In the year 2000, John Antioco was the CEO of home movie rental service Blockbuster. Blockbuster was afforded opportunity to purchase a fledgling entertainment company called Netflix for a mere $50 million. Antioco could not see the potential that Netflix held and turned down the offer. Today, Blockbuster is out of business while Netflix boasts a net worth of some $30 billion. If only Antioco had seen the hidden potential before him.
Christians frequently approach corporate worship in the same way. Church gatherings appear dull and boring. We sometimes gather out of a sense of obligation and force our way through another tedious worship service. We fail to recognise the very real power at our very fingertips in the gathering of the saints.
Corporate worship is a supernatural event. It is an event in which redeemed sinners interact with a supernatural being. When we approach corporate worship with boredom rather than astonishment and with resentment instead of reverence, it is only because we do not see the hidden splendour of what is taking place. We are like Elisha’s servant: blind to the spiritual reality that surrounds us.
Perhaps one reason for this is because we fail to recognise that real worship is more about receiving than doing. Instead of doing something for God in worship, we participate in the drama of what he is doing for us. David wrote, “I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears” (v. 4). He rejoiced in what God had done for him and exhorted others to do the same: “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him” (v. 8). He wanted his readers to receive afresh what God had done for them in worship.
Jonathan Landry Cruse gets to the heart of the matter when he writes, “Something is happening when we worship. Something happens to us, something happens between us and the people we worship with, and, most importantly, something happens between us and God.” The problem is that we too frequently miss what is happening. That is why worship seems so boring.
We too often fall into twin errors when it comes to worship.
On the one hand, we fall into the trap of thinking of worship as a spectator sport. We don’t really see how it benefits us except to the degree that we are entertained. We might occasionally be called upon to participate by singing a song or reciting a prayer but, for the most part, we attend as passive spectators. There really is very little difference between attending corporate worship and going to the movies—except that movies are frequently more exciting.
On the other hand, we fall into the trap of thinking of worship as an act by which we give to God. God is the recipient and we are the givers. He receives our worship and it is our job in worship to ensure that we offer worship to him in a way that he finds acceptable. As we give to him acceptable worship, he benefits and we applaud ourselves.
True worship goes far deeper. Worship is an act by which we experience the supernatural power of God transforming us into what we should be. As Cruse again observes, in corporate worship, “the God of the universe appears and meets with his people, and by his sovereign and gracious power he changes them.” Worship changes us, as it changed Isaiah (Isaiah 6:1–8ff).
If we truly understood what happens when the church gathers to worship, we would approach it with appropriate astonishment. Far from being bored and disinterested, we would marvel at the true supernatural nature of gathered worship. We would rejoice at what God is doing for us and openly confess that there is no better place to be on a Sunday than in the assembly of the saints.
I recently started reading Jonathan Landry Cruse’s excellent book What Happens When We Worship? As I read this book this week, I want to take you on the journey with me. I want to draw on the lessons that I learn from Cruse to help us all marvel at the wonder of corporate worship.
As you join me on this journey, pray that God will open your eyes to the hidden splendour of worship. Then heed the words of David as you worship with the saints: Taste and see that the LORD is good.