What (and how) does worship teach?
It’s a strange thing to think that we are “taught” something in worship, or at least it would have been a strange thing for me to think a few years ago. Perhaps that is why I am now using the word “formed” in place of “taught,” but it is still instruction in one way or another.
Now, this is not a new concept at all. We see, especially in the Old Testament, that poetry and songs used in worship were used to teach people the things of God or remind one another about what God has done. Psalm 78 is a great example of this, going through much of Israel’s history in those 72 verses to tell “things that our father’s told us” that “we will not hide them from our children, but tell to the coming generation” (vs. 3-4). More recently, we talk about hymns written as great theological teaching tools. Of course, widespread literacy is a relatively new phenomenon in the scope of history, so much of church worship (not just the hymns) – liturgy structure, confession, song, message, etc. – was designed from the beginning not only to lift people’s eyes to God, but to teach them the things of God they couldn’t learn themselves since they couldn’t read the Bible.
We are fortunate that we can open Scripture itself and read and understand it not only in our native language, but in dozens of different translations (there’s 52 English translations on Biblegateway.com) that can help us understand complex things by coming from slightly different wordings. Certainly, our treasury of theologians throughout history also give us plenty to digest.
For many years, I failed to realize the true power behind what we do as we gather together on a Sunday morning (I say this, realizing that 10 years from now I will look back on 2015 me and hopefully think the same thing). Yes, corporate worship is a grand and glorious thing, giving us our closest glimpse of heaven we can get here on earth, but for those of us who plan corporate worship, we have an opportunity to instill things (for good or for bad) in the hearts and minds of our people.
Ok, all that for introduction, now, TO THE LIST!
- Worship teaches who God is (name above all names, a mighty fortress)
- Who we are (prone to wander, nothing good in us, loved by God, forgiven)
- How to pray – after all, songs are just prayers set to music. not to mention the numerous prayers offered by pastors and lay people during corporate worship
- Helps us memorize scripture (rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, rejoice!)
- How to express the entire Gospel story (our Gospel “rhythm” we’ve been talking about)
- Worship calls us to mission (greater things are yet to come in this city)
- How to confess our sins (a thousand times I’ve failed, still your mercy remains)
- How to study Scripture (one of the many tasks of the sermon)
That’s the short list, I’m sure.
The lesson here is twofold.
- For those of us who plan corporate worship (from the greeters to the sermon), we need to realize that everything we do and say teaches someone something about God. Are we making sure we are teaching them what we want them to know?
- For those of us who attend corporate worship (people mentioned in #1 included), do we realize that we are being formed when we come into church? Are we prepared to have our hearts reformed by the Spirit when we gather? Do we take for granted the high calling and burden put on those who lead us to make sure that what we hear is from God, trusting Him to plan and form their words?
That’s all for today. I hope your hearts are moving toward the grand celebration of resurrection in just a few weeks!