Worship in Four Directions

One of the issues concerning worship that I find rather shallow is the misconception that worship takes place primarily in one direction.  That is, when people talk or write about worship the reference is generally to that aspect of worship in which we direct our thoughts and focus toward God.  You’ve probably heard it put this way:  “When we worship, we are ascribing to God His worth.  It can be defined as worth-ship.”

I am not saying that this is not an important aspect of worship – because it is.  When I say that the issue is shallow, I’m responding to a lack of balance.  What I would like to see is more balance and a more accurate representation of what Scripture actually teaches concerning what we do when we worship.

Before going any further, let me be sure to note that this discussion is within the context of corporate worship and what elements of it we find in Scripture.  In other words, what I’m discussing here are those things we do when we worship together as a body (congregation, church, small group, etc.).

There are four aspects of relationships that we, as a body, participate in when we come together for worship.  We must consciously recognize the existence of these relationships and understand that each one is active within the worship experience.  If not, we will miss something that the Lord may want to teach us.  We must open our eyes to see, and our ears to hear, God’s voice in the various ways in which he speaks.

The first relationship that we experience in worship has already been mentioned.  It’s the vertical relationship of us focusing upward to God.  In this we do ascribe worth to Him (Psalm 66:1-4).  We thank Him and praise Him for Who He is and what He does (Psalm 66:5-7).  Together we focus our hearts and minds on God, His Son and the Spirit.  Paul says that we do this “with one accord and with one voice” (Romans 15:6).  We are communicating – us to God.

The second relationship is related to the first in that it is vertical in nature.  It is the opposite, however, and can be described as God speaking to us.  The primary way in which this happens is through His Word.  Paul encourages Timothy to publicly read Scripture as an important aspect of corporate life (1 Timothy 4:13).  This can happen in a multitude of ways including unison reading, antiphonal reading (back and forth), dramatized readings, memorized presentations, Scripture put to music, and more.  I recall a very effective instance in which a man quoted the entire book of Philippians from memory – including all the emotions and concern that Paul included in his words.  This presentation is still remembered as one of the most effective presentations of Scripture many people had ever experienced.  In this, God is communicating to us.

The third relationship that is often overlooked is the horizontal aspect of us speaking to others.  In this we share our faith and encourage other believers.  This is often communicated in the songs we sing, though we sing right through and miss the point.  For example, as we sing:  “Come, Christians join to sing…” we are inviting one another to worship.  The popular chorus “Come, now is the time to worship” has the same effect.  Try having the two (or more) parts of your congregation face each other when singing a song like this, actually inviting each other to worship.  Colossians 3:16 is full of references to various aspects of us speaking and singing to one another – for teaching and encouragement.  This type of communication can be described as us communicating to others.

The fourth aspect is now obvious.  It is the other horizontal part and is when others speak to us.  The sermon is the most apparent example.  We are on the receiving end of admonition, encouragement, teaching, story-telling, and learning about God, His work and our response to Him.  This can come through the Pastor, a testimony, the Choir, a soloist, our neighbor in the pew or even our Sunday school teacher.  Again, Colossians 3:16 is a perfect reference for this when read through the eyes of a receiver.  This type of communication is horizontal – others to us.

So this is a much more deliberate and balanced approach to corporate worship:

  • God to Us
  • Us to God
  • Us to Others
  • Others to Us

As worship planners, we must take each of these into consideration and realize that people will respond to each one differently.  It would be appropriate, then, to have each one represented well in each service, if possible.  This must be deliberate and planned well.

As worshipers, we must allow God to speak to us – or through us – as He desires.  Worship is to be fully active and our physical participation is vital (see Romans 12:1-2).  When we are aware of each of these four relational aspects of corporate worship we will enjoy it more, and experience the fullness of what God intended.

Take time this week to note these in your own services.  Are they all present?  Are they deliberate?  Are you experiencing each of the four relationships?  What can you do to make this more effective in your own body of believers?  Whatever you find, seek more balance in your corporate worship setting and it will become more fulfilling.

Posted on September 22, 2014, in Christian Worldview, Content of Worship, Corporate Worship, theology, Worship Leader and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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