Generally speaking, we all have some idea of what the church exists for; what we’re up to, as it were. I think it’s safe to say that the purpose of the church includes worship, Bible teaching (preaching), evangelism, service and relationship (community). This list is arguably not exhaustive, but it begins to capture an overall sense of what we are collectively as the church.
People seem reluctant to suggest that any of these things is the chief thing when it comes to life in the kingdom and fulfilling our purpose. Surely, they are all equally significant in the corporate life of Jesus followers. But is that really the best way to look at these ministry areas—as largely coequal?
As I consider this topic, I am of the opinion that there is one area that should be dominant. And that area is worship. This may seem strange coming from a lead pastor that preaches God’s word every week. Historically, lead pastors were not often known for their artistic or musical skills, so worship often took a back seat to service, evangelism and especially preaching. Others could be counted on for worship; the pastor needn’t overly concern himself. But my ministry story has its beginning in music and worship—really my “first love”—as I spent many years serving churches in worship ministry. Now serving as a lead pastor I am as convinced as ever that worship is paramount.
Worship is our intentional, active response to all that God is and does. We give to God all the honor and glory that he deserves. Truly it is what we are created for and it is the one thing that we will continue to do in eternity. When we begin to grasp this, we realize that worship empowers and energizes all the other areas. Service, evangelism, Bible learning and even fellowship flow out of and are engulfed by worship.
We have begun to see this in significant ways at our church. When we launched the latest iteration of a mid-week prayer gathering, we agreed that we would center on actually praying, coming before God, being in his presence and not focus on talking about everything we should pray about. We spend the hour praying.
However, the planning team quite naturally started to include elements of worship as we gathered for prayer. A Bluetooth speaker is regularly used for songs and some feel free to sing along. Gatherers are also encouraged to quote Psalms or other Scripture passages as we spend that time with Jesus. Worship has more than enhanced our weekly prayer meetings.
Our church is blessed to have gifted musicians, and we have a great worship leader/planner. She has encouraged me to be mindful of and periodically preach on worship. More importantly, our congregation has actively been pursuing what it means to be a worshipping church.
Last spring, we had a worship night at the beginning of Holy Week. It was moving and meaningful, and I believe God was pleased. We have had two more since then, and we have seen our congregation grow in worship.
Let me say again, worship is paramount. As we get that, we become the church God wants us to be.