WORSHIP | THOUGHTS ON WORSHIP
A sense of awe and wonder should accompany worship and, due to this, we make no claims to have a complete understanding on the subject. With open and hungry minds and hearts we seek to know God.
In developing a philosophy of worship we must focus on principles actually prescribed in scripture instead of trying to get our own pet peeves acknowledged and agendas instituted.
Blaise Pascal observed that the people who have the greatest influence in shaping the hearts and minds of any generation are not the folks who write the laws, but those who write the songs.
A. W. Tozer said, “Worship acceptable to God is the missing crown jewel in evangelical Christianity” and “ Too many church services start at eleven o’clock sharp and end at twelve o’clock dull.”
Focus on “What is our worship style?” is the wrong issue or question. The question should be, “Is our worship acceptable?” The answer to this will determine the methods or styles in which we worship and whether it is pleasing to God.
Scripture does not dictate the style of worship but does differentiate between unacceptable and acceptable worship. Although we have freedom in how we worship, it must be within the bounds of acceptability in God’s eyes, not in ours. Freedom in worship does not mean that all forms are acceptable. If a “style” of worship detracts from the Object of worship or exempts God’s truth, then it is not acceptable. It may also be that while some forms (styles) of worship may be acceptable for an individual, that particular form may not be for the common good in corporate worship.
In worship all art forms are to be an expression that provides believers with the opportunity to genuinely lift hearts of gratitude, reverence, and awe to God. Any art form or its content that detracts from the honor of God should be avoided. Genuine worship in any form is a response to God’s truth and character.
The body of Christ Community should arrive on Sunday mornings ready to offer acceptable worship, not to receive a “blessing” for themselves or to be entertained. Acceptable worship must reject not only manmade ideals, but methodologies as well. This includes pretense, posturing, manipulation, and hypocrisy. We agree with John Piper who said, “Natural, undistracting excellence will let the truth and beauty of God shine through.” The heart of a worshiper should not be the only criteria for a musician participating in the corporate worship. There should also be skill and proficiency attached to the use of musicians in service. We should create a process to identify vocalists and instrumentalists with musical skill and then train and develop them for service.
The value of worship must move beyond the emotional impact of an event that can often downgrade into a church service that seeks to evoke certain outward responses.
Acceptable worship incorporates emotional, physical, and intellectual elements. In responding to the truth of who God is and what He has done, worship is rational and incorporates an intellectual understanding. This is not to say that we can fully comprehend God with our mind or that such an approach eliminates the transcendence of God and finiteness of humans. An intellectual element must be incorporated to have any understanding about God. Is it not rational to believe that worshippers are unable to fully understand an infinite God? When Jesus said that we must worship God in spirit and truth, is it not clear that "truth" is a rational element?
CCC will emphasize the truth of God as a springboard for worship. As we evaluate worship, we must ask if the character and work of God were represented in truth. Creativity and a variety of artistic expressions are valued at CCC as expressions of worship, as long as such expressions are subservient to the honor and truth of God.
Truth alone is not enough for worship. Worship must be expressed and, sometimes, the expressions are deeply felt and physical. As human beings comprehend the majesty and transcendence of God, we are sometimes at a loss for words and our emotional and physical responses are the only appropriate replies. Our emotional and physical responses move us to our knees or to bow before Him because words cannot express our sense of humility in His presence. Physical expressions are conveyed throughout the scriptures as noted in the CCC worship narrative.
The suitability of physical expression is fitting in the context of worship. Imagine being separated from a loved one for months and seeing that loved one at the door of your home. Would you reply with words only in a matter-of-fact response and say, “Oh, nice to see you?” Or would you wrap your arms around the person to express your love and reception at his/her presence? Certain instances make emotional and physical responses the only appropriate reply when the heart of the worshipper is moved by the truth of God. CCC will seek freedom for worshippers to appropriately respond to the truth presented. Appropriateness is primarily determined by being decent and in order and not drawing attention away from the object of our worship.
Questions to Consider for Worship:
- Does our worship correspond with truth?
- Is it God- or man-centered?
- Are our hearts turned to God or self?
- Does it kindle affection for Christ and a longing for His presence?
- Does it appeal to fleshly and emotional sensations or to Christ?
- Does it bring greater understanding of God’s nature?
- Do the music, sermon, and other acts of service stimulate us to authentic worship?
- Are our hearts broken and humble?
- Have we prepared our hearts to worship Him as we gather together?
- Are we prepared to humble ourselves before Him and confess our sin?