This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Worship is what all people are about. In the book Tozer on Worship and Entertainment,A.W. Tozersays, the impulse to worship is universal. If there is a race or tribe anywhere in the world that does not worship it has not been discovered. 1There are two aspects to worship that Tozer indirectly identifies here in this quote. Firsts of all, people are the worshippers. In the make-up of who we are is a desire to find something to place on a pedestal and bow down before. The second aspect of worship is the worshiped. What are people placing above themselves? It may have started off as a wooden idol, a golden calf, a volcano, or a Roman King. Over time it has developed into currency, power, knowledge, singers voted on by the television audiences, sports figures, and politicians. The point is that people will find something to exalt above themselves. The thing about worship is that as we explore the Scriptures we find that it isn t appropriate or right to simply worship any thing or any god. There is one true God to worship. In addition to a true God to worship there is a proper way to worship him. The Westminster Shorter Catechism question #1 asks, What is the chief end of man? The answer is both simple and profound. The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. 2 It gives us a brilliant insight into the purpose of humanity, and that purpose matches Tozer s assessment, but with a specific focus. The answer of the Westminster Shorter Catechism identifies the worshipper as all humanity. There was no question in the minds of the authors of the Westminster Divines that people were created to worship. Then there is the
James L. Snyder, Tozer on Worship and Entertainment(Camp Hill: Wing Spread Publishers, 1997), 1.
question of the object of the worship. The Catechism says that man s role is to worship God. Glorification of God is the broad goal of worship. We can (and will) break down the different elements of worship and lay out more specific goals for each one, but ultimately every aspect of worship is to glorify God. If all of man s own reasoning were not enough, Romans 11:36 says, For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. So here is God s own word telling us that God is due worship. Glory is due to God for his own authority and power. If we look atTozer, the Confession, and God s word itself we see that man is created to worship God. The beauty of the God of the Bible is that God draws sinners to himself through the sacrifice of Jesus to worship him. Because of our sin, even in light of so great a redemption, we still try and make worship about man and not God. So we must carefully consider how worship is done to make sure that it seeks to glorify God alone. We must carefully consider how we are going to approach God? What does the Bible say? All these things demand a philosophy of worship. So as we move forward into this philosophy, understand that we are looking at worship from the perspective of what happens during a worship service. So I will endeavor to lay out an orthodox context for a worship service in the United States for 2011. It is an overwhelming undertaking to communicate a philosophy of worship in a single paper. My approach is to first take a brief look at the principles that guide reformed worship. Then I will delve into the details of worship, dividing them into elements, forms, and circumstances.
Principles The heart of reformed worship is found in the Westminster Confession of Faith article 21.5, the Regulative Principle. The Regulative Principle states, The reading of the Scriptures with godly fear; the sound preaching, and conscionable hearing of the Word, in obedience unto God with understanding, faith, and reverence; singing of psalms with grace in the heart; as, also, the due administration and worthy receiving of the sacraments instituted by Christ; are all parts of the ordinary religious worship of God: besides religious oaths, and vows, solemn fastings, and thanksgivings upon special occasion; which are, in their several times and seasons, to be used in an holy and religious manner. 3
This statement comes from the study of the Scriptures and an understanding that God has defined for us how we will worship him, and left up to ourselves we will always stray from that way that he has set up for us. The Regulative Principle is rooted deeply in reformed churches tradition of sola scriptura. Letting the Scriptures guide us in our understanding of how to worship God is the only way we are going to truly know how to worship God correctly. Led by our sinful desire, we are always going to try and worship God on our own terms and in our own way. If we do not follow his instructions we are going to go far astray in the process of worship. So we look to God s word as a guide for how to worship him. In fact, the Regulative Principle would go so far as to say that if the Bible does not explicitly instruct us in how to worship, we should not worship in that manner. That is in contrast to a Lutheran tradition, for example, who would suggest that if the Bible does not explicitly
The Book of Church Order of the Presbyterian Church in America, Sixth Edition, (The Office of the State Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America, 2009).
forbid a certain form of worship, then it is permissible. I would say, the best summary of the Regulative Principle is read the Bible, pray the Bible, preach the Bible, sing the Bible.
So the foundation of the Regulative Principle can be found in Exodus 20:4-6 which says, You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. In this text God acknowledges that our sinful nature is going try and put a face on God. We will want to identify him in any way we can, and he does NOT want us to do that. God knows that we will be inclined to worship anything we think will explain or help us get a grip on who he is, and God just isn t that small. On the contrary, God is so big that limiting our worship by identifying him with an image that we can imagine doesn t just offend God, but seriously limits our ability to explore the depths of worship of God because God suddenly has a definable essence. Another place to look for a foundation of the regulative principle is Exodus 25:40, And see that you make them after the pattern for them, which is being shown you on the mountain. In this text, Moses is receiving the instructions for the tabernacle. We understand now that the tabernacle was full of types for understanding how God would justify his people. How God would interact with his people. That is just
J. Ligon Duncan III, Does God Care How We Worship, in Give Praise to God: A Vision for Reforming Worship, (Phillipsburg, P&R Publishing, 2003), 47
to name a couple. G.I. Williamson says in reference to this text, And here let me say that it would be hard to think of a way to give greater weight to this regulative principle, than what we find in this account. 5God had very specific instructions for his people as to how he should be worshipped, in this instance it started with how the building they would worship in should be built and went all the way to the sacrifices they offered and the way they handled the Ark of the Covenant. This time in Israel s history is a good illustration for us of the need for the Regulative Principle because as God is giving these instructions and telling Moses, make sure you follow this patter, Aaron is in the middle of leading the people in putting a face to God and letting them define how to worship God. Juxtaposed against each other we see why there is such a great need for God to dictate to his people how to worship. Otherwise we will go off in any direction that we see fit. God s directive concerning how he will be worshipped in the Old Testament is to be followed to the tee. Now, if we find God directing his people in the practice of worship in the Old Testament why wouldn t he guide us in the New Testament? In 1 Corninthians 14:26-33 Paul lays down the boundaries of the conflict between the sinful chaos of man and the right orderly worship of God when he says, What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God. Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. If a revelation is made to
The Westminster Presbyterian, G.I. Williamson, The Scriptural Regulative Principle of Worship, http://www.westminsterconfession.org/worship/the-scriptural-regulative-principle-of-worship.php (accessed May 18, 2011).
another sitting there, let the first be silent. or you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. For God is not a God ofconfusion but of peace. As Paul moves through his instruction to the Corinthians about worship, he gets to a point where he has to address the order of their worship. It seems that everyone had something to say and it was bringing chaos into their worship time. It wasn t building up the fellowship but tearing it down. It seems that if someone is saying something that cannot be interpreted and, therefore, is not building up the group it is really more about the person speaking than the people hearing. When the people speaking are being honored then God is no longer the focal point of our worship. When people spoke in turn, and were interpreted there was peace and God became the focus of worship again. The need for the Regulative Principle continues to be clear.
The Regulative Principle helps us understand that God has a specific pattern for us to follow in worship so that we do not fall into sinful practices of worshipping ourselves or things that we have created. But, as we start to look at the actual worship service we want to understand what this service is going to be like. I believe that there is another pattern that we can establish before we get into the elements of worship. The pattern is the Dialogical Principle. The foundational premise behind the Dialogical Principle is that during worship there is a dialogue going on between God and his people. The Directory for Worship of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church says, The parts of worship are of two kinds: those which are performed on behalf of God and those which are performed by the congregation. In the former the worshippers are receptive; in the latter they are active. It is reasonable that these two elements
be made to alternate as far as possible.
The Dialogical Principle creates a natural exchange
that people are used to in daily life. It is how we have conversations. It is how we live life, with exchanges going back and forth. I really think this concept is great. To think that God is speaking to me through his word during a worship service is comforting, encouraging, hopeful, and aweinspiring. Then I have the opportunity to respond to the love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, that God offers in worship with confession, repentance, tithe and offering, glory, and exultation. If we understand that God has a specific pattern for worship, the Regulative Principle. This is where God establishes himself as the center of worship and his word explicitly instructs us as to how to worship him. Then we can pattern our actual service in the form of a dialogue with God going back and forth as he extends to us his grace and we offer to him our praise. Now we can get into the details of a worship service. As I talk about the elements, forms, and circumstances of worship it is important to understand the foundational idea that worship is for the followers of Jesus. In Exodus, when God is laying out his law with his people, God then confirms his Covenant and sets up how to worship him. The laws that are established and the Covenant that is confirmed are for God s chosen people. So it makes sense that the worship that is being laid out is also for God s people. We understand that all people desire to worship something, but we have already said that sin separates them from God. Calvin says, With such an idea of God, nothing which they mayattempt to offer in the way of worship or obedience can have anyvalue in his sight, because it is not him they worship, but, insteadof him, the dream and figment of their own heart. 7God
D.G. Hart and John R. Muether, With Reverence and Awe: Returning to the Basics of Reformed Worship, (Phillipsburg, P&R Publishing, 2002), 95. 7 John Calvin, The Institutes of Religion, (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1997), 38.
does not intend for non-believers to come into worship and participate in the same way that his people do. In fact, they cannot. No matter who else is in the worship service at the time, the service is focused on the dialogue between God and his followers. I do believe that it is of utmost importance that we take non-Christians into consideration when constructing our service. We cannot change our message or focus, but we can change how we instruct about our liturgy or tradition. We must communicate when to stand and when to sit. We must communicate who can participate in the Lord s Supper and who can t. We must also talk about the in s and out s of our service so that our man made traditions and liturgies do not impede the gospel from going forth to the hearts of the nonbelievers. Finally, I would like to discuss the goal of worship. The Presbyterian Church in America s Directory of Worship maintains, The end of public worship is the glory of God. His people should engage in all its several parts with an eye single to His glory. Public worship has as its aim the building of Christ s Church by the perfecting of the saints and the addition to its membership of such as are being saved -- all to the glory of God.
So, I believe it is quite clear
that the objective of worship is to glorify God. The responsibility to achieve this goal falls to the leadership of the church to demonstrate this through worship services that are well planned and well led. Elements The Directory of Worship for Presbyterian Church in American says in chapter 47-9,
The Book of Church Order of the Presbyterian Church in America, Sixth Edition, (The Office of the State Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America, 2009).
The Bible teaches that the following are proper elements of worship service: reading of Holy Scripture, singing of psalms and hymns, the offering of prayer, the preaching of the Word, the presentation of offerings, confessing the faith and observing the Sacraments; and on special occasions taking oaths. 9 The elements of worship are essentially defined by the Regulative Principle. These are the components of the worship service that must happen to properly worship God. In this section, I will examine each component and briefly explain the biblical basis for it and my personal perspective on it. The reading of God s word is the lifeblood of the worship service. In Luke 4 we find Jesus reading Scripture in Synagogue. The reading of the God s word in the Temple and Synagogue demonstrates for us how significant God s word is in the worship of God. Paul instructs his protégé Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:13, Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. God s word is a means of grace. It is such because in his word we discover who we are, who God is, the significance of our rebellion against him, and the magnificence of his grace to us. Congregations need to hear God s word read so that they can get a clear picture of the whole counsel of God. It seems reasonable to me, if at all possible to have an Old Testament and New Testament reading weekly in worship. It also makes sense to me that these passages should relate to each other. I believe services should be thematic, if at all possible. It is important for a congregation to see how God s word connects to each other. It is one Covenant with threads and themes that tie throughout the whole of Scripture. I can see
The Book of Church Order of the Presbyterian Church in America, Sixth Edition, (The Office of the State Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America, 2009).
having seasons in the life of the church where regular readings pick up each week with the end of the reading from the week before. For example, if on one Sunday the Old Testament reading is from Genesis 5:1-10. The next week the reading may begin in verse 11. This gives a great sense of the story of the Scripture, but I don t see that as a requirement to follow this pattern for worship. I also see Scripture readings as an opportunity for creativity in the church. Scripture can be read responsively or in unison. It can be read by a single leader from the front. I think that liturgy is important but needs to be flexible. All through the Bible it talks about singing God s praises. Psalm 147:1 says, Praise the LORD!For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting. The rest of the chapter is a list of many reasons why God should be worshipped in song. God has deemed it appropriate to acknowledge before him his greatness through song. So our worship should express this value. We should find our Sabbath worship filled with musical expressions of the outworking of God s greatness in our lives. James 5:13 instructs, Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Again, God s blessing brings a song of praise. Finally Colossians 3:16 says, Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Here Paul ties the word of Christ and the singing of psalms and hymns and spiritual songs together. So now we understand that our worship should be filled with songs to God. We also understand that those songs should be flowing out of his word.
This text, particularly when paired with the Regulative Principle, can be interpreted to mean that we should only sing the Psalms in worship. I do not hold to that position. Psalms are the Old Testament worship songs that are God-breathed. While hymns, for the most part, are biblically based songs about who God is, what he has done, etc. There are hymns in the Bible, which is part of the argument for hymnody. The Scriptures themselves make a strong case for the use of hymns in worship. There is evidence in the Scriptures of hymns from the early church that did not originate from the Psalter that were most likely used in worship, for example Colossians 1:15-20. We also have the texts from Scripture that we know are new songs of praise. Luke 1 and 2 have Mary and Simeon offering up praises to God in song. These are not Psalms. I do, however, believe that Psalms can have a significant place in our worship service. Psalms offer a connection to the Old Testament and, like the readings of Scripture, can help us to understand the connection of the Old and New Testaments. It is particularly helpful if services are thematic in nature. If a Pastor or worship leader can point out the connection of any song, but particularly a Psalm, to the theme of the service it will raise the awareness of the congregation of how the whole Scripture is connected together. The singing of Psalms and hymns in worship are a great expression of the emotion and heart of the believer.They allow us the opportunity to pour our heart out before our God. To tell him what our prayers sometimes fall short of expressing. Prayer is the next element of the worship service. Of prayer the Westminster Confession of Faith says,
Prayer with thanksgiving, being one special part of religious worship, is by God required of all men; and that it may be accepted, it is to be made in the name of the Son, by the help of his Holy Spirit, according to his will, with understanding, reverence, humility, fervency, faith, love, and perseverance; and, if vocal, in a known tongue. 10 People don t seem to write about prayer as much as they do the other aspects of worship, but the Confession makes it clear that prayer is an important element of the worship service. Philippians 4:6-7 say, do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. This text provides us with the benefits and a reason for offering our prayers to God. Psalm 65:2 says, O you who hear prayer, to you shall all flesh come. This text reminds us that God is the one to whom we direct our prayers. Prayer in worship needs to be done well. Worship leaders need to be thoughtful, addressing the many different needs for prayer in a worship service: call to worship, pastoral prayer, prayer of confession, prayer of thanksgiving, etc. Prayer in worship services needs to be offered to God for the leaders of our nation, church, and for the members of our congregation in need. Our prayers need to be filled with God s word. Johnson and Duncan in their chapter on reading and praying the Bible in worship say, No prayers more accurately reflect the will of God than those which use the language that God himself put into our mouths. No request is surer to be granted than that which
expresses what God himself has promised to fulfill.
The main thrust of the authors is
that we can pray using whatever words we want, but when we can use God s own words in prayer we are aligning our hearts with his. And we know that it is the prayers that are his will that he is going to answer. The Second Helvetic Confession says, there must be a mean and measure, as in every other thing, so also in public prayers, that they be not over-long and tedious. The motivation of this statement, it seems, is to make sure that there is time for the preaching of the word. While I doubt that few churches are praying so long that there isn t time for the preaching of the word, I do think that there is value and importance to say something with our prayers and not just drone on for the sake of talking. One more point before we close this section, the main thrust of any worship service is to worship God. But any time that leaders of the church stand up in front of a congregation behaviors will be picked up and therefore training and modeling occurs. So I am always hoping that the congregation is impacted, in their spiritual habits, by what happens during worship. So we need to plan our prayers accordingly. The preaching of God s word is the centerpiece of the worship service. It is in those moments of the dialogue between God and his people that God speaks in a way that addresses his people most directly. Up to the time that the preaching of the word takes place God has spoken, his people have spoken, God has spoken, and so on. But now, everyone settles in to hear what God has to say to them in a very specific way.
Terry L. Johnson and J. Ligon Duncan III, Reading and Praying the Bible in Corporate Worship, Give Praise to God: A Vision for Reforming Worship, (Phillipsburg, P&R Publishing, 2003), 158-159.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism says, The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption are, his ordinances, especially the Word, sacraments, and prayer; all which are made effectual to the elect for salvation. It is through the preaching of the word that we understand the benefits of redemption. So as God s people sit under preaching rooted in God s word we understand what it means to be redeemed by God. This may be an understanding that has been growing over 50 years or occurred for the first time that morning. The effectiveness of preaching is not in the capabilities of the preacher. The effectiveness of the preaching is in the word and, as Peter says, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:2b). Nehemiah 8 exemplifies how preaching can be done well. When the people demanded the reading of the law, Ezra and company responded by reading the law and making it understandable to the people. R. Albert Mohler says, Once the text was read, it was carefully explained to the congregation. Ezra did not stage an event or orchestrate a spectacle he simply and carefully proclaimed the word of God.
The preaching of the word needs to
include reading, explanation, and careful application so that God s people can understand what God s word says. In the section on forms we will deal with issues of powerpoint and video in preaching. The Sacraments are key aspects to the means of grace and invaluable to our worship. We see the early church demonstrating this for us in Acts 2:42, and they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers, and the command in Matthew 28:19-20, Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing
R. Albert Mohler Jr., Expository Preaching: Center of Christian Worship, Give Praise to God: A Vision for Reforming Worship, (Phillipsburg, P&R Publishing, 2003), 109.
them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. " These are the signs and the seals of the New Covenant that we should be celebrating together as God s people. When baptisms occur in a worship service, I believe that it is important to engage the congregation in the sacrament as well as the person being baptized, or the parents and child being baptized. Because baptism is a one-time mark of the New Covenant, and for many it happens as an infant, it is very important to engage the congregation. That mark is not just aone time deal. Baptism, in conjunction with saving faith, continues to mark us as Christ s children. So when a person enters into the Kingdom and the seal is placed upon them for the first time or a child is baptized in hopes of Christ claiming their heart, it is necessary to remind everyone else in the congregation whom Jesus has claimed for his Kingdom that they also carry the mark of their Savior. Thoughtful and creative instruction and reminders and Scripture with careful explanation is critical to helping members of the congregation worship through the celebration of the sacrament of baptism. Otherwise, it almost becomes a timeout in the service where we see if the cute baby cries when they put water on his head. The celebration of the Lord s Supper is the first opportunity for real life application of the preached word of God. When we have the opportunity to celebrate the Lord s Supper it should flow right out of the context of the sermon. This can be a challenging transition to make, but the sermon should preach the gospel every time. So the connection from the preached word to the Lord s Supper should be found in the gospel of grace. John Frame states of the Lord s Supper, It points us both to the past and to the future to the death of Christ for our
sins, in the light of the promise of his coming again. And in the present it nourishes our souls. What a great way to follow up our preaching of God s word by looking to Christ s death and resurrection and nourishing our souls. John 6:56 says, Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my bloodabides in me, and I in him. Forms
J. Ligon Duncan III defines forms of a worship service as the way in which the elements of worship are carried out.
In this section of the paper I am going to examine my personal
preferences and bents in assembling and leading a worship service. As an overarching theme, I would like to establish that although I have my own personal convictions and theories, I also believe that a pastor must work in the context of his congregation and community s cultures. Although worship is primarily about God, communicating that worship can take different forms. It is wise for a pastor to look for churches that have similar cultures as the ones that that he desires to serve in. It is also wise for a church to choose a pastor that desires to serve in the context in which the church exists. As I said before, I believe that the reading of Scripture should be done creatively. Please don t imagine this in the sense of dressing up and acting out the Scripture being read. On the other hand, I believe that Scripture has a voice and intent and should be read as such. The elder that stands in church and whirrs on and on does not help bring the truth of the word to life for the congregation. There are very exciting parts of Scripture, God does great miracles and rescues his people. There are very sad parts of Scripture where the sin of humanity is clearly
Edward P. Clowney, Corporate Worship: A Means of Grace, Give Praise to God: A Vision for Reforming Worship, (Phillipsburg, P&R Publishing, 2003), 96. 14 J. Ligon Duncan III, Does God Care How We Worship, Give Praise to God: A Vision for Reforming Worship, (Phillipsburg, P&R Publishing, 2003), 23.
revealed to devastating effect. There is instruction and correction and so much more. Yet somehow many people read all of it with the same energy and excitement that they would give to a telephone book, if anyone used those anymore. I believe that Scripture reading can be used in a variety of different ways. Scripture can be read responsively. For that matter, it can be read responsively between the worship leader and the congregation or it could be read responsively between two readers, if it fits the text. If we pay attention to the passage that we are using, I believe that there are orthodox, yet creative, approaches to reading Scripture that will causes our congregations to pay attention. A big question that comes along with the reading of Scripture is who can be the reader? D.G. Hart and John Muether strongly argue for the minster to be the one reading Scripture in their book With Reverence and Awe.15 Although I can see the value in having the authority of the man chosen by God to preach the word also read the Scriptures, I also see an argument for including others within certain parameters. I believe the representation of Covenant headship can expand opportunities for worship leading and Scripture reading to heads of households and males that evidence a firm commitment to Christ, maybe older teenagers, college students, etc. But maybe it can even go a little bit further. Although, I have a high regard for Covenant headship, I also see a lot of ministries headed by women for women or children. I think it is great to occasionally get those women, in leadership positions, to read Scripture. The truth is that our churches are no longer completely led by male professional clergy. In Reformed circles,
D. G. Hart and John R. Muether, With Reverence and Awe: Returning to the Basics of Reformed Worship, (Phillipsburg, P&R Publishing, 2002), 107-109. I really appreciate the argument that Hart and Muether lay out for importance of having the Pastor read the Scripture. I see how the authority of the Pastor can impact the authority of the Scriptures. I also struggle with my own opinion and do not wish to allow the changing times to make my decisions what they are. I do, however, seek to give the growing population of women ministry leaders the opportunity to lead in an appropriate way.
the women ministry leaders will never have the opportunity to preach and probably not even lead worship. But if they can be given an appropriate platform before the congregation where they are acknowledged as spiritual leaders, but still do not have the same position as the Pastor. I believe that this is very appropriate. The forms of Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs could be a paper all unto itself. I will try to keep my thoughts brief. I am a huge proponent of hymns, but I really enjoy hymns that have been rewritten to more contemporary music. The hymns rewritten by Red Mountain or Indelible Grace are great examples of the songs of which I speak. It is very important that these songs are sing-able. Even some of the songs written by these bands are difficult to sing. We cannot lead our congregation in worship if they cannot sing what we are asking them to sing. I am also a proponent of the Psalms. As I said in the elements section, I believe that worshipping through the Psalms is a great way to connect our congregations with the Old Testament. To help them worship, but also train them in their thinking and understanding. Finally, I also enjoy a good praise chorus. Again, these choruses, much like the hymns, need to be well written, in this case, not just musically but lyrically. Choruses need to have substance and content to their lyrics. If it is difficult to tell if we are singing the song to God, the Lord of the universe, or the person sitting next to us, who we care about a lot, I don t want to sing that chorus. I think the use of song should be thought through carefully and creatively. There are so many solid songs that we can use in so many different places in our liturgy. We can use songs as a call to worship, as a profession of faith, as a confession of sin, as an assurance of salvation. Because so many of these songs come right out of Scripture it seems to make sense that we can use that in a lot of different places. Now I will suggest that a song used as a
confession of faith or assurance of salvation needs a little set up by the worship leader. But as long as the congregation understands that the song is the tool that they are using to confess their sin, then I think that it is a great way to use the song. I don t have a ton of opinions on the offering of prayer. I do believe that prayer should be offered in the worship service and it should be done frequently. It seems that there are so many different kinds of prayers that can, and should, be offered during a worship service. Yet, it is important to fill our service with all sorts of prayers. It seems to me that a call to worship, prayers of confession, pastoral prayers, and prayers of illumination should be regular parts a worship service. But prayers of Thanksgiving and prayers from the congregation (if possible) also seem like things that should be done regularly as well. A service could easily be filled with any one element of worship, so it is important to find a balance. The preaching of the word is such an important part of the service and so many people tend to be critical of preaching. I would say that after childrens and youth ministries people tend to stay in churches for their music and their preaching. But the question arises, are people looking for teaching or entertainment? A.W. Tozer says of entertainment in worship, Many a man of God is being subjected to cruel pressure by the ill-taught members of his flock who scorn his slow methods and demand quick results and a popular following regardless of quality. These children play in the marketplaces and cannot overlook the affront we do them by our refusal to dance when they whistle or to weep when they out of caprice pipe a sad tune. They are greedy for thrills, and since they dare no longer seek them in the theater, they demand to have them brought into the church. 16 I agree whole-heartedly with Tozer. The job of the pastor is to preach the gospel of Christ to the best of his ability. The Preacher is not in the pulpit to entertain the
James L. Snyder, Tozer on Worship and Entetainment, (Camp Hill, Wing Spread Publishers, 1997), 102.
congregation. Preaching comes out of God s word and should be based, solely, on communicating the true meaning of the text to the members of the congregation. Now, I do believe that there is leeway in there. I believe the key to preaching the word well is the Word. A sermon should be focused on the text, filled with the gospel, and applied to the listeners. I think that there is space in today s sermon for powerpoint and video clips to be used judiciously. It is imperative that the technology not distract from the gospel. When the illustration starts to overwhelm the word, the sermon becomes entertainment. It is not that the sermon can t be enjoyable, I hope it is enjoyable when I preach. But we need to carefully think about the powerpoint and video illustrations that we use, to be sure that the flash does not distract. Now, I believe this because of the teaching of Jesus. Jesus was a great story teller. He is still well known for the ability to use a parable to communicate his message so well. He used his surroundings to make his message clearer. It is my understanding that when Jesus calls the Pharisees whitewashed tombs in Matthew 25 it is likely that he was in eyesight of tombs on the opposing hillside. He used what he had available to him to illustrate his point. Any illustration has the ability to distract from the message that we have put together. If we push the illustration too hard we begin to entertain people and stop preaching the gospel to them. The tools that we have at our disposal, that Jesus did not, are laptops, projectors, and screens. We have the ability to pull out our illustration and say, see that picture of the whitewashed tombs? That s what you self-righteous people are like
Offering during the service is a big part of worship. This is the place where the congregation has the opportunity to place before God a physical representation of their heart. I think it is important for the worship leader to frame this time well. It is key that people don t see this as a time where they give up their precious money. Instead, God s people have the opportunity to return a portion of what he has given them in response to what Jesus has done for them. Helping our congregation to see the opportunity for worship is very important and may need teaching and instruction from the pulpit. I think that the placement of the offering is also very important. Offering is a great place in the dialogue of worship for the people to give to God. I think a great place for the offering is at the end of the service. After God has spoken through his word and the Lord s Supper has been celebrated, the people have an opportunity to respond in gratitude. The challenge of this timing is that we do not want to communicate to people that they are paying for what they just received. That requires some thoughtful set-up by the worship leader. Finally, the more technologically advanced the culture becomes, the less people actually give during the worship service. I think that it is very valuable for the congregation to give physically give during the worship service. It is an act of worship that they get to participate in while together in worship. Otherwise it has the potential to be just a bunch of numbers that they punch into the computer during the week. No matter how well intentioned a member is, it is probably more an act of obedience then an act of worship. To me the big issue in the form of the sacrament of baptism is the water. I am really in favor of a lot of water. Baptism is full of these great images of resurrection and cleansing from
sin. In my opinion we want to represent that as well as possible. Pouring water with at least full hands is a beautiful picture of the cleansing of sin. When taking the Lord s Supper the question arises what will be used as the bread and the cup. I appreciate the use of unleavened bread. I don t have a hard and fast commitment to this, it is merely a preference. I really like the reference to the Passover that it makes. When it comes to the cup, I prefer the use of wine and juice. I know that some people do not appreciate the use of all wine, so I am willing to have a juice option. These elements for the sacrament, seem to me, to connect people to what the sacrament is supposed to be. Another issue when we are addressing the Lord s Supper is the idea of the fellowship of the church. It seems to me, that one of the issues that Paul is addressing 1 Corinthians 11 is the fellowship of the church. Paul says, But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part,for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. When you come together, it is not the Lord s Supper that you eat. For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.
I think it is important to address the idea of divisions in the church. This can be done in a lot of ways. First of all, encouraging peacemaking as a practice in life is important. This starts with teaching it and continues forward with modeling it. Developing a culture of real peace in the church is important, where people don t just sweep their issues under the rug, but rather address them directly and properly. Another way to address the broken relationships of the church can be through spiritual exercises throughout the week. If the church leadership can
prepare devotionals or mediations to prepare for the Supper, it may help people to focus on preparing their hearts. Second, there must be ways to handle the Supper in a way that helps the church to understand they are not just coming to the table as individuals, but also as a body. I think getting out of the pews, or chairs, is a great way to develop this fellowship. I have also heard of churches having 6 to 8 people take Communion at a time, standing in a semicircle. All these are creative ideas, but they are not effective in large churches. Seating arrangements can also help with this perspective. If the church can sit facing each other, it may help with the idea of the people being in fellowship together as well as in fellowship with Christ. Finally, the issue with the Lord s Supper is frequency. How often should be celebrate the Lord s Supper. Calvin says of the frequency of Communion, all Christians might have it in frequent use, and frequently call to mind the sufferings of Christ, thereby sustaining and confirming their faith: stirring themselves up to sing the praises of God, and proclaim his goodness; cherishing and testifying towards each other that mutual charity, the bond of which they see in the unity of the body of Christ. As often as we communicate in the symbol of our Saviour's body, as if a pledge were given and received, we mutually bind ourselves to all the offices of love, that none of us may do anything to offend his brother, or omit anything by which he can assist him when necessity demands, and opportunity occurs. 17 (Institutes book 4, chapter 17, section 44)
I am a big believer in weekly Communion. I believe that the Lord s Supper is a means of grace and should be used as such. It is in the frequent use of the means of grace that we come to know who God is, he reaffirms in us our faith, and communicates to us his grace. Therefore, why wouldn t we participate in the Lord s Supper weekly?
John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1997), 600.
Circumstances The circumstances of worship are defined by J. Ligon Duncan III as, incidental matters that of necessity demand a decision but that are not specifically commanded in the word.
seems to me that the key to circumstances is wisdom and thoughtfulness. When the church considers making decisions about the worship service that are incidental, but need to made, it needs to be done with its members and the mission to reach out in mind. Keeping mind that worship is for God s people, it would be inappropriate to have worship in a time or place that the majority of a church s congregation could not attend. But, if a church can have a location that draws attention to non-believers and helps to build relationships with the surrounding community, that seems wise to me. Time may be a similar thing. If a church has one service and can choose between an earlier or later service, why not have the service a little later when it is more likely that non-believers may attend? I don t want to make all the issues about believers verses non-believers, because they certainly are not. But looking at the large themes of the purpose of worship and the mission of the church will help make the choices in area of circumstances much clearer. So, the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. Part of glorifying and enjoying God is worshipping him. Understanding the purpose and elements of worship is foundational to assembling a good worship service.
J. Ligon Duncan III, Does God Care How We Worship, Give Praise to God: A Vision for Reforming Worship, (Phillipsburg, P&R Publishing, 2003), 22.
1. Frame, John M., Worship in Spirit and Truth, Phillipsburg, P&R Publishing, 1996. 2. Hart, D.G. and John R. Muether, With Reverence and Awe: Returning to the Basics of Reformed Worship, Phillipsburg, P&R Publishing, 2002. 3. Jones, Paul S., Singing and Making Music: Issues in Church Music Today, Phillipsburg, P&R Publishing, 2006. 4. Ryken, Phillip Graham, Derek W.H. Thomas, and J. Ligon Duncan III, Give Praise to God: A Vision for Reforming Worship, Phillipsburg, P&R Publishing, 2003. 5. Snyder, James L., Tozer on Worship and Entertainment, Camp Hill, Wings Spread, 1997.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue listening from where you left off, or restart the preview.