‘Worship’ – what the New Testament says, and what we think and do.
In the Old Testament, for God’s people, ‘worship’ was located in the Temple.
The New Testament shows that the Temple is fulfilled in Christ, and so Christianity doesn’t have a temple, or priests, or temple worship (see Romans 9:4, and the main argument of the Letter to the Hebrews).
The New Testament writers were happy to re-assign ‘worship’ language to a new use – that is, to the whole of our lives in the world being offered to God. (Amongst many NT texts, see, e.g., Romans 12:1.)
The New Testament writers never assign ‘worship’ language to our Christian gatherings. They do, however, often write about our Christian gatherings, and consistently use other language, especially edification (building up), as a handle on the various corporate activities, “the apostle’s teaching, fellowship, breaking bread, and prayers”.
However, in much modern English-language Christianity, not only is ‘worship’ used as a label for our church gatherings, it is commonly blindly assumed to be the defining concept for what we do together. This is at odds with the New Testament, and leads to two significant problems.
One problem is that many (or even most) modern Christians, and churches, when thinking about what we should be trying to do in church, have ideas that are at odds with what the NT teaches. Sometimes this leads to promoting church as, in effect, the primary means of accessing God, which compromises the Gospel.
The other problem is that we don’t value our living in the world for Jesus as much as the NT calls us to. (I’ve just got hold of “The Great Divide” by Mark Greene, published by LICC, and want to tease out the obvious connection between the critical problem addressed in that book, and the widespread abuse of ‘worship’ language.)