Good Reasons for Good Worship (Bible Study)
Before you come to the meeting, spend some time with these two chapters from Revelation. As you read these chapters, remind yourself that while John is an exile on the island of Patmos he receives this revelation from God. You are getting a view of the throne room of heaven.
Lesson 1 See all lessons
Scripture: Revelation 4 and 5
Before you come to the meeting, spend some time with these two chapters from Revelation. As you read these chapters, remind yourself that while John is an exile on the island of Patmos he receives this revelation from God (see Rev. 1:9-20).
You are getting a view of the throne room of heaven. Notice the throne, the One on it, the crowd around it, and the nature of the worship they are bringing. Then notice (in chapter 5) how the focus shifts to the Lion/Lamb.
Our reasons for doing something are critically important. They will shape both how we do something and what we expect to get from it. People worship for many different reasons:
- Some want excitement and they think of worship as a spiritual pep rally.
- Some want to receive information and they desire "good teaching."
- Some want spiritual formation and will talk about whether they "got anything out of it."
- Some aim to win others, and so "seekers" will be their top priority.
- Some see worship as an act of preserving the faith and passing on a heritage to the next generation.
- Some worship out of a sense of obligation, to fulfill duties they feel they have been given.
- Some think the purpose is to produce satisfied customers, so effective marketing is their aim.
Surely you can think of many other reasons people worship.
What Is Worship?
Historically, we've defined worship as a group or corporate conversation between God and his people. There are a number of considerations inherent in this definition:
- Worship happens at God's initiative and invitation.
- God speaks to us through his Word of blessing, forgiveness, and instruction.
- We speak to God in words and acts of confession, adoration and praise, commitment, and intercession.
- Together we celebrate the redemptive work of Jesus Christ.
God is the center of our worship, the focus of it all. If we forget that, we are in danger of twisting the intent of worship and using criteria for its evaluation that are illegitimate.
It is wise for a committee or planning group to return to a discussion of this definition of worship regularly.
Motivations in the Throne Room
Carefully examine the worship activity in the passage from Revelation 4 and 5. As you do, you will notice multiple reasons for worship embedded in this story. While this passage does not give us an exhaustive list of all the reasons, it provides some needed reminders.
- Worship God for who he is. Notice how the worshipers give adoration to God for his perfections. Read the description of the beauty of Christ described in Revelation 1:12-16, and the description of God in 4:3-6. Note the acclamations in chapters 4 and 5: "Holy, Holy, Holy . . ." ( 4:8), "You are worthy . . ." (4:11), and "Worthy is the Lamb . . ." (5:12).
- Worship God for his act of creating. Read the entire acclamation in 4:11. "You are worthy . . . to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being." An awareness of Genesis 1 and 2 and the world around us will shape our adoration of the Creator.
- Worship God for the sacrifice of Christ. In chapter 5 the Lamb is identified as the Lamb "who was slain." His identity comes from his sacrifice. And his adoration also comes from that fact. "You are worthy . . . because you were slain and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation" (5:9).
Tips for Discussion Leaders
You can best prepare for leading this discussion by reminding yourself of a few things:
- Your time is limited because of your meeting agenda, so it will be necessary to keep the discussion on course.
- It is important that all members of the group enjoy the right to be heard and make their contributions.
- Your role is to monitor the discussion and keep it on track. The purpose of a study/discussion like this is not to bring things to a conclusion or consensus as you would with an item of business, but to create a setting in which all the members of the group will have an opportunity to think through a subject and gain new insight.
On this issue particularly, be aware that there will be a variety of other reasons for worship that group members might raise. Don't be caught off guard. Recognize that all of these may well have value in the right place and at the right time. But many of them come as byproducts of good worship, and are not the primary goals of worship (as Rev. 4 and 5 give us).
On several of the questions below the group will probably suggest widely varying answers and comments. That's OK. Not everyone has to agree. That's the benefit of a group discussion. Aim for openness.
In most of these discussions it is not necessary to arrive at any conclusions that require action. However, it would be helpful for the leader to watch for themes that occur through the discussion or matters on which there seems to be consensus, and summarize those for the group at the end of the half hour. It may be wise to keep a record of such consensus statements for further reference and planning.
- What reasons for worship do most of your worshipers come with? Can you identify them? How do they express those reasons? Are they proper reasons or not?
- What assumptions about worship do you work with as a committee or planning team?
- Examine several of your recent orders of worship. What do they reveal about your reasons for worship?
- Have your reasons and expectations for worship changed over the past ten years? In what way? Are you comfortable with those changes?
- What corrections in your work and/or education for your congregation should be considered? Make a list of the possible ways in which that could be done.
Authentic Worship in a Changing Culture. Grand Rapids, MI: CRC Publications, 1997, pp. 35-78.