Considering the various meanings the word "worship" has, like so many words in the English language, that question is not an easy one to answer. It may refer to personal worship, or corporate worship as a body in a church setting, or an intense or extreme admiration or love of any kind, even for a person, or to magistrates or others holding high office, or in some cultures the homage paid to inanimate objects.
For the purposes of this article we would define worship, as suggested in Webster's, "a reverence or devotion for a deity" and (in this article) for God with special emphasis upon corporate worship especially in church services. Many of you have probably attended a variety of churches and have observed or been part of widely different worship styles. Did those experiences help you develop a preference?
The pre-service atmosphere in churches can vary a great deal. Some churches at one extreme have a very quiet, hushed atmosphere with very limited visiting prior to the service. At the other extreme the pre-service noise level is very high, in some cases almost raucous, with people visiting and exchanging greetings. In most churches the pre-service atmosphere would fall somewhere in between those extremes.
What about the worship service - where a body of believers together express their worship of God? That too will vary widely depending on a lot of factors. For many the type of music is critical to their worship. Some prefer contemporary music, some classical or traditional church music, and for many gospel or southern gospel music enhances their worship experience. Is the music God-centered or man-centered? That must take precedent above all other considerations or preferences.
Is there a lot of activity "up front" during the service? A stream of people coming forth with announcements, etc.? That can be distracting for many people. Is the main focus of the worship service the sermon or celebrating one of the sacraments? The content of the sermon? That's a whole different "can of worms".
The questions about what each of us prefers in a worship service can go on endlessly. A lot are picky things that definitely upset some people do not upset others. So what is acceptable worship? Does the Bible help us to answer this? Yes, it certainly does. We have examples of pretty "wild" uninhibited public worship. In Ex. 15:20 and II Sam. 6:14 we learn how Miriam and David joyfully expressed their worship to God. There are by contrast numerous exhortations for God's people to have "solemn assemblies" - which were obviously somber and serious occasions of worship. See Lev. 23:36; Numbers 29:35; Deut. 16:8; and Joel 2:15 for a partial list of these assemblies. I Chr. 26:16 simply exhorts us to "Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness." Ps. 95:6 likewise encourages us "O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our Maker." Jesus told the Samaritan woman that "True worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth." John 4 - NLT Do we do that?
We've only scratched the surface of a very vast and important subject for those desiring to walk more closely with God. May God use these thoughts to motivate us to study this subject and to think objectively about who and how we worship - when we are together as a body and also when we have our personal worship times. Do we worship God the same way in private as we do in public? Do we actually worship God intentionally in private (personal worship)? Touchy question - right? No guilt trip intended.
Here's the bottom line taken right from Scripture for acceptable worship of God. Worship is to be rendered to no one else - not your spouse, not your family, nor any thing - not your house, not your car, your job, money, etc. but only to God. Exodus 20:3 - the First Commandment - tells us very cogently "Do not worship any other gods besides Me."NLT
Paul Williams is a retired veterinarian. He and his wife, Pat, lived in Indiana for 41 years, where he practiced. They also lived in Drummond Island, Michigan for eight years and in Marietta for seven years. Thoughts of Faith is a weekly column written by various ministers and lay people. To participate call 376-5446.