The Formative Power of Public Worship

Corporate worship forms a community into the body of Christ and has great influence in shaping the spirituality of its members. Every worshiping community has a great responsibility for how this influence is wielded. Communities that take seriously their corporate worship life will find great benefits in the spiritual growth and vitality of individual members.

The public act of Christian worship is the single most formative event in the life of the Christian community. Men and women are transformed into the image of Christ through the means of grace; and nothing is so significant in this respect as the regular, consistent participation in corporate worship. It is for this reason that worship has always been seen as the central life of the Christian community. Other components or dimensions of our common life together flow out of this event.

Yet Christians often underestimate or fail to appreciate the formative power of worship. Paul stresses that in worship all things are to be done for edification (1 Corinthians 14:26). Many thus conclude that worship can only be justified if it produces immediate results. Some are looking for visible, tangible signs of change in people’s lives. From all appearances, the worshiper leaves the church on Sunday much the same person they were when they entered. Worship is readily seen to be a ritual of little inherent significance and value.

This conclusion leads to different responses. Some give up on worship. That is, they decide that since worship does not produce the desired result, worship is of no consequence. And so they downgrade it and make it but another event in the life of the community, one that is expendable if other more attractive or more useful events can be found. Or they begin to call just about anything that the church does worship. Christians may come together, may sing a few religious songs, may take an offering, and may have a talk from the pastor. But in effect, this is nothing more than a religious gathering.

On the other hand, there are those who affirm worship, but argue that the routine is not in itself helpful. They conclude that we need to supplement it or make something happen to justify worship, for it is inferred that the act of worship alone is meaningless. The value or significance of worship as a transforming event is often undermined because its true nature and goal is bypassed.

The consistent practice of a simple order of worship that is designed to enable the people of God to bring blessing to God and to hear God’s voice does encourage the Christian believer to experience the transforming grace of God. It is edifying. But its formative influence is subtle, quiet, and, as often as not, imperceptible. To appreciate the transforming power of public worship, we must resolve to consistently and simply worship in spirit and truth with a commitment to bless God and allow God to speak. Only then is worship formative. Only then is the common act of public worship an event that enables Christian believers to know the grace of the living God