01 July 2010

Worship – A Dialogue on the Purposes of the Church: Who do we Worship?


Sing to the Lord, all the earth. Psalm 96:1b

This post is a part of an ongoing dialogue about the five purposes of the church. The first post addressed the question of Who Do We Worship?  I want to continue to interact and dialog with Marva Dawn as she dialogs about the “Who” of worship in her book How Shall We Worship?

There is an interesting observation in her book (p. 20) about the nature of our cultures today, described by social analyst Christopher Lasch as a Culture of Narcissism.

Lasch stated that social developments in the 20th century, such as the end of World War II and the rise of a consumer culture in the years that followed, gave rise to a narcissistic personality structure in which peoples’ self-concepts led to a fear of commitment and lasting relationships (including religion), a fear of aging (e.g., the 1960s and 1970s "youth culture") and a overdeveloped admiration for fame and celebrity, nurtured in part by the motion picture industry and television. The result is confusion, anxiety and uncertainty about how to live and relate in the world today (see a review of Lasch here).

Marva believes that this culture of narcissism has entered the church, which has resulted in attitudes and views that ask the question, What’s in it for me? (p. 21) Ever have anyone say to you, “I didn’t get much out of the

worship service today.”

Since worship is the response of all creation to “God’s gift of being,” any response that we have that is “hunting for what will please ourselves” can be nothing more than sin.

A couple of the results that we see in churches today is the tendency to see Sunday morning worship as an evangelistic rally, i.e., using the appeal factor of the worship service to attract those who are not yet Christ-followers by appealing to their immersion in our narcissistic culture. Thus a church can entertain and give people the impression that they have been part of a worship experience.

But if worship is for God, can those outside the community of faith enter into worship? Or more bluntly, can we say that these kind of services qualify as worship?

A pastor friend made a comment to my previous post, “One of the things we teach about worship is that it includes every aspect of life, not just what we do together on a Sunday morning. Worship is also our service to God as we serve His people.”

That to me is the paradox of the question of worship: Worship is about God, but yet as we worship, we can also serve the people of God.  The example I have in mind is the Milepost 13 Band that recently came to Grenoble. I saw some aspects of worship that I hadn’t notice before. They are a worship band, so their main purpose or goal was to worship God. But yet they were also evangelistic in their concerts, and one of the biggest benefits was how they served the two congregations in Grenoble –one French speaking and one English speaking, and the fellowship and community we enjoyed as a result.

So for me, this is a marvelous picture of what worship can be, it is more than an subjective experience on Sunday morning. As Marva points out, worship is the glad response to the immense grace of Triune God.” So when God’s grace is pouring out on us, we can experience the outworking of that grace through fellowship, evangelism, service, et. al., which in turn should rebound in our response to that grace.

Yes, grace is amazing!



Print this post


  1. Perhaps the church's greatest "worship" experience is when we celebrate communion together. If our churches are fulfilling Christ's purposes there should be the curious and seeking present in our worship gatherings. And even though partaking in communion is limited to believers, the curious and seeking are encouraged to observe because this act of worship preaches the cross so clearly.

    So yes, worship can be evangelistic, too. When the world sees geniune worship and God's Spirit draws them in conversions will happen!

  2. N. T. Wright says this: "From the very beginning—as in Luke 24, as in Acts 2—the Word and the sacrament, the teaching and the meal, together with prayer and fellowship, go with one another, reinforce one another, and energize one another." I agree with this, but I'm still working out what that means. The Anglican experience puts as much emphasis on the Lord's Supper as it does on the preaching. It has pushed the window on my Midwest view of Christianity, and how important Communion is. I'll let you know if and when I figure it out.

  3. Good stuff! The flip side of this is the idea that evangelism is worship. There is perhaps nothing on earth that we can do to show our love to God more than to tell others about Him.