by John Frame
[Originally published in Life at New Life (May-June, 1985), 1.]
Are you growing as a worshipper of God? That question sounds a little strange. Most of us know what it means to grow in doctrinal understanding, or in personal holiness, or in evangelistic zeal and ability. But growing in worship? What’s that? If you attend regularly, what more can God expect you to do?
Well, if you’ve attended our adult Sunday School class on worship, you know where I’m going: worship is service. The Greek words for worship mean service to God. This concept is hard for us to understand, I think, because of TV, radio, movies, etc. When we watch TV, we generally watch passively: we just sit there, without doing anything, watching what other people do. (And then, of course, we grade them on their “performance.”) But God tells us that worship must never be passive. Since worship is service, it requires involvement, action, (yes, work) on our part.
So, in the Bible, singing is to be “skillful,” I Chr. 15:22; a teacher must always be prepared to “correct, rebuke and encourage with great patience and careful instruction” (II Tim. 4:2); everyone brings something to worship which edifies the congregation (I Cor. 14:26); in worship, we teach and admonish in all wisdom, singing from the heart (Col. 3:16). Worship, in other words, is hard work. If we have not exerted ourselves, if we have not put something of ourselves into every worship service, something is wrong somewhere.
So worship is very different from entertainment. When we watch TV, we sit and watch and grade others on their performance. When we worship, we act, we perform; and then God grades us on our performance. In worship, we are the actors, God is the audience. The ministers and other leaders are only “prompters,” helping us to do our best work. As Dick Kaufmann has said, after worship we ought first to ask, not “what did I get out of it?” but “how did I do?”
So we need to grow in worship, just as we need to grow in other areas of the Christian life. Paul tells the Ephesians, “Be very careful how you live” (Eph. 5:15) and enumerates several areas in which we need to be careful, one of them being our singing (verse 19).
We really need to learn how to worship better. It doesn’t just “come naturally,” any more than witnessing or Bible study or child training “come naturally.” In all these areas we have classes, support groups, etc. to help us mature. So we also need classes in worship. We need to learn what worship is in the Bible. We also need to develop our skills of singing, praying, listening. We need to learn new songs, new ways of speaking to God that make use of all our gifts and strengths.
At New Life, therefore, we try to teach one another how to worship. During morning services, we sometimes teach new songs, and we try also to teach you why we sing the hymns that we sing. We also have the earlier-mentioned adult Sunday School class on worship which is taught once a year or so.
And there is also something else: the New Life Choir. A choir, as I understand it, is really nothing more than a class in praise. It teaches you about church music, helps you to use in worship more of the gifts that God has given you. You don’t have to be extraordinarily gifted to join the choir. I’d be happy if the whole congregation would come to rehearsals! For then we would all grow together in the maturing of our praise. Anyhow, visit us sometime! We rehearse at 8:30 AM Sunday morning, backstage.
We seek to learn to praise, not just for fun (though it is fun), and certainly not to glorify ourselves, but to bring delight to God’s ears. Let that be our chief concern as we come together on Sunday morning.