Worship is our first responsibility to God, yet most church members don't understand it. For many, worship is just a synonym for music. They say, "At our church we have the worship first, and then the teaching." Or they think of worship as something for their benefit. As pastors, we often receive notes that say, "I loved the worship today. I got a lot out of it." Others associate worship with ceremonies, candles, and communion or healing, miracles, and ecstatic experiences.
Yet all of these ideas fall short. Worship is far more than praising, singing, and praying to God. We worship God by enjoying him. C.S. Lewis said, "In commanding us to glorify him, God is inviting us to enjoy him."
One of our primary responsibilities as shepherds of God's flock is to lead people to become true worshippers. Anthropologists have noted that worship is a universal urge, hard-wired by God into the very fiber of our being – an inbuilt need to connect with God. Worship is as natural as eating or breathing. If we fail to worship God, we always find a substitute, even if it ends up being ourselves. The reason God made us with this desire is that he desires worshipers! Jesus said, "The Father seeks ... worshipers." (John 4:23 NAS)
Our job is to connect the God-given desire to worship with the One who seeks true worshippers. To do this you have to expand your understanding of worship as well. You need to stop thinking in terms of church services and begin to see worship as anything that brings pleasure to God.
Your church will become a church filled with true worshippers as you show them how every activity can be transformed into an act of worship when done for the pleasure of God. The Bible says, "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." (1 Cor. 10:31 NIV) Martin Luther said, "A dairymaid can milk cows to the glory of God." When you use your life for God's glory, everything you do can become an act of worship. The Bible says, "Use your whole body as a tool to do what is right for the glory of God." (Rom. 6:13 NLT)
How is it possible to do everything to the glory of God? By doing everything as if you were doing it for Jesus and by carrying on a continual conversation with him while you do it! The Bible says, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men." (Col. 3:23 NIV)
This is the secret to a lifestyle of worship – doing everything as if I was doing it for Jesus. The Message paraphrase says, "Take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life – and place it before God as an offering." Work becomes worship when you dedicate it to God and perform it with an awareness of his presence.
This moves worship beyond church services not only in space but also in time. We are told to "worship him continually" and to "praise him from sunrise to sunset." In the Bible, people praised God at work, at home, in battle, in jail, and even in bed! Praise should be the first activity when you open your eyes in the morning and the last activity when you close them at night. David said, "I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth." (Ps. 34:1 NAS)
When I first fell in love with my wife, I thought of her constantly: while eating breakfast, driving to school, attending class, waiting in line at the market, pumping gas – I could not stop thinking about Kay! I often talked to myself about her and thought about all the things I loved about her. This helped me feel close to her even though we lived several hundred miles apart and attended different colleges. By constantly thinking of her, I was abiding in her love. This is what real worship is all about – falling in love with Jesus. And this is where we need to lead the flocks God has placed in our care.
Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America's largest and best-known churches. In addition, Rick is author of the New York Times bestseller The Purpose-Driven Life and The Purpose-Driven Church, which was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th Century. He is also founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for ministers. Copyright 2005 Pastors.com, Inc. Used with permission. All rights reserved.