Why do we worship God? Obviously the Bible itself commands us to do so. The psalmist commands, “Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness” (Psalm 29:1–2).
Worship is necessarily God-centered. It is all about him. Unfortunately, contemporary American worship services are mostly about us and tangentially about God. Every week seems to bring a new example of the trivialization of God with innovations to worship arising in the name of relevance. Well-meaning leaders seek to attract both believers and unbelievers by making worship “relevant.” Musical styles become radically contemporary, stages with special lighting effects are built, and the atmosphere becomes intentionally casual. The consumer is king!
Worship, regrettably, has become a marketable commodity. Like companies advertising their products in ways to attract customers, churches advertise their style of worship in order to attract religious consumers. Man’s desires are made central.
The very word “worship” indicates that the purpose of the service is not for evangelism or attracting a crowd. The worship service is to be (is this too obvious?) for worship. “Worship” is derived from the Old English “weorthscipe,” or, in our spelling, “worthship.” It means to ascribe honor or worth to a deity.
Consequently, the primary purpose of gathering on the Lord’s Day is for followers of Jesus Christ to worship the triune God. The attitude of worshipers should be one of godly fear (Acts 2:43), not “Let’s have a good time.” There is to be such a reverence for God that, should an outsider be among us, he would experience conviction because of proclaimed truth, and “falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you” (1 Corinthians 14:25). Because of God’s sovereignty over life and eternity, we should “offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:28-29).
Maurice Roberts, a minister of the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing), makes this observation: “It is greatly to be deplored that many evangelical church services appear to be entirely unmarked by reverence or godly fear. It is a thousand pities that deep seriousness in public worship is a thing of the past almost everywhere. A vast deal of culpable ignorance lies behind the bustle of modern church services. But the deepest fault of all is our lack of appreciation of the glory, greatness and majesty of the God whom we have come to worship” (The Thought of God, [Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1993], 13).
When we gather on the Lord’s Day, may we remember our primary purpose. Our primary purpose is not for fellowship, for greeting others, for telling stories, or even for evangelism. It is to worship God. And if unbelievers are among us, as we hope they will be, may they be convicted by the Spirit of God and, repenting of their sin and believing on the crucified and resurrected Jesus, become worshipers, also.