|Adoration - the substance of Worship|
Contemporary Christians are unsure about what they should do at their Sunday meetings. Lots of different formulas are being tried, but there is little agreement. Behind this "doing" problem, there lies a more substantial problem. It is a failure to identify the purpose of the meeting. Why do we meet, and what should we do when we meet?
Up till just after the Second World War, Evangelical Anglicans tended to see the church service as an act of adoration, in particular, expressed through the proclamation of God's Word. After the war there was a swing toward evangelism. The church service became a platform to proclaim the gospel. This was particularly so in the evening service. The church, up to the 1960's, was largely made up of nominal attenders. So presenting the gospel seemed the obvious thing to do. "Accessing" services were introduced, the most popular being the 9.30am service slotted next to Sunday School in an attempt to attract parents to church.
In the 1970's there was a move toward church as fellowship. Gathering to make real our oneness in Christ became the focus of church. Teaching the gathered flock, the remnant, became the central aim of the Sunday service. This prompted a return to the old Puritan idea of the Sunday lecture. That is, church is about learning.
With the drop-off in attendance many Evangelical Anglican churches have attempted to revive the outreach style of the 50's and 60's. The influence of American Church Growth programmes have driven "accessing" Sunday services. These are designed to attract people to church so that they can come under the sound of the gospel. In such churches the business of church is evangelism.
Of course, none of these aspects of our gathering is mutually exclusive. We must always radiate the gospel in everything we do. As well, being one in Christ should be a natural outworking of our meeting with Christ. As for teaching, when we meet with Christ we are bound to hear him, to listen to him. But why do we meet?
The substantial purpose of the gathering of God's people is worship. We gather together to bow before our living God in adoring wonder; praising him, thanking him, asking of him and hearing him. Nothing could be more simple.
Yet we have a problem and it centres on the word "worship". Our Bible translators translate two Greek words (with Hebrew equivalents) with the one English word, "worship". Although not always done consistently, it is enough to give us the idea that the words are integrally linked. The two words are latreuw, which means something like "to give worthy service", and proskunew, which means "to express reverential fear, to adore, to wonder at". The result of that link is that we end up regarding worship as something like, "giving God his worth in our day to day living for him". In that sense, we have removed the word "worship" from its particular religious ceremonial sense and given it a far wider meaning. It is then often argued that a church meeting is not about adoration.
If we allow the idea of adoration to stand by itself, giving it it's English title of worship, we obviously have to ask, when is it the right time to adore/worship God? When should we bow before him and adore him? Obviously, when we come into his presence. When do we come into his presence? Every time we pray, that's true. In fact, the Spirit of God is always present with us. Yet there is a time when, more than any other time, God is present with us. It is when two or three gather together, then is Christ in our midst, Matt.18:20. If Jesus gathers with us when we gather in his Name, how should we respond towards him? Surely like Peter who said "depart from me for I am a sinful man", or like the adulterous woman who washed the feet of Jesus with her tears. Our response must surely be to worship him; to bow before him, praise him, thank him, ask of him, hear him - to adore him
Examples of confused usages of the two key words
i] Adoration. (proskunew)
1Cor.14:25, Rev.7:11, 11:16, Acts 8:27.
Worship of the risen Lord. Matt. 28:9,17, Luke 24:52.
The above usages indicate awe and reverence to the living God.
ii] Service. (latreuw)
Rom.9:4, 12:1. The word "Worship" is used to translate this Greek word, when a word like "service" would be more appropriate.
Heb.9:14, Rev.7:15. The word "serve" is rightly used here.
Heb.12:28. Another example of a misuse of the word "worship". NIV uses "worship" rather than "serve" and so interferes with a proper understanding of the word.
Although there are different elements involved in the gathering of God's people, the prime element always remains, and that is worship. As we meet in God's presence, adoration must be our prime response. If we forget adoration, we forget God, and we then become the church of the absent Christ.
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