The Worship Service

31 Oct

One of the members of our church, a man named Noel, recently wrote the following sentence regarding a biblical perspective on corporate worship . . .

“Concerning worship, certainly anything prescribed and prohibited by the Scriptures should surely be adhered to vigorously and joyfully, but those things which are not delineated should be weighed thoughtfully and practiced according to the Spirit’s leading and with sincerity of heart apart from faddish novelty and rote tradition, focused on God and not man.”

There is much to commend in this sentence.  First, there is a focus on obeying the Scriptures.  I wonder how often we as Pastors and Worship Leaders and church members really think about how our actions in worship reflect or deny what the Bible teaches us about our worship gatherings?  Have we really looked to the Bible to see what kinds of things should be evident in our worship services?  Or do we just do what we’ve always done or do we just try out some new trends to try to be relevant to our culture?  So the first phrase in this sentence is all-important, we must seek to root corporate worship in biblical truth.

Many professing Christians live every day without much reference to or regard for biblical truth.  There may be a few foundational truths they claim make a difference to them, but biblical truth influences them far less than many other things.  I believe the same thing can happen when we gather together to worship.  Our sense of how things should be takes precedence over what the Bible really teaches.  This can flow in the direction of tradition.  We go for an hour and not a minute more.  We only use an organ and piano, keep those drums and guitars away.  Or it can flow in the direction of being trendy.  We have a great band and we show movie clips from the latest blockbusters and you can get up any time and go to the back for a donut as you listen to the conversation led by the pastor sitting on a stool over there.

I think there is a way through the fog.  I would outline it this way.

1.  Find those things in the Bible which God clearly commands us to do and implement them into the worship service.

2.  Identify the elements of your worship service which are not in the Bible.  Are any of them prohibited by the Bible?  If so, cease these practices.  Are any of these elements not helping the church toward the biblical goals of worship: glorifying God and encouraging the saints?  If so, these elements should be adjusted or eliminated.  Are any of these elements neither prohibited or unhelpful?  They may be retained but never exalted above the clear biblical commands of Scripture.  In other words, when using hymnbooks becomes more important than considering the lyrical content of the songs we sing, we’re in trouble.

3.  Remember one of Martin Luther’s favorite phrases: Semper Reformanda (always reforming).  Like the healthy individual Christian, the healthy church is always in the process of reforming those areas of life which are not in accord with biblical principles.  Be patient if your church doesn’t measure up in every way to the biblical principles you are discovering.  Tradition may be too important at the moment, but that can change.  Slavery to trends may make you feel like you’re church is stuck in 1985, as you have one more Back to the Future sermon series, but this too can change.  If churches will seek God’s calling for worship and push, through careful study, to obedience, real and lasting change can come.

4.  Most important of all, remember that outward forms can be perfectly in line with biblical teaching and still our worship can be abhorrent to God.  I like to think of the Sunday worship service as the exclamation point on a week lived to God’s glory.  The Old Testament prophets emphasized over and over that rightly ordered worship was a stench in God’s nostrils if those who gathered for worship were not worshiping from a heart of real devotion to God and seeking to live holy lives before God in every day life.  So let us individually guard our hearts and live before God in such a way that we are seeking to glorify him on Sunday morning and on Tuesday night and on Saturday afternoon and every moment of our lives.

5.  Finally, approach your church worship service as an observant worshiper, but not as a critic.  There should be no Roger Eberts in the church.  No one should go out on Sunday morning saying, “that service was 4 out of 4 stars!”  Draw near to worship, not to pick apart the music or listen for the place or places where the pastor messes up in the sermon.  Too many people come to church attuned to hear what they don’t like instead of coming to celebrate what is good.

There is so much to think about when we consider the worship services.  I’d love to hear your thoughts below in the comments.


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