“Enter to worship, exit to serve.” Some church buildings display this sign, or a rug in their foyer, inviting attendees to indulge in this practice.
Unfortunately, many people who have been members of the Lord’s Church for many years don’t understand the difference between worship and service. Is there a difference?
“I serve the Lord by leading songs.” “My service to the Lord is teaching Sunday school.” “I serve the Lord with my musical abilities.”
This is the distinction between worship and service: worship happens in the sanctuary and service happens outside of it.
Merriam-Webster defines worship as “a reverence offered a divine being or supernatural power; also an act of expressing such reverence.” In scripture, people worshiped in a given place and on a given day by performing specific acts.
Worship in the Old Testament took place at the tabernacle and temple. People brought sacrifices and offerings, including animals, produce and money. It always involved prayer and supplication. Most worship shows people bowing or lying on their faces with hands raised.
People worshiped Christ when he was here. One of my favorite examples of worship comes from Luke 17:11-19. Jesus heals ten lepers. One of them returned “and with a loud voice glorified God and fell down on his face at his (Jesus’) feet, giving thanks: and he was a Samaritan” (Luke 17:15-16).
It shows all the principles required for true worship: place – at Jesus’ feet; manner – with thanks and with a loud voice; body position – on his face. True worship begins in our heart but unless it pours out of our mouth, it’s incomplete.
I think the misunderstanding for many people is that we say, “Sunday worship services will be at 11 am.” Is it worship or service? In this case, the definition of service is “a meeting.”
The type of service God wants from us is the verb form. The dictionary says, “to perform tasks for” (Merriam-Webster). Obviously, this involves doing something. I can’t serve the Lord sitting on the pew. I can, however, worship Him while I’m sitting on the pew (even though kneeling and lying face down is a more Biblical body position).
Psalm 100 is my favorite passage about worship and service. In Psalm 100:2, both aspects are revealed. “Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing” (Ps. 100:2).
In order to worship, we must “come before his presence” (Ps. 100:2), which indicates a specific place for worship. The psalmist specifies singing as one way to worship God. In Psalm 100:4, he also tells us how: thankfully and where “his gates” and “his courts.”
God wants our service to be done gladly. Rather than defining what constitutes service, God stresses the manner in which it’s done.
The reason God doesn’t say what actions define service isn’t a huge mystery. Our life is supposed to be lived for God. Our daily actions should serve our Lord and Savior. This is why I define service as what’s done outside of the church building.
Can we serve God in church? Sure. He wants us to serve him everywhere. If we confine our service to church, we’re missing the point. Church is for worship and edification. Life is for service to God.
Next week: Knowledge verses Wisdom