What is the ultimate goal of mankind? What is the reason of life? I believe it is to worship God who is LORD. Why? Let me explain it to you.
The Bible uses different words which we translate with „worship”. They mean “to submit” or “to bow down”, “to serve” or “to fear” God or someone with authority. Sometimes “to sacrifice” is also translated with “worship”. We find many different actions how people in the Bible worshiped God. Right from the beginning of humanity we see that people had a strong desire to worship God. One of the first forms of worship where sacrifices. But people also soon lifted up their prayers and songs to worship God. King David worshiped God by dancing in front of the arc of covenant.
The motives, why people worship God can be very different. The first story of a sacrifice people made in the Bible teaches us, that God shows into the heart of the worshiper. Both Cain and Abel worshiped in the same way, but God only accepted the sacrifice of Abel. In Deuteronomy 6:5 God reveals the highest command to Israel and all people: “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” Without a loving and humble heart, the greatest efforts to please God are worthless!
Mission is an important part of the church, because God wants that all nations worship him. John Piper defined it as follows: “Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man.”1 The main functions of the Christian church service is to stimulate a reaction of true worship and adoration of God in the hearts of the participants; to teach, encourage, exhort and rebuke the believers so that they are equipped and built up into the image of Christ; to demonstrate our unity in Christ; and to demonstrate and proclaim the reality of the Gospel for unbelievers.
How can people from different nations and cultures worship God from the bottom of their hearts? A new discipline called ethnodoxology answers this question. In the past, missionaries often did not only bring the Gospel to the unreached people, but also their own culture and their ways of worship. Because the cultural heritage of music, dance and art has been used in sinful ways before, the new churches often banned it altogether, forcing the new believers to deny their own culture. But the new western styles of expressing worship to God, often did not really touch the people in their hearts. It was rather something strange and even alien. Imagine African Christians would have first come to evangelise Europe or America and would have banned all classical music and would have forced everyone to sing songs to the sound of a bunch of blown antelope horns, which is actually the loveliest sound for the Vagla people in Ghana…
So how shall we worship? The Bible presents us with very few forms of worship, and they largely relate to Jewish culture. There is nothing like a true Christian culture that can be exported everywhere. Each church has to express itself in the context of the surrounding culture. The New Testament gives us the meaning of some basic elements of worship, but not the exact form. Worship expresses itself in adoration and praise (Act 2:47); servitude and confession (Mt 5:23-24; Jam 5:16); joy and thanksgiving (Act 2:47); singing and music (Eph 5:19); and giving of tithes and offerings (1 Cor 16:2).
Fortunately, Christians from many nations and tribes have begun to worship God not just in their mother tongue, but also with their “heart-music” and in their own traditions and styles. Of course, no one wants to push new believers into syncretism. Demonic altars, rites and amulets must be banned. But a culture and its arts are not per se all sinful and demonic. I believe, that the arts are gifts from God, which can be sinfully abused or used to glorify God. They need to be spiritually transformed so that they honour God. One example: Believers in Argentina have banned the guitar from the church, because people traditionally used to play the guitar to get drunk. After some years, young man came and wanted to use it for worship in the church. So they sanctified a guitar just for church use. Then they worshiped God with their traditional rhythms and people saw that they are not getting drunk and they were a great testimony to their neighbours. All people should be encouraged to use their traditional clothing, dances, rhythms, instruments, tunes etc. to worship God with their gifts and skills. Each church should find forms to worship that is attractive and understood in their cultural context and not foreign. That does not mean, that worship must be exclusively traditional. The globalisation has also its impact on local Christians all around the world. They might even like some western music, but it is most likely that the tunes and rhythms of their childhood and youth will touch their hearts most!
1 Piper, John: Let the Nations be glad. The supremacy of God in Missions, Grand Rapids 2010.