Worship: The What and Why?


What the worship wars have done to good faithful pastors and congregations is take the focus off the purpose worship. In this series, it is my goal to lead us back. As a parish pastor, I spent the bulk of my week working with my small team of musicians and lay leaders designing worship services to help members have a service that reminded them of the work and teachings of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

What worship wars and conflict has done to the unity of the church is troubling. It has caused church and leaders who use a modern or contemporary style to question every service they design that is not right out of an approved hymnbook. And on the other side of that has given comfort to those who use a hymnbook only, but I have seen those services conducted with little thought or careful preparation. Do not misread this opening. Or get the idea I am pushing for a worship service all about emotions. Because emotions without a purpose (a thankfulness for grace), a direction (offered to the One who gave His life for us), is just emotion. When I was a parish pastor the bulk of my week was spent designing a worship experience to keep that sense of awe that A. W. Tozer mentions in the quote below.


What is Worship?

“What is worship? Worship is to feel in your heart and express in some appropriate manner a humbling but delightful sense of admiring awe and astonished wonder and overpowering love in the presence of that most ancient Mystery, that Majesty which philosophers call the First Cause, but which we call Our Father Which Are in Heaven.” – A.W. Tozer, quoted in D.J. Fant, A.W. Tozer, Christian Publications, 1964, p. 90.

I wonder if part of the disconnect today is a matter of our definition of worship. A friend shared that same sentiment.

“My question is if the English word “worship” creates the problem. We come together to do something for/to God. The Norwegian “gudstjeneste”, German “Gottesdienst” is helpful, because we then more clearly see that the purpose of coming together is not to do something to/for God, but that God brings His people to do something to/for us. He is to feed and nurture us with his means of grace (Holy Communion and Holy Baptism). We really have nothing to offer God that He could not get much better and nicer from his angels. The only thing we have to give him that He does not have, and cannot get from anyone else are our sins. As I see it in Gottesdienst, God is serving us, giving us Grace, and receiving sin, and praise.”– Rev. Torkild Masvie

Rev. Masvie points out what the Psalmists sings.

The Lord is my solid rock,

    my fortress, my rescuer.

My God is my rock—

I take refuge in him!—

        he’s my shield,

        my salvation’s strength,

        my place of safety.

3 Because he is praiseworthy,

    I cried out to the Lord,

    and I was saved from my enemies.- Psalm 18:2-3

God is not some weak, needy, nor insecure heavenly being who needs the likes of us to come to feed a desire to be honored. Instead, the amazing, merciful, love God invites us to come to is worship for our benefit. He knows we have short memories. That we are beaten down by the world, by sin, by defeat. So, God invites us to come to worship to be refreshed, reminded of His love and grace. To be offered the gifts of forgiveness and life. It is not about the form as much as it is about the gifts, the forgiveness, the power of the Word, and the forgiveness in the Holy Meal, the washing away of original sin in the waters of Baptism. People of God come to worship and praise God for what He has done for us in the past, is doing for us in the present, and what He has promised to give us in a future glory with Him through faith in Christ’s death and resurrection.


Future Worship Posts

Vibrant Faith– encouraging our flock to remain connected to Jesus and His word.

Engaging Sermons – the preaching of the Word of God is key to worship.  Besides balancing Law and Gospel properly what should sermons attempt to communicate?

Have we underemphasized the Mystery – sacraments, faith, movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives in worship?

The Sending aspect of worship: At the end of the day we are sending people out into the mission field.  It is a movement of people to mission. Equipped through Word and Sacrament we are moving people from worship to be salt and light in their community.


Other blog posts on worship:



5 Comments on “Worship: The What and Why?

  1. Pingback: We Were Created To Worship God – The light breaks through

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