Worship One, Two, Three

In Rhythms of Grace, Mike Cosper discusses what he calls Worship One, Two, Three. At first glance, it seems like he is stating things that might be obvious, however, after some reflection, I have found his points to be immensely helpful, balancing, and clarifying.

Worship One, Two, Three is this: worship has

  • one object and author: God
  • two contexts: gathered and scattered
  • three audiences: God, the church, and the world

The one object and author of worship is God. He alone is what we worship. Because of what he has done in Christ, He alone is the one who brings us to worhip.

The two contexts of worship are gathered and scattered. We find in Scripture that our whole lives are to be lives of worship (Romans 12:1-2) and yet we are also to worship as the gathered body of Christ (Eph 2:19-22; 4:11-16; Hebrews 10:25). When we gather we are not doing something that we haven’t been doing all week. In many ways we gather to continue worshipping. But it is in this unique context of gathered worship that we remember, encourage, and spur one another on in the company of our brothers and sisters.

Already the ability of Worship One, Two, Three to bring balance and clarity becomes apparent. Acknowledging the two contexts of worship guards us from thinking there is no need for gathered worship since we can worship in our own house (or on the golf course, for that matter). It also points us to the reality that as we gather we are then send back out into the world to live a life of worship and sacrifice before others.

The three audiences of worship are God, the church, and the world. This for me was the most helpful principle of all. When we worship, there are three groups that are observing us, and we should keep all three in mind. God is the most important audience, as he is the object of our worship, but we should not adopt a “Just me and Jesus” mindset where we care nothing about the other two audience of the church and the world. “God is my only audience” is a nice sentiment, but it confuses the reality that God is our object of worship, before three actual audiences. In an extreme expression of this, we can look at the Latin mass of the Roman Catholic Church. It only makes sense to worship God in a completely unintelligible way if you think God is your only audience instead of the object of worship.

Likewise, if we think that the world is our only or primary audience, we will go the failed way of the seeker-sensitive movement. If we try to design our worship so that it is single-mindedly focused on the “seeker”, then we will quickly find that the growth of the church is stunted and that God becomes minimized.

Along the same lines, if our audience is primarily the church, we run the danger of becoming an insulated, inward focused group.

Worship One, Two, Three brings much needed clarity to what worship is. Cosper’s explanation has greatly helped me in synthesizing these balancing principles of our worship.

Rhythms of Grace: How the Church's Worship Tells the Story of the GospelThis article is highly indebted to chapter 5 “Worship One, Two, Three” of Rhythms of Grace by Mike Cosper. I greatly recommend his book.