 12. We are to present our bodies for service to the community of believers based upon our renewed and transformed minds. In so doing, we worship individually by exercising our spiritual gifts, and we worship corporately as the community works together to serve each other and the people around them. When a local representation of the Body of Christ functions in this way it is a marvelous thing—and it is extremely effective. Paul says, in Ephesians 4:16, that “the proper working of each individual part (i.e., the Christian serving in his or her giftedness), causes the growth of the body (i.e., the Church) for the building up of itself in love.” Of course it would be this way: God thought of it after all!
(Original Post on June 5, 2013 at the Worldview Church: http://www.worldviewchurch.org/worshiparts/articles/19850-worship-as-serving-others)
Posted on February 24, 2014, in Content of Worship, Corporate Worship, Leadership, Martin Luther, theology and tagged creation, Mark Sooy, martin luther, theology, worship, worship leader, WorshipThink. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.