Worship Redefined

You may remember in our last post we introduced the concept of Throughlines (or habits) that we intend to use to produce peculiar people. The sample list included practices such as God worshiping, community building, order discovering, beauty creating, idolatry discerning, truth telling, thanks giving, and joy seeking. At the risk of stating the obvious, it is important to note that not all of these practices carry equal weight. If God worshiping is not placed as the end goal for all of the other Through lines, then they will amount to little more than humanitarianism. And while there is certainly nothing wrong with lightening the burdens of our fellow man, we must be careful to not mistake this for a saving belief in the biblical gospel. Worship of God originates with the recognition that “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4) and no amount of good deeds could ever replace that.

The glory of God, therefore, serves as the only meaningful context for all other habits of worship. We build community with others for the sake of God’s glory in their lives; we discover the order of creation and give Him the praise He is due; we create beautiful things as a way of imitating the miracle of His creation; we turn from lesser “gods” in order to proclaim His sufficiency; we tell the truth because He is the truth (John 14:6); we give thanks to God because He is the giver of all good things (James 1:17); and we do so with great joy because this is His will for us in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:18). If God does not anchor these practices, then our students will fail to stand out as children of God in a crooked and perverse generation (Philippians 2:15). One of the greatest hurdles in this effort is our misperception of what constitutes worship. The term may evoke images of stained glass or raised hands and for that reason it often feels disconnected from our everyday lives. Scripture, however, provides a different picture for us. Instead of a hard distinction between the sacred (worship) and
the secular (everything else), we’re told that all of creation awaits its redemption (Romans 8). The biblical narrative of Creation-Fall-Redemption-Restoration calls us to treat every situation as an opportunity to act in harmony with God’s purposes, while denying the false dualism of the sacred-secular divide.

Donovan Graham speaks to this in his class publication Teaching Redemptively. Christian education, he claims, is the commitment to act in harmony with God’s purposes for education. While this should include prayer, chapel, and other observable features, it is first and foremost a commitment to worship God with how we educate our students. The same philosophy could, therefore, be applied to any other part of God’s creation. Christian music is the willingness to act in harmony with God’s purposes for music (religious lyrics notwithstanding). Christian law, medicine, and even politics would be subject to the same question: Will you act in harmony or conflict with God’s designs?

These are not easy questions to answer, but when we embrace them I think we get closer to treating all of life as worship and not just Sunday morning. It places an emphasis on the direction of our efforts rather than focusing on the external acts themselves. In our ongoing efforts to adopt and revise Through lines for our curriculum, we’ve made frequent references to the image below as a reminder of why we are encouraging these habits. One of the most sinister lies we fall victim to again and again is the belief that God is irrelevant. We combat this when we root all of our thoughts and actions in a fundamental desire to worship God by acting in harmony with His redemptive purposes.