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Rick Toh• Timely Word •

Rethinking What Worship is in this Pandemic

By 1 October 2021No Comments

With church life disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic in a profound way, some of us miss going to church.  We miss the pews, the ambience and the acoustics of a church sanctuary. While churches have turned to online platforms to conduct their weekly worship services, we find it hard to participate in these online platforms. We struggle to concentrate and pay attention. We find worshipping God in a physical assembly much richer in experience.

Some of us, however, don’t miss going to church. We may wonder: “What’s the point of going to church when we still can’t sing?” We tend to see singing as a core activity in Christian worship. We find that we cannot truly worship God when we cannot sing.

Perhaps God is using this pandemic to help us rethink what worship truly is. Perhaps He is inviting us to look to Scripture to discover afresh the heart of worship.

Worship is not confined to a physical space

“A time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks.” (John 4:21-23)

At the well where He met the Samaritan woman, Jesus revealed that there would come a time when the worship of God would not be bounded by physical locality and facility. Because of His atoning sacrifice, every believer has now become a holy temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:16).

The physical sanctuary, no matter how skilfully designed to inspire awe, is not the dwelling place of God. Instead, God has chosen His people to be His dwelling place. This means that worship doesn’t have to happen in a specific building or place: we can worship God anywhere and anytime, praying, praising, and feasting on His Word together.

Worship is more than singing

Singing is just one of the ways of worshipping God — not the only one. Perhaps we can consider this thought: If singing is the only way to worship God, what would the deaf and mute among us do?

The book of Psalms tells us that clapping hands (47:1), raising hands (63:4), dancing (149:3), bowing down, kneeling (95:6), standing (33:8), shouting for joy (100:1), proclaiming, testifying (40:9-10) and simply being still (46:10) are all biblical ways of worshipping God.

Perhaps Covid-19 has given us an opportunity to learn to embrace different postures of worship, such that we do not always depend on singing.

Worship is more than a weekend activity

“I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” (Romans 12:1)

Worship does not happen only at weekend worship services. Romans 12:1 reminds us that worship happens when we present our lives as living sacrifices to God. This means living a life wholly devoted to Him, not being conformed to the ways of this world but seeking to abide in His perfect will.

In the same manner, Micah 6:6-8 echoes that true worship happens when one pursues justice, loves mercy, and walks humbly before God.

When we go out to feed the poor and care for the homeless, when we meet the needs of a brother or sister, when we share the gospel with a friend, when we show hospitality to strangers—all these can be acts of worship when we do them in Jesus’ name.

So let us worship Him!

Worship does not cease because we cannot go to church or we cannot sing. We can worship God in small groups and in a less formal setting. We can worship God using different biblical postures and ways. While video conferencing platforms are not conducive for congregational singing, we can turn on our videos and use hand gestures like raising of hands to convey that we are worshipping together as a church. Small Group House Churches (SGHCs) can also incorporate a time of testimony where members proclaim God’s goodness and give thanks to Him.

Most importantly, we worship God by presenting our lives to Him daily, loving Him, serving Him and caring for His people. In this pandemic, let us excel in good works and shine our light in such a way that others may glorify God. SGHCs can worship God together through participating in gospel outreach and missional initiatives.

May this pandemic help us return to the heart of worship and also expand our worship vocabulary.

By Ps Rick Toh