Worship Reflections: People in the Presence of God
Excerpts/Summary from Barry Liesch

More Reflections on Worship

Alert observers have noticed that worship practices are changing. Is this a sign of renewal or a compromise with the world?
If the Oxford Dictionary of Religion (1981) is correct in noting 20,280 denominations in the world, we are not surprised to think about the variety of approaches to worship. In addition, worship is culturally differentiated in the Bible by time period and people involved.
Perhaps it si helpful to think of five basic models of worship in the Bible: pre-Sinai (family worship modeled by the patriarchs), tabernacle-temple, synagogue, Pauline, and worship in the book of Revelation.
Perhaps these five models can serve as a beginning point for thinking about worship in the contemporary church culture. At the least, they provide a helpful framework and may provide a grid through which we can view the biblical teaching on worship.
This understanding provides ever-widening circles according to the size of the worship group. These five models form part of the biblical and historical record and serve as prototypes for worship today. They each add a dimension to the whole of the worship experience. They demonstrate how people can come into the presence of the Lord to worship him.
When these models are put in order according to their size, not in chronological order as they appear in the Scriptures, they suggest a pattern for natural growth in worship.
Churches and individuals who view a worship model, including the one currently in use in their congregation, in isolation from other worship concepts likely feel tension. The goal of our study of worship through these five models is to enlarge our vision and to provide guidance for understanding biblical foundations for worship more clearly.

Models Summarized
In the pre-Sinai model of worship, the patriarchs serve as priest to their own families. They build altars, offer sacrifices, and gather families together for worship. Their worship is part of everyday living. Their worship emphasizes the intergenerational aspects of life.
In the Pauline model, we see dynamics of spontaneity, the presence of the Holy Spirit, and an emphasis on unity. Small groups provide intimacy and opportunities for maximum participation. Synagogue worship emphasizes a structured liturgy and gives a prominent place to prayer, Scripture reading, and biblical teaching. The synagogue model is basic to may churches today.
In the large group worship models, for example, the temple-tabernacle model, our perspective includes elements of worship such as praise, music, festivals, celebrations, special events, and symbolism.

Blending Models
Most churches worship using blended or alternate elements. Most churches reflect the elements of the correlating models. Small churches use the elements especially appropriate for small worship groups. Large churches use body-life participation principles.
Understanding these models may help build bridges between private and public worship outside the context of the church building. Certainly many churches need to pay attention to this aspect of spiritual life today.

Old Testament Principles

  • 1. Come into his presence and sing. In worship, we draw near to God. We assemble to meet with God. This understanding is missing from the thoughts of many worshipers. We come to him, he comes to us. We worship because we want God. 2 Cor. 3:18. Ex. 29:42-45.
  • 2. Offer in worship that which costs you something. In the tabernacle, worshipers always brought an offering. The most frequent offering, the burnt offering, was also the most costly. Matt. 26:27-28. Mark 12:44. 2 Sam. 24:24. Rom. 12:1-2. Heb. 13:15-16. The foundation for worship is a love for God and others. This love results in worship that costs something.
  • 3. Focus on the character of God. Worship stands or falls on our understanding of the character of God. Some churches emphasize God's love and forget God's holiness. God is transcendent. He is beyond limits, without limits. In worship, we must experience both God's transcendence and his immanence (presence in the universe); both his love and his holiness.


  • 1. How can we help worshipers do more than attend, become more than spectators?
  • 2. How do we enter God's presence? How can we develop a sense of meeting God during worship?
  • 3. What can we do to make worship more valuable? Describe a situation where you offered God costly worship.

    New Testament Principles
    What is true worship? (John 4)

    Distinctive characteristics of New Testament Worship


  • 1. How aware is the church of the priesthood of believers? How could we emphasize this truth in our worship assemblies?
  • 2. What is the role of the Holy Spirit in your worship?
  • 3. What is the relationship between worship and evangelism? Does worship distract from evangelism?
  • 4. What are the priorities of your church? How are these reflected in worship?
    Return to Young Home Page
    Last updated March 22, 2001.