What is the goal of the church?
I personally think that John Piper answers this question in a very satisfying way:
Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship does not. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more. It is a temporary necessity. But worship abides forever...The goal of missions is the gladness of the peoples in the greatness of God. 'The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad!' (Ps. 97:1). 'Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy!' (Ps. 67:3-4)...Where passion for God is weak, zeal for missions will be weak. Churches that are not centered on the exaltation of the majesty and beauty of God will scarcely kindle a fervnt desire to 'declare his glory among the nations' (Ps. 96:3). Even outsiders feel the disparity between the boldness of our claim upon the nations and the blandness of our engagement with God.
I could stop here and say no more, but I think that we must define a few things in order for these series of statements to really sink in and be understood.
To begin with, church is not a building. Rather, church is fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ, wherever that may occur. Matthew 18:20 says
For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.
If two believers meet for lunch to fellowship together, that is church. Therefore, when you GO to 'church' on Sunday, you are participating in a larger version of church. The goal of this gathering, Piper hypothesizes, should be to worship the creator of all things and to bring everyone into the same "white-hot" worship of their creator. I completely agree with him.
But what is true worship and what does it look like?
Something that I have recently been convicted in my own life with is the showy-ness and public display of 'worship' manefesting a 'holiness' for others to see. I know that I am not the only one who struggles with this (the next few thoughts are addressing worship through song, one facet of many forms of worship). I hope that what I say next will spawn change and thought and conviction, rather than offend. I don't know man's heart like Jesus Christ does (But the Lord said to Samuel, 'Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.' -1 Samuel 16:7), but sometimes I can't help but wonder what really is going on in peoples' minds when they are closing their eyes, swaying back and forth during a song, arms fully extended as they try to touch the ceiling. Personally, when I experience this going on around me, it REALLY distracts me from focussing on what I'm singing. Why must it be done? Does it 'feel' more worshipful? Worship should NOT be about a feeling, but rather, it should be about seeking to glorify and lift up the name of Christ. I went to Hume Lake last summer, and the speaker made a most excellent point concerning worship. He said that if you base your relationship with Christ off an experience you had once, your relationship will not last because experiences do not last. I completely agree. Again, does it create an experience that you can feel; feeling more worshipful? It certainly excludes everyone around the person, in that they are shutting off cooperate worship as a body of believers. The raising of hands and closing of eyes can be done in secret. God will reward you for that! Why? Because there is no one else to please in the room but him. You can have a very worshipful experience with God that way, but when you are with other believers, isn't the point to fellowship in song with those around you? Otherwise no one would be there, right? Let me say as graciously as I can that raising your hands and closing your eyes is not a bad thing at all. What are out true motives when we 'worship' though? True worship is not a physical portrayal of glorifying God. In fact, in the OT & NT God rarely EVER mentions outward forms of worship. Worship can be outward, however; all forms of worship start in the heart and are portrayed through our actions. If that worship is portrayed as hands lifted high and eyes humbly closed, then praise God! I have been quite convicted in this area of my life for quite some time and struggle with humility often. Am I being to showy as I worship the one who fearfully and wonderfully created me? (I'm getting so far off the subject, but that's ok). In a book called 'The Screwtape Letters,' C.S. Lewis dilineates a perfect scenario of the humility and pride issue:
Our patient has become humble. Have you drawn his attention to this fact? All virtues are less formidable to us once the man is aware that he has them, but this is especially true of humility. Catch him at a moment when he is really poor in spirit and smuggle into his mind the gratifying reflection "By jove! I'm being humble," and almost immediately pride - pride at his own humility - will appear. If he awakes to the danger and tries to smother his new form of pride, make him proud of his attempt - and so on, through as many stages as you please. But don't try this for too long, for fear you awake his sense of humour and proportion, in which case he will merely laugh at you and go to bed.
So I guess the question that must be asked as we worship is this: Who are we displaying our "worship" for? Are we caring for the sick and hungry...and telling everyone about it? Are we closing our eyes and making sure we are in a place where everyone can see us? Are we questioning our motives as we glorify God?
Lord, please give us a heart of worship that only seeks to praise you and display glory for you alone!