Worship Service and Services of Worship.

PCA pastor, Scotty Smith has written an article that will appear in the next issue of Worship Leader. I happened to get a copy of it through the Worship Reformed Network. Scotty uses a play-on-words to point out the kind of worship that the Lord desires from His children. Here’s a quote:
“We need worship leaders who will work hard to infuse our services of worship with the call to worship service.”
In his article, Scotty refers to Isaiah 1 where the Lord, speaking through the prophet, chastises His people for their meaningless worship. They offered sacrifices, observed special days, and spread their hands in prayer. Yet, the Lord finds this worship meaningless because His people failed to do justice and mercy. The Lord wants us to worship him with our songs, sacraments, and Sabbath, but all of that would be meaningless if it did not produce the fruit of service and love. Right on, Scotty!
His play-on-words got me thinking about our backward Christian-ese nomenclature.
“Worship Service” has become a meaningless term. It has become a buzzword that represents a Sunday morning event that we all could describe, but the meaning of the words has been lost. Especially the word, “service.” When we use the word service we are generally talking about acts of love and mercy. But, most of the time we talk about our Sunday morning worship event as a service without any intention of implying the original meaning of the word? “What time does the service start?” “Where do you hold your services?” “Wasn’t that a great service?”

Now look at “worship.” John Frame defines worship as “the work of acknowledging the greatness of our covenant Lord.” There is a broad understanding of worship that is expressed in everything we do because all that we do is for the glory of God. When we make dinner, do the laundry, talk with a friend, discipline a child, go to work, etc. all of these things are acts of worship to the Lord. There are also specific acts of worship that God has ordained in scripture for us to do like prayer, reading the Word, taking the Lord’s supper, confession, adoration, thanksgiving, and singing. My prof, Mark Dalbey, uses the term “corporate public worship” to refer to what we do on Sunday mornings. Next time you invite you neighbor to church try saying, “Our corporate public worship begins at 10:00” and see how they respond.
So, even though we use the term “worship service” to describe the specific forms of worship it is probably a better description of its broad understanding. At New City Fellowship we have “work days” when we do acts of service for the community. These acts of service are worship done in response to the mercy Christ has shown us (see Romans 12:1). Perhaps, we should start referring to those days as our “worship service,” and Andrew Stern, our work day director, could be given the title “worship leader.”
Scotty’s quote shows that he prefers to call the specific form of worship “services of worship.” As you can tell, there is probably no real grammatical difference between the two terms. But, I appreciate how Scotty uses the syntax of these phrases to help us see our “worship services” in a new light.
Some of you who know me may have noticed how I prefer to use the title “Music Director” to “Worship Director.” You may have also noticed that I avoid the term “Worship Team” and instead I use the term, “Music Team.” I assure you that it was completely intentional. I know that words are just words, but they also have the power to slowly distort our theology. By calling the musicians the “worship team,” we may be failing to communicate the fact that all God’s children are worshipers both in services of worship and in everything that they do. When we gather on Sunday, we are ALL worshiping. The musicians in the body are worshiping by leading the music. The pastors are worshiping by imparting the Word of God. The nursery workers are worshiping by serving parents. The maintenance workers…well…you get the point.

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