Dr. Timothy Keller has this to say about worship; “At our deepest level, we were created for worship. But this instinct has gone awry. Jonathan Edwards spoke of religious affections—that core of our being that orients our mind, will, and emotions toward an object. Sin has caused our affections to stray, propelling us to worship relationships, achievement, work—everything but God. Alfred Adler would say we gravitate toward control or power or comfort or approval. We obsess about those things, comfort ourselves with them, fantasize about them. Biblically speaking, those things are idols. Worship is pulling our affections off our idols and putting them on God. The word worship comes from an Old English word meaning “worth-ship.” I define worship as a private act that has two parts: seeing what God is worth and giving him what he’s worth. Job says, “I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread.” When I treasure something, I longingly look at it, for example, in the store window and think about how great it would be to own it. I ponder its virtues, talk to my friends about how great it is. Then I go out and buy it.
Worship is treasuring God: I ponder his worth and then do something about it—I give him what he’s worth. Every approach to worship must have those two elements.”
Our Directory for Worship states that “Christian worship is the expression of the soul’s love for God, dependence on God and joy in God. God alone, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as revealed in the Holy Scriptures, is the object of worship. Worship is to be offered only in accordance with His appointment, and in harmony with the Scriptural principle that whatsoever is not commanded in the worship of God is forbidden. Worship is acceptable only as it is offered in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, the only Mediator between God and man.
The worship of God is the highest act of the human soul. It is essential to spiritual life and growth, and should be regularly and thoughtfully performed. Individuals and families should engage in private and family worship morning and evening for their own growth in grace. They should also meet together in public assemblies, for God has promised special blessings when His people unite in worship.” (F1- paragraphs 1&2)
And while there is a unique and special dispensation of God’s grace available in corporate worship we recognize that this corporate worship is public worship where individuals are doing it in concert with others. Keller says; “In a team of six horses, each horse is affected by the speed and direction of the other five. The same is true of corporate worship—it’s individuals worshiping God in harness. If the minister is talking about the holiness of God, for example, I’m seeing God’s holiness in concert with the congregation. Together, God’s people are in harness, letting the worship leader guide them so they can respond to God individually by giving him what he is worth.
Scripture readings, exhortations, and sermons show people what God is worth. The offering, prayers of repentance and thanksgiving, and times of confession allow people to respond to God. In order for us to worship, our mind, will, and emotions have to be moved. They’re all organically connected.”
So in our worship we aim to have the truth about God and His Word descend from my mind and touches my emotions and my will. For that we need the Holy Spirit. Above and through it all we are completely dependant on the Spirit of God to fill us with His grace and truth and affect our emotions, will and thinking.
Our worship is not about nostalgia or sentiment, or just aesthetic experiences. But our emotions will become a legitimate part of worship when, in response to a truth about God, we give something back to God: our money, our sin, our praise. Again, the three elements must be there: mind, will, emotion. Keller says; “As it relates to worship, I’d rather use the word moved than the word emotion. If we don’t find that our affections have been moved from earthly idols toward God, we haven’t worshiped. Our affections are more than just our emotions. Some of us, myself included, are not emotionally expressive. That’s just who I am. However, if I leave Sunday morning having had no emotional connection whatsoever, I haven’t worshiped. I must allow my heart to be touched to worship.” Good point!
So for this to happen as we said, we are at the mercy of the Holy Spirit. The good news is that God desires worshippers (John 4:23-24), so all we need to do is seek Him and ask.
However we believe that there are two simple parts to corporate worship -God (His Spirit) and people (worshippers) . The congregation needs to experience a sense of the manifest presence of the Glory of God. That He is with us and He is worthy.
For this the worshippers need to have a sense of transcendence . It is a unique and special day and moment for the people of God. It is unlike our private and daily worship in this way. Our Directory of worship states; “Divine worship must be in spirit and in truth. Worshipers who enter the house of God come into the presence of Him who is infinite and eternal. From the first to the last of the time set apart for this purpose, the public worship of God requires all the people to give it their reverent and undivided attention and to join wholeheartedly in the entire service.” (F2- paragraph.7)
As much as the worship is all about God, people are still involved. So the worship needs to be accessible. That is, it must make sense to them. It needs to engage them and be practical and meaningful. Thus the language of our liturgy, songs and prayers must be in the language and context of the congregation.
Worship without a sense of transcendence can become casual, flippant, and irreverent. (Leviticus 10)
Worship that fails to be accessible can be irrelevant to the congregation and so emotionless and a hollow performance
Both are needed; a celebration of His holiness to be in awe of and His grace to give us boldness to joyfully draw near.
So worship at Hillside needs to be accessible. We love seeing people involved in leading it in its various parts. We believe enlisting gifted leaders to guide us in worship is a great way to engage everyone , encourage participation and grow thier spiritual gifts. We believe we must give room for the Spirit to move in such ways.
We want the worship to also be transcendent. While it is not about performance, it is the worship of our Holy God and so ought to strive for excellence as we bring Him our ‘first fruits and best sacrifices’. That means worship ought to be done in decent order and to the best of our abilities.