Worship in the Cell Church


"Worship in the Cell Church"

Cell Life Forum, 1999


“Worship Him and then serve Him only” said Jesus (Mt. 4:10). With that short phrase, Jesus forever established Christian priorities: Worship first and service second.  If you’re like me, I have the tendency to  reverse that order. I want to do, to accomplish, to perform. Yet, Jesus gently reminds me that He’s not impressed by my actions as much as my communion with Him. He reminds me that the Father is seeking worshippers who know how to seek Him. What does it mean to worship Him? 

The Meaning of Worship  

            Worship is the believer’s response to God’s work of grace. In the Old Testament the word worship literally means to prostrate yourself on the ground. It speaks of the humility one should have before our creator. The word worship speaks of bowing down before the King of Kings.

In fact, most of the words that refer to worshipping God are used in physical terms. Throughout the Scriptures we find a variety of postures used in worship: lying prostrate on one's face, kneeling, standing, clapping, lifting -up the arms, dancing, lifting the head, bowing the head.   Some of the responses to worship in the Old Testament are:

·        Bending over (2 Kings 18:22; Psalm 5:8)

·        Stooping  (2 Chronicles. 29:29; Ezra 9:5; Ps. 22:30)

·        Falling on the face (Genesis 24:26, 48; Exodus 4:31)

·        Throwing oneself down (Deuteronomy 9:18, 25; Ezra 10:1)

·        Bowing the head (Isaiah 58:5; Micah 6:6)

·        Standing before the Lord ( Nehemiah 9:2; Ps. 106:30; Jeremiah 18:20).

There is no one correct posture for worshipping God. Posture is only useful when it expresses the reality of the heart. To painfully prostrate yourself before God for hours during personal worship only because you’re supposed to would displease God. God hates religious ritual that is not backed up with heart reality. Listen to what God says about religious ritual through His prophet Isaiah:

Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations— I cannot bear your evil assemblies. Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts my soul hates. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen (Isaiah 1:13-15).

            On the other hand, God delights in bodily worship when it expresses inward reality. Take kneeling, for example. Kneeling in the OT  expressed  humility and reverence. “Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker,” says the Psalmist (Psalm 95:6). When God gives you a fresh vision for His holiness, fall on your knees out of respect and reverence. You might weep before Him as you think of His kindness and love for you.

            One of the most moving passages of worship is found in 1 Chronicles 29:10-13. You can feel the passion and love for God in David’s worship:

Praise be to you, O LORD, God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name  

            After sensing God’s glory and presence we read that David and the congregation, “. . . bowed low and fell prostrate before the LORD” (29:20). Bowing low and falling on their face was a natural response to God’s glory and power. They could not have done less.

The lifting of the hands is another common expression of worship to God. It’s an expression of praise and thankfulness. Notice the connection in Psalm 63:4: “I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.”  Paul says, “I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing”(1 Timothy 2:8). Paul desired all men to praise God.

At times you’ll be so filled with the joy and glory of God that you’ll want to express your love to Jesus by lifting your hands. This pleases Jesus.  At other times, you’ll lift your hands to Jesus as an act of submission and surrender. Perhaps, God has reached into your life and revealed an area of sin. You’re finally willing to surrender. God, like a policeman, has gently told you, “You’re under arrest.” Raising your hands say in effect, “Lord, I give up.” Take control.

            For the most part, you’ll want to find a posture that’s comfortable. The worship time should be a delight as opposed to a burden. Do you like to sit and pray? Do it. Do you prefer kneeling or laying prostrate before God? That’s okay, too.

            In the New Testament the meaning of worship is even more intimate. There is a clear idea of intimacy in worship. The word literally means  “to kiss.” When you’re worshipping God, you kissing Him, while drawing near to Him in a very intimate way. This intimate word for worship is  found 59 times in the New Testament. We read in Revelation 4:10-11 that the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:  “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created, and have their being.”  

The Need to Shut the Door

While worshipping God can take place under any circumstances, real communion requires stillness. In such a place, quietness reigns and communion with the Almighty is more likely to occur.

Jesus tells us to seek the Father in a specific place where we can “shut the door” to the noise and clutter of the world around us (Matthew 6:5-6). In his book, Intimacy with the Almighty, Chuck Swindoll says,

Ours is a cluttered, complicated world. God did not create it that way. Depraved, restless humanity has made it that way . . . Tragically, precious little in this hurried and hassled age promotes such intimacy. We have become a body of people who look more like a herd of cattle in a stampede than a flock of God beside green pastures and still waters. Our forefathers knew, it seems, how to commune with the Almighty … but do we? [1]  

The Gospel of Luke tells us that, “. . Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them” (6:12-13). For Jesus, “shutting the door” meant escaping to a nearby mountainside to spend quality time with the Father. Jesus ministered to the clamoring crowds, but He also needed to “shut the door” in order to commune with the Father.

We can’t really expect to enter into the holy presence of God while sitting in front of the TV, being interrupted by telephone calls, or driving in the car on the way to work. Just as Jesus fled from the noise of the multitude to seek the Father, you must also shut the door to the crowds (work, ministry, and family) in order to seek God successfully.

Some prefer to worship God in a forest or park. Jesus preferred the desert or a mountain top (Luke 5:16).  Peter sought God on a rooftop (Acts 10:9). Paul retreated to the inner rooms of a boat (Acts 27:23). The actual place for worship is not sacred—only the One with whom you’re communing.  The only criterion for determining your secret place is to make sure that quietness reigns supreme.   

Making Worship a Priority  

Charles Hummel, a godly Christian leader, once wrote a classic article called, “The Tyranny of the Urgent.” His basic thesis was that we live in constant tension between the urgent and the important. The important is our daily relationship with Jesus while the urgent is that which steals our time from God. Be assured that urgent needs will crowd your schedule and spoil your initiative to worship God, unless you plan ahead—unless you make your meeting with Him the most vital appointment of your day. 

            Often we become so busy that we convince ourselves that we don’t have time to worship God. Like Martha, the sister of Mary, we think that “serving God” is more important than worshipping Him. Yet, Jesus cut the heart out of such arguments by esteeming Mary, who sat at his feel. “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things,  42 but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42).  

 The Results  

            There are many benefits to worship. The most important benefit, of course, is to commune with the living God. The believer who earnestly worships Jesus will soon be transformed by His presence.  

God’s Glory  

            The Scriptures tells us that when Solomon finished worshipping and praying that fire came down from heaven and “. . .the glory of the LORD filled the temple.  2 The priests could not enter the temple of the LORD because the glory of the LORD filled it.  (2 Chronicles 7:1,2). Often God responds to the diligent worshipper by manifesting His glory.  

God’s Joy  

            How do we know that God’s glory has fallen. It’s true that we don’t trust in our emotions. We walk by faith and not by sight. Yet, a clear sign that the worshipper has entered the presence of God is joy. God wants to fill us with His joy. David declares: You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand (Psalm 16:11). Paul tells us that “. . . the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17).

            Brother Lawrence was a man who lived many years ago who tried to stay in the presence of God at all times. At times he was filled with so much joy that he had to try to hide it so that people wouldn’t feel that he was going crazy. Somebody writing about Brother Lawrence said, “For about thirty years his soul has been filled with joy so continual, and sometimes so great, that he is forced to use means to moderate them, and to hinder their appearing outwardly.” 

God’s Direction  

            The writer of Acts tells us that about a worship meeting in the church of Antioch: While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” (Acts 13:2) Notice the natural progression: They worshipped first and then the Holy Spirit moved and gave clear direction.

            To earn my Ph.D. degree, I polled 700 small group lay leaders in eight countries around the world. I wanted to determine why certain small group leaders were more successful than others in growing and multiplying their small groups. My questionnaire probed the lesson preparation of these leaders, their gifts, the time spent in visiting, prayer life, education, time spent with God, social status, etc. I discovered that the leader’s success in small group multiplication had nothing to do with gifting, personality, social status, or gender. On the other hand, it had everything to do with time spent in daily worship. Time spent in personal worship consistently appeared among the top three most important factors in the study. What made the difference? Those who spent quality time worshipping Jesus received the benefit of His direction. They understood how to deal with the constant talker, how to carry the group to the next level of intimacy.         


 All cell leaders face the “tyranny of the urgent.” With so many urgent  issues daily facing the cell leader, which one will take priority? The cell lesson needs fine-tuning, someone must bring the refreshments, John needs a ride, and on and on the list goes. Cell leaders find themselves overwhelmed with  worship choruses, ice-breakers, calls, visits, etc. These noble tasks capture the leader’s attention, often drawing him away from the most important duty—spending time in His presence. Don’t short-change yourself or God. He’s looking for worshippers. Will you answer His call?


[1] Charles R. Swindoll, Intimacy with the Almighty (Dallas, TX: Word Publishing, 1996), pp. 17-18.