As I write this article I’m in Louisville, Kentucky, attending a conference called “Together for the Gospel.” Pastors, elders, and seminarians have gathered together for fellowship and worship around the theme: The Unadjusted Gospel. More than seven thousand men from various evangelical (gospel-preaching) churches with various liturgical traditions are standing together as we sing some of the greatest hymns (from both the seventeenth and twenty-first centuries).
At the piano helping to lead us in worship is Bob Kauflin, a man who has spent his life considering what it means to worship our holy and just, gracious and glorious God. His blog and subsequent book Worship Matters: Leading Others to Encounter the Greatness of God, are devoted to help the church to worship God in the way He deserves, demands, and delights. As a pastor and musician, Bob understands what it means to take part in leading worship every Lord’s Day and at conferences like this one in Louisville, and if I were to approach him and say, “Thank you for leading our worship,” he would politely say, “You’re welcome.” However, if I continued to express my gratitude to him for leading our worship, he would likely feel the need to stop me and ensure I rightly understood that he is not the only one leading worship and that he is actually just leading the singing portion of our worship. What is more, he would want to ensure I understood the full meaning of biblical worship.
Many Christians are under the impression that worship is confined to those specific times of corporate worship when we’re singing. As such, churches have given titles such as “worship leader” or “worship team” to those leading us musically. Thus, people naturally conclude that the “worship” portions of the service take place exclusively when we’re singing. God’s Word, however, teaches us that singing is only one part of the worship service and that our prayers, affirmations, confessions of sin, Scripture readings, sermons, and singing are all parts of corporate worship.
Worship is the Christian’s all-encompassing service to our covenant Lord who has set us free to worship Him in beauty and splendor, holiness and freedom, so that wherever we are — in our closets, our homes, and our churches — we can worship Him coram Deo, before His face in Spirit and in truth, with reverence and awe, according to His Word and for His glory (1 Cor. 10:31).