Friday, November 10, 2006


Webster's Dictionary defines "worship" as " an expression of the worthiness of a Being." That's biblical in my estimation.

I'm going to write about another thing of which I'm sure. [That never means I don't have things to learn in this area.] My sureness comes from what I confidently see in scripture and from my experience as a pastor. That is corporate worship.

Let me say from the beginning that worship is more than a service. It is an obedient life. That's why, when ready to obey in what he thought would be the killing of his son, Abraham said, "the lad and I will go yonder and worship." There is no real worship corporately apart from a life of obedience individually. But there can be both.

So my frame of reference for this article is a corporate body gathered to experience worship as a group.

Another thing. I doubt the veracity of the statement that, in corporate worship, God is the audience and we're the participants. He's watching how we perform so let's do it right. We want to be sure and please Him. It seems to me that's the philosophy that drives paganism. In their mind, if they do it right, the gods [who are far off and watching] will be happy and bless them. But if they mess it up, the gods will be angry and crops will die, and cattle and wives will be barren. So you can see the reason for establishing an elite group [ministers/witch doctors] who are trained to do it right. They can do the rituals and we will watch and all will be well. At least in their minds. I don't think so.

Worship is more of a family gathering with the joy, excitement, anticipation, and even struggles of relating to each other, and the Father, who is the one significant presence that we all want to share in a very real way. Worship is that time when we, corporately, experience, hear from, and even crawl up into the lap of, our Heavenly Father, who is real in our midst as He's real in our lives daily.

Finally, why is corporate worship so important? No one doubts that we can worship/obey God individually, but why is the group thing so important? I'm glad you asked that question. :)

It is essential because God doesn't have any "only kids". We're part of a kingdom/family and we are to experience each other as gifted, growing, members of the Body. You count the "one another" statements in scripture and you'll find we can't really life out christianity effectively apart from "one another". Add to that reality, the only time the whole local body [assuming the people come] is together is that one time a week, generally on a Sunday morning, called a Worship service, and you see why we need to think seriously about corporate worship experiences. It can't/shouldn't be just an after thought.

Two philosophies have prevailed historically for those services. One has been adopted generally by Southern Baptists and is, in my judgement, incorrect. It is a performance style. [God is watching remember.] The other is a relational style. [One cell/person relating to other cells in the Body, and relating to the Head, who is NOT, by the way, the Pastor.]

It is noteworthy to remember that either of these can be the driving force of a traditional, progressive, or even emerging brand of worship. It is that driving force behind ANY style of worship program I'm addressing. Do you want to wager [pardon the expression] which I believe to be the best and the biblical one? Of course, the first relates to that previously mentioned pagan philosophy. The second will be the basis for what I'm going to share in the next couple of posts on this blog. Until then...enjoy/experience your corporate worship this coming Lord's day. The Father will be there in a special way at your family reunion.

Paul B.


Anonymous said...

Thank you Pastor Burleson for you deep insight into worship. You really say the things I have felt for years, and I agree, it is not Pastor who is the head! Regretfully there are many pastors who have not gotten that memo.

Thanks for your insight.

Paul Burleson said...


Welcome to you. I don't remember your internet name, so, if it's your first time, thanks for dropping by. I hope you do it often.

Paul B.

Strider said...

Kierkegaard put God in the audience as a reaction against what he saw in his day as we were the audience and God was left out altogether. I do agree with you that his analogy falls short of the truth. Taken too far another problem replaces the first. In the end obedience is the best worship. Humility and sacrifice that lead to acts of faith are what please Him. Thankyou for another great post.

Paul Burleson said...


My disagreement with Kierkegaard goes pretty deep obviously. If I remember correctly from my days in college when I studied philosopy, he emphasized subjective truth as seen in his statement "truth is what is truth for me" as a pretty strong dismissal of objective truth. I know he didn't deny it, [objective truth] he just believed all truth must be appropriated subjectively to really experience truth.

You can see I believe some of that last statement to be valid as evidenced by my post, but objective truth has to be in balance with it all. Some of this is getting too deep for me. :)Thanks for weighing in, I like your thoughts.

Paul B.

Anonymous said...

Paul, great post, as usual. Can you give some biblical foundations for your conclusions so that i can do a little study myself, too?

Paul Burleson said...


This "introduction" to the whole thing of worship is more of a philosophical approach to the mode of worship based on the Christian Faith being relational in nature, with the exception of the Abraham thing, than the biblical foundation for th components. That will come in the next couple of installments.

By the way, Christmas is on the way. Enjoy. :)

Paul B.

teenasam said...

I'd like to comment on your statement about pagan worship.

After reading your analogy of pagan worship to "God is the audience and we're the participants", it was hard for me to understand what you are trying to say there. So, maybe some clarification could help me.

I have spent the last 12 years living among the pagan worshippers and what I have witnessed and what you have said didn't ring in harmony.

This is not exhaustive and animism is much more complicated than you or I will present here. But here is my two cents worth.

When someone offers sacrifices in pagan worship, it is to appease the gods that would do them harm. This worship is out of fear, not reverence to their god. They do not think their god loves them and will do good things for them. They just want these evil spirits to not harm them. Another aspect is going to an "expert" to put a curse on someone. This is when you go to that person who 'does it right.' Worship of pagan gods is purely out of fear. Fear is what keeps so many from leaving the pagan ways.

I just really had a hard time relating the 2 things that you related.

For me, as one "in the pews", the statement "God is the audience and we're the participants" is more to help me understand that I am just as much of a participant in worship as the "guys up front". It is to help me as a choir member to understand that I am there to help guide our congregation to God and not me as a performer. Everything I do is for God, that would include corporate worship.

Help me understand more fully what you are saying here.


Paul Burleson said...


Thanks for weighing in. I would agree with what you've said and, in fact, was attempting to make much the same point. You said it better perhaps than did I and I commend you for it.

My experience with years of worship and leading in worship and talking with people about it, has caused me to believe a lot of people, even christians, do what they do out of fear. I didn't speak to that motive by name but to the philosophy behind it. You gave that motivation a name...fear.

I would also say that, perhaps, pagan worshippers, if I've studied correctly, do hope their gods will cause good things to happen. It certainly isn't out of love [in the mind's of the worshippers] but because they [the gods] have been appeased. [The worshipper hopes.] Which is a thing based on fear also.

It is that reality I'm trying to counter. Worship is what you described you, in fact, do. My experience is that many/most do not. Those many/most I've met are "afraid" if they aren't faithful and worship correctly God's blessings will not be experienced. The evidence of this is, when bad things happen, many wonder "what sin did I commit?" When good things happen many say/think "I must be doing something right." Neither of these is correct and both misunderstand the Grace relationship we have with our Father who is right here.

To top it off, many, in modern worship, are afraid [there it is again] God isn't, in fact, right here, but out there watching. In other words, it isn't a personal relationship thing based on love and acceptance which is certainly the heart of the worship you described you have.

I guess the way I would illustrate it best is to imagine a 10 year old in the average worship service today. Quiet is demanded. The minister sounds like God. [Although he didn't when the ten year old saw him before service started.] The choir is dressed differently than the spectators. [Remember he's ten years old.] Words are spoken/sung which have no meaning/revelance to that child. All in all, it isn't a family gathering at all, but it is a fearsome experience in a very less than meaningful way.

It is this less than personal and genuine relational experience that I believe true worship will correct.

As I said, I'm not sure, but that what you said is what I said, you just said it better. Thanks.

Paul B.