who is worship for?

In our class today, we looked at the book of Malachi- which many people think could be used as a commentary on the current state of the church in North America.  Stemming from chapter 2, our professor, Daniel I Block, asked us whether it was alright to include "non-worshippers" in a "worship" service?  He suggested that worship belongs in the community of the people of God and should not be for outer consumption.  He suggested that when we invite others into our worship services, we are prostituting our worship.  Wow.  That’s a harsh term.  He suggested that in our church communities we have neglected to fear God in worship.  We have lost the sense of "awe" in relationship with God, and have directed our fear towards what others (visitors primarily) might think about the experience. 

What do you think?  Is it okay to invite others into our times of worship?  Have we lost the sense of fear in worship?  Are we unfaithful to God in worship?  Or, perhaps, do we have such a distorted understanding of a worship "service" that we can’t even understand these questions?


  1. Great thoughts. I would agree that our Sunday morning “worship” services have become a bit confused in their purpose. Is that gathering for believers or unbelievers. Willow Creek has a midweek gathering that is geared for believers… and intentionally have used the weekend services for outreach + fellowship. Most churches aren’t ready to make that kind of commitment, and so have blurred the lines on Sundays. In terms of evangelism, we have tended to rely upon the sermon to convert people… rather than considering ourselves every day of the week as the means by which people will hear and see the Gospel. In terms of worship, we have tended to again rely on five songs a week on Sunday mornings (whether hymns or choruses) to act as our worship “time”… rather than considering ourselves every day of the week as worshippers in all that we do.

  2. I think it’s important to realize, as many have not, that those not-yet connected to a local church (because they are not-yet believers) are actually quite afraid to enter into a church building…or they are too tired and just sleep in or do other things with their day.
    Perhaps the Seeker Sensitive methodology and philosophy did more damage than we’d like to admit to our Sunday morning gatherings. I have often found and felt that tension between wondering if the service is for believers or not-yet believers. Yes, it may seem exclusive to have a time where just those who desire a more focussed atmosphere with the Father is possible, but can we balance the needs of both the committed and not-yet committed in one service?
    I find that Sunday mornings can feel like quite the smorgasboard of sensitivity to the individual (as Andrew mentioned). The songs we sing, if we are honest, are written for the believer to sing toward God as we lift our hearts and minds towards him in worship. But, of course, worship is more than that, but corporately, and biblically, the gathered community uses song to express its awe and wonder of their God. Eugene Peterson touches on this in “Christ Play in Ten Thousand Places” (I’ve been reading it for over a year now…lots of points to ponder).
    On the one hand, I don’t think the church always does a great job of creating an atmosphere where the people of God can do justice to its call to worship, and on the other hand does not engage the community enough both privately and corporately so it depends on the Sunday morning for its evangelistic efforts. Something is out of line there I think.

  3. IS it possible to exclude people from a service? I think that they likely do it to themselves in their own heart positions with God. Should we be responsible to warn them about the state of their heart and the approach to God in worship?
    Chris Reid pointed out a need for our culture to truly understand the nature of grace. If we understood, really truly grasped, what Jesus did for us, we would not be able to approach God without the utmost fear and trembling. If people are approaching without cleanness of spirit and purity of heart, they are simply approaching as humans, but God is all the same happy they are home. However, that is not where he wants them to stay. IS awareness a feasible solution to the problem?

  4. Thanks Andrew. I love your question: “Can there by any true outsider to that striving?” This thought, coupled with the reminder that “we live in the tenderness of the love of the Father as much as the fear of the Judge,” perhaps keeps the tension we need.
    I wonder… Is there ever a time when people should be excluded from corporate worship? What does the Bible say about this?

  5. I think one thing to point out on this is the distinction between corporate and private worship. In North America, for the most part, we have so individualized our faith that we are not a community worshiping as much as a collection of individuals all singing the same things together. In many places we are told to try to worship at our personal level and not at a communal level. The creeds of the church stress communion of the saints which contains some mystical qualities as well as some foundational qualities, but we are to be in union, joining the ongoing and everpresent songs of God’s praise sung by all the saints at all times. Corporate worship is a time of lifting up the entire community in God’s presence not a striving of each individuals soul, though that is necessary for the whole group.
    The second thing about Christianity in general, it is meant to be the building up and pulling ever higher of those who are below by those who are above. We are called to collective and individual striving for God and aiding those who are near us in their strivings is a part of that. Can there be any true outsider to that striving? Why should worship be done, even services, at the lowest common denominator? The people of God are expected to help build each other up, we should, as far as I know, be striving for excellence in all things. So in a sense, the loss of what it means to worship has lost our ‘fear’, but we live in the tenderness of the love of the Father as much as the fear of the Judge, but we need to reexamine worship and church services as a whole, I think.

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