Is your worship ‘Reasonable’?
by J. Ben Wiles
T

he following scenario, or some variation of it, is typical for many Pentecostal congregations. As you read it, think about when you see worship happening: It is 10:45 a.m. and almost time for the service to start. The hospitality team is working to make sure everyone feels welcomed as they take their seats; the nursery is receiving children into their care; and the children’s ministry team is praying together before they lead a service designed especially for kids. In the sanctuary, musicians and singers take their places. The media team is making last-minute adjustments. All of a sudden, the musicians kick off an exciting, upbeat song.

As the service continues, hands are raised and people in the congregation sing along with the people on the stage. A message in tongues is given and interpreted. People pray corporately for needs in the congregation and in the world. Then the service transitions to someone talking about generosity and stewardship, followed by ushers serving the congregation, allowing everyone an opportunity to give their tithes and offerings to the Lord.

Soon, the pastor is standing behind the pulpit with an open Bible, reading the chosen passage and sharing a message. After the sermon, people are invited to come to the altar and share in the Lord’s Supper and intercessory prayer. Eventually, the benediction is given and people leave the church to return to their respective homes.

The next day, they go out into the city to their jobs and schools and the marketplace to take care of the daily affairs of life, anticipating the next time they will be able to gather with their church family to experience the presence and power of the Lord together.

In this scenario, some might say worship is the part of the service where the people are singing. It is true that many churches have “worship leaders” and “worship teams.” Even if we don’t officially print an order of service, we commonly use the term “praise and worship” for the musical portion of the service. But, does that mean the giving of tithes and offerings, prayer, the preaching of the Word, and the sacramental ordinances of water baptism, Communion, and foot washing aren’t also acts of worship? And what about the fellowship of the saints after the service is over? Is it possible that eating together, sharing life with one another, bearing one another’s burdens, and encouraging one another could all be considered acts of worship?

I believe our use of the word worship reveals a subtle problem in the 21st-century church compartmentalization. We have segmented our lives into a divide between secular and sacred, and have limited our understanding of wor- ship to something that happens when we gather in the sanctuary or when we are singing worship songs. That view cannot be further from the reality revealed to us in Scripture. Consider Paul’s words in Romans 12:1: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship” (NIV).

In the original language, the word used to describe “proper worship” in this verse is logikos, which can be translated as “reasonable” or “rational.” Let’s do a brief survey of these remaining chapters in Romans to understand what Paul means by “reasonable worship.”

Therefore . . .

The connecting word therefore (12:1) signals to us that what follows is based on what has already been said. In this case, Romans 12 pivots the entire book in a new direction, revealing to us what “reasonable worship” looks like in light of what has been written in chapters 1-11, where Paul painstakingly explains the gospel for the church at Rome.

In those earlier chapters, we see the following:

• The fallen state of humanity and the futility of trying to save ourselves— whether Jew or Gentile (chs. 1-4)

• The redemption we have in Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit to sanctify us and transform us into the likeness of Christ (5:1—8:17)

• The hope we share with one another and all of creation as we eagerly await Christ’s second coming, the redemption of our bodies, and the glory that will be revealed to those, both Jew and Gentile, who have obediently responded to the gospel of Jesus Christ (8:18—11:36).

Transformation

As we continue in Romans 12:1, we are told that, in light of these truths, offering our bodies as “a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God,” is our “reasonable service.” Additionally, we are told it is necessary to allow our thought life to be transformed into Christlikeness. This transformation is going to be revealed in how we treat one another in the household of faith—those relationships should be marked by love, generosity, and hospitality (vv. 3-16). How we treat those outside of the church who may not share our values, or may even be hostile toward us, is also revealing of this transformation process (vv. 17-21).

Chapter 13 addresses the need for us to be good citizens (vv. 1-7). Note there is no exception given for the times we disagree with those who hold elected office! This chapter also teaches that we are ruled by the law of love in our dealings with one another, and love is going to be manifested in our moral behavior (vv. 8-14).

We should offer our whole selves to God, not just for a few moments on Sunday morning, but-moment by-Moment.

Chapters 14-16 are marked by a constant appeal to unity in the church and the warning to not allow our personal opinions on certain matters to give rise to divisions among us.

No Limits

From this brief summary, we should understand no area of our lives is off limits when it comes to “reasonable worship.” Our private and public lives . . . our lives in the church and outside the church . . . our thoughts, actions, morality, and ethics . . . are all part of the offering we make to God when we worship.

In light of this, it seems strange that we would limit our concept of worship to a time slot on a Sunday morning. The result of this error is a potential disconnect between our lifestyles and our confession. This becomes evident when we find nothing wrong with lifting our hands and singing songs in a worship service on Sunday and utilizing unethical business practices on Monday. Or perhaps we sing about the love of God while we hold grudges against a brother or sister, harbor feelings of prejudice against those of another ethnicity, or ignore the plight of the poor and sick among us. Brothers and sisters, these things ought not be!

Let’s revisit the scenario above. From what we have seen in Romans, everything described going on before, during, and after the church service could be considered an act of worship. It is also an act of worship for every individual who honors the Lord by meeting with God’s people for corporate worship.

The person who cleans the church during the week prior to this gathering should consider their work an act of worship. The preparation on the part of church workers, the pastor’s study of the Scripture, and the times of prayer seeking God’s presence and blessing on the service are also worshipful.

Worship continues after the benediction, as believers . . .

• Live out their faith in their schools and businesses

• Obey traffic laws and handle their money ethically

• Respond to certain people who seem to be on a mission to make life difficult for them.

Someone said, “Worship is responding to all that God is with all that we are.” If we fail to consider who God is and what He has done for us through the Son and the Spirit, then we will find ourselves coming together weekly and not even knowing what it is we are celebrating.

Jesus Christ is our Savior, Sanctifier, Spirit-baptizer, Healer, and soon-coming King! It is “reasonable” that we offer our whole selves to Him, not just for a few moments on a Sunday morning, but moment-by-moment, day-by-day as an act of genuine worship.

 

 

 

J. Ben Wiles, M.Div., is pastor of the River of Life Church of God in Hot Springs, Arkansas.