I have recently been reading the book, Disciplines of a Godly Man by R. Kent Hughes. I would heartily recommend this book to pastors and laymen alike. Hughes hits squarely major issues in the lives of men, and it has been quite convicting and challenging. I wanted to give an excerpt from chapter nine, “The discipline of Worship.” I think he captures well the concept of corporate worship. I then invite you to honestly evaluate your personal practice of corporate worship. I think this section will be a blessing!
“Many Christians have never thought through the meaning and importance of worship. It is not an overstatement to say that our pleasure-centered culture has produced many who work at their play and play at their worship.
Why this confusion and tragic failure regarding worship? The answer lies in another question: Why do we worship – is it for God or man? The unspoken but increasingly common assumption of today’s Christendom is that worship is primarily for us – to meet our needs. Such worship services are entertainment – focused, and the worshipers are uncommitted spectators who are silently grading the performance. From this perspective preaching becomes a homiletics of consensus – preaching to felt needs – man’s conscious agenda instead of God’s. Such preaching is always topical and never textual. Biblical information is minimized, and the sermons are short and full of stories. Anything and everything that is suspected of making the marginal attender uncomfortable is removed from the service, whether it be a registration card or a “mere” creed. Taken to the nth degree, this philosophy instills a tragic self-centeredness. That is, everything is judged by how it affects man. This terribly corrupts one’s theology.
The telltale sign of this kind of thinking is the common post-worship question, What did you think of the service today? The real question ought to be, What did God think of it and of those who worshiped? And What did I give to God? It is easy to forget that in going to worship our main concern should be to “worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24) – not to receive a lift for ourselves.
Therefore, it is important that we understand, in distinction to the popular view that worship is for us, that worship begins not with man as its focus, but God. Worship must be orchestrated and conducted with the vision before us of an august, awesome, holy, transcendent God who is to be pleased and, above all, glorified by our worship. Everything in our corporate worship should flow from this understanding.
What about our needs then? When we worship and adore God in our singing and prayer and listening to the Word, His shalom will well in our souls so that we will leave with a glad sense of personal blessing – a great lift. But this is a byproduct, not a goal, a further evidence of the generous grace of God.”
Our desire ought to be that we not only corporately worship the Lord “in spirit and truth” but that our lives are lived moment by moment as acceptable displays of worship to God.