Reverence in Worship

Joel Stephen Williams

The term "worship" in English comes from the Anglo-Saxon weorthscipe, later worthship, which means "to ascribe worth to someone or something." Worship means "reverence or veneration paid to a being or power regarded as supernatural or divine; the action or practice of displaying this by appropriate acts, rites, or ceremonies" (The Oxford English Dictionary, 1933, 12/319-21). Not everything we do in the "worship service" is worship, because we do some things to edify one another or simply to inform one another, as we do in making announcements. But much of what we do in the "worship service" should be worship, and in order for it truly to be worship, it must be done in reverence. What can we do in order to be more reverent in worship?

1. Preparation. If we rush to the church building and talk to one another only about secular matters, we will not be able to suddenly turn on a worshipful frame of mind in an instant.

2. Avoid frivolitry. In order for worship to be authentic, it must be done in a language and in forms which make sense to people. Worship must be contemporary. It does not have to be boring, dreary, or carried out in a language and methodology of an age already past. But a folksy attitude of frivolitry is not the way to be contemporary. It is not the way to speak in the language and forms of this generation while being reverent at the same time. One brother recently reported attending two services, both of which were very contemporary in form with lots of new songs. In his opinion one of the services was very reverent and inspirational while the other was not. The problem, in his opinion, was an attitude of frivolitry on the part of the worship leaders which rubbed off on the congregation as a whole. For example, one song leader said: "Spit out your chewing gum for this next song because it is a fast song."

3. Focus your thoughts on God. Worship is praising God and ascribing worth to him. We can not do this unless we focus our thoughts on God. Some of the songs we sing must be hymns (which are addressed to God) rather than all of them being gospel songs (which are addressed to one another). Our prayers must be addressed to God. Avoid allowing public prayer to be used simply for crowd control (to get people quiet) or as an opportunity to preach another sermon.

Worship is a matter of the attitude of our hearts. If we put forth a conscious effort, through the above means and many others, we can make an improvement in the reverence of our worship services.

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