What Happens in Worship?

Communication with almighty God is not the same as with humans. We could never reduce that spiritual union to the level of our finite understanding. Fortunately, God knows that! And because he designed us, he knew from the beginning that our communion with him would be very special to us and to him. God does not sit in heaven on a throne merely listening to people talk to him about their fears, desires, needs, wants, and sins. He also answers. We speak, but so does he. He hears, and so must we.

Worship includes speaking, listening, and responding. We actively give God glory, telling him what we think of him. We listen to him speak to us—through the Word of God but also by his Holy Spirit and at his discretion. And then we must respond to what has been said to us. Those are the rudiments of communication: speak, listen, respond. 

Often, we speak too much and listen indifferently, and then we do nothing in response to what we hear because we really don’t care. In our worship, we must speak openly about our great God. We must hear what he has to say to us—as individuals and as a body, and we must then respond to whatever he told us. In planning a worship service, whether personal or corporate, those three elements must be present: Speak to God—we tell him how much we adore him; listen to God—we study the Word and do not harden our hearts to its truth; respond to God—we do whatever we must to fulfill his commands. 

Our response in worship can be both immediate and lasting. An immediate response at the close of a worship service might be a song, the giving of offerings, communion or baptism, or many other things planned as a specific response to what has already happened. But the key to living as God’s people is in the lasting response we make. “How do I live this out during the next week?” 

Every preacher should be prepared to offer suggestions on how this message from God can be followed up on Monday through Saturday, helping the people carry the beauty of Sunday’s fellowship and worship back to the workplace. The result will be evangelism and new souls in the kingdom. If God’s people will honestly continue to worship and serve him during the week, they will be noticed and believed, and God will be pleased and glorified.

A great example from Scripture of this immediate and lasting response is seen in the Israelites as they dedicated the temple in Jerusalem and invoked God’s presence and blessing (2 Chronicles 5–7). After the people lifted their voices to God in adoration – “You are great! Your love endures forever!” – and after God visited his people and let them know he was pleased, the people responded by further praise, falling on their faces in awe and celebrating God’s presence with great joy. 

That was an immediate response to their encounter with him that day. But the listening response (cf. chapter 7) was that they went home rejoicing, sharing with others the good things they had experienced, living holy lives — changed people! Both in their public meeting and in their personal daily living they honored God, ascribing worth to him for his being and his works.

Timothy Mayfield

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