A fellow pastor recently noted that in this season, where churches are suspending services and cancelling events, perhaps this is the time when the Church really ‘goes back to basics.’
When I think of ‘the basics’ of Christianity, my mind is immediately drawn to Acts 2:42: “They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Four really important, basic elements of Christian living.
But then my head does a double-take back to the text and I realize something: “Hold on. Teaching, fellowship, breaking bread, prayer. What about worship?” The writer of Acts doesn’t say anything about singing, liturgy, music, hymns, bands, organs, instruments. What gives?
And then it hits me. There must be a reason why Luke (the writer of Acts) didn’t specifically mention worship—at least not in the way that we normally think about it.
Why? Because my definition of worship must be too narrow. All four of those items that Luke mentions are in fact worship—but not in the way that I normally think about it. My view of worship is too small.
So I did some digging.
Throughout Scripture, to ‘worship’—as our English Bibles have translated it—is a catch-all term for serve, fear, revere, prostrate, bow, kneel, pay homage, ceremonially observe, adore, call on the name, or shout. When the ancients were talking about singing, they simply used the word for singing.
Interestingly, in both Testaments, the word most often used for ‘worship’ literally means to prostrate oneself before God—to depress or deflate oneself before a Mighty King. It was seen in the context of ascribing glory to God, proclaiming truths about Him, paying homage to Him, and kneeling at His feet.
To worship is to bow before the King. It’s a posture. It’s something you do for your King, not something anybody else does for you.
Music and song are simply a means by which we offer ourselves in humility before God. Whether I like the music or not is completely irrelevant. Do the words speak truth? Do they proclaim who God is? The rest then is on me to inhabit a posture of worship—to bow before my King in humble adoration and to honor Him.
Not being able to gather then on a Sunday morning does not mean that worship discontinues. Certainly there is something essential to the Body of Christ when we gather together on Sunday mornings. But when worship is a posture—a bowing down before our King—then it is not dependent upon our capacity to meet together.
We do not need to be in a sanctuary to enter a posture of worship. Anytime we take a moment or more to pause and bow before our King—to lament, to confess, to pray, to call on His name, to whisper His praises, to revere Him, etc.—we are engaging in a worshipful posture.
Consider Revelation 4, where the Lamb is seated on the throne, and the Holy Spirit is the key participant:
In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures…. Day and night they never stop saying,
“Holy holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,
who was, and is, and is to come.”
Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor, and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him…. They lay their crowns down before the throne and say:
“You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they were created and have their being.”
Notice that these creatures and elders aren’t necessarily singing. They are simply proclaiming the truths of the One who is on the throne. Day and night they never stop. They come around the throne. They fall down before Him. They lay down their crowns at His feet. They worship.
It’s a posture.
As Darrell Johnson once put it, “Lo, I tell you a mystery. Worship does not begin with us and will not end with us. So the question to ask after worship is not, ‘What did I get out of it?’ The question to ask after worship is, ‘Did I enter in? Did I enter into the mystery? Did I enter into the worship that never ends? Did my heart cry, ‘Worthy’?”
With this perspective on worship, followers of Christ are ultimately responsible for teaching and directing the posture of worship—a posture that urges all of us to fall down before our King who sits on the throne and to lay our crowns and idols at His feet. That is Biblical worship.
So I urge you then, in this season where we cannot gather as a Family in worship, when we cannot posture ourselves together before the throne of the Lamb, to please continue to lay your crowns before Christ on your own and with small groups.
Continue to worship—to bow, to kneel, to lay yourself down in humility. Continue to speak our Lord’s praises. Continue to cry ‘Worthy!’ Continue to engage in prayer, songs, and the apostle’s teachings.
Before you tune into an online service, turn off all of your distractions and spend a moment in prayer. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you enter a posture of worship—of coming before your King, kneeling at his feet, and laying down your crowns.
Foster a posture of worship in this season. Because when we regularly enter our hearts and minds into the throne room of Jesus, when we imagine ourselves joining in the praise that is already going on, we will be changed. Our idols will fall away. We’ll know we are not alone.
And the focus of our worship—our reverence, our awe, our hope—will be only and forever on Him.
If you are in need of some Biblically-grounded music to help guide your thoughts during this season, I encourage you to have a listen to Wendell Kimbrough’s album, “Come to me.”