The end of public worship is the glory of God. His people should engage in all its several parts with an eye single to His glory. Public worship has as its aim the building of Christ’s Church by the perfecting of the saints and the addition to its membership of such as are being saved – all to the glory of God. Through public worship on the Lord’s day Christians should learn to serve God all the days of the week in their every activity, remembering, whether they eat or drink, or whatever they do, to do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Is God’s Glory Enough?
Every Reformed man worth his salt will say “Yes, of course.” God’s glory, the all consuming expression of his holiness toward his creation is enough, more than enough, for whatever you’re looking for. But it is not enough to simply say it. SDG is a nice three word abbreviation but if left at an abbreviation it becomes a trite saying, robbing the thing to which it points of its original power an majesty. God’s glory demands fleshing out. It demands description, prayer, endless study, and constant preaching.
The Application to Worship
The same is true when it comes to worship. What is the aim of worship? God’s glory, of course! But how we work out those God glorifying aspects of worship are another matter. For that I’m thankful for the teaching of our BCO quoted above.
It teaches us three things that we should have in mind as we plan our liturgies each Sunday.
- Worship perfects the saints. Worship is the primary, God appointed means for equipping and perfecting the saints. Sunday Schools are great. Book studies can be incredibly edifying. I know many a man who attributes an accountability group to his significant spiritual group. But the single most edifying thing a Christian can do is attend worship. There, the Bible is laid out plainly. There, the Christian is given a vent for his soul in song. There, the gospel is clearly articulated week after week to assault the weekly bent toward forgetting it. There, the people of God pray and are prayed over. There, the sacraments are administered as an enduring testimony to the sweetness of God’s covenant love in Jesus.
- Worship adds new members. Yes, God expects professing non-Christians in worship. I know that chapter 14 of 1 Corinthians can make some Presbyterians nervous but nevertheless it teaches that we should work for and expect folks who aren’t Christians to be in Christian worship. And adding to that, Paul teaches us to be sure that our worship is intelligible to our guests. We must remember that biblical church growth is not converting Baptists to Presbyterians. That is simply shuffling the denominational deck. We want to see non-Christiansâ€”like we once wereâ€”attend our worship, hear the gospel, repent, and believe. Does your liturgy glorify God by seeking to make the components of your worship intelligible to those unfamiliar with Christianity? Do you take time to explain the components of worship? Where appropriate does your bulletin add explanatory notes? Do you preach in a way that someone freshly acquainted with Christianity could understand your main points?
- Worship prepares us for worship in all of life. One of the more poignant contributions of the Reformed tradition to evangelicalism is the biblical teaching that all of life is lived as worship for God. Let me be specific, all of life, not just church life, is lived as worship for God. And the only way good PCA folks are going to “learn to serve God all the days of the week in their every activity” is if PCA pastors diligently teach them in corporate worship to worship outside of corporate worship. What does it look like for a young unmarried, a high school student, a retiree, a widow, a divorced dad, a young mom, or your ministry staff to worship Jesus when you’re not around them? How does your worship service, your preaching teach them to do this well?
God’s Glory Demands Application
Don’t waste your ministry doing churchy things under the moniker of SDG. Work to the glory of God and have a robust theology of what that means. Help your people to understand what that means. And specifically don’t wast corporate worship on play-acting and pulpiteering when the hard work of glorifying God is in front of you. It is a blessed pastor who has people in his congregation who can say, “I don’t know how I’d get by without corporate worship”.
- The PCA Book of Church Order, 47–3. ↩
- Soli Deo Gloria as abbreviated in various Reformed writings, email signatures, etc. ↩
- 1 Corinthians 14:23–25 specifically instructs us to make sure that our worship is intelligible to those who are unfamiliar with it. It is in this way that they will, “worship God and declare that God is really among” us. ↩