We debate often about the music, about reverence, about gifts, about instruments, and about what we wear. And, we may even have committee meetings where we discuss the choir robes and the pews. If that weren’t enough, we may even debate the translation of the Bible used in worship.
As believers in the Church, we can get pretty opinionated about what belongs and what doesn’t belong in the worship service. In my experience, 99% of the time that there is discussion regarding the worship meeting, it’s because our own personal preference and experience mandates what we think is appropriate. When that happens, we turn our preference for, say, musical style, or clapping, or what we wear, and so on, into an idol. It becomes more important than worshipping God.
If you don’t believe idol worship is prevalent these days, just ask the person who left a church over, say, the music, or the color of the pews, or the screen at the front. Church goers who leave because their personal preferences aren’t met are idol worshippers, plain and simple. And, lest you start pointing fingers or heartily agreeing, know that this isn’t confined to one generation or denomination or congregation. It’s starts with me…and you.
How Did We Go Wrong
There’s not enough time or space to begin to address the question of where we jumped the tracks on worship. A great place to start, and, probably the best place to end the discussion would be sin. We’re sinful beings who are preoccupied with ourselves. In a word, prideful. We think our way is the only way, and we exalt our opinion to the loftiest status. Combine that with the bent toward worshipping something, and we can see how things will get askew.
Harold Best, in his book Unceasing Worship, defines worship as the “continuous outpouring of all that I am, all that I do and all that I can ever become in light of a chosen or choosing god.” In his definition, god is not the deity we think of because anything can become a god to us…social status, appearance, reputation, a hobby…and so on. We can pour ourselves into those things, do everything we can to obtain them. They drive us, occupy us, possess us…often at the expense of something or someone else.
How Do We Get Right
As believers, the one place we can go to correct our view of the worship of an Almighty God in our churches – our act of worship – is to God’s Word. It must stand as the rule of our faith and the cornerstone of our walk with God. Hebrews 13:15-17 says this:
Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
And in Romans 12:1-2, Paul states:
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Mark Driscoll, in his book Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe says the kind of worship spoken of in Hebrews and Romans involves “praise, proclamation, service, participation, sacrifice, and submission.” In other words, it’s less about the church meeting, and more about the lifestyle of the believer.
Yet, even when we turn to scripture to guide us in our worship, agreement can still be evasive.
On One Side of the Ball
Many churches define the Sunday morning meeting by the Regulative Principle. Scripture regulates our worship. Simply stated, it is the view that whatever Scripture does not command is forbidden. The Westminster Confession states:
The acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshipped according to the imagination and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the holy Scripture.
In essence, it answers the question, “Can any of us trust ourselves to determine, apart from Scripture, what God does and does not like in worship?”
On the Other Side of the Ball
The opposing view is the Normative Principle. It is the view that our worship is free to include anything that is not forbidden by Scripture. We can be creative and are free to use any means necessary to facilitate worship in our Sunday morning meetings, as long as we are not disobeying Scripture.
So, with that in mind, think on these things:
1. Should we sing only the Psalms and scripture songs, or are we free to sing non-scripture songs created by sinful men?
2. Should we allow choirs, other forms of special music, or certain instruments (if any) in our Sunday meetings?
3. Since there is no Scriptural evidence or example for baptism in our worship meetings, should that be done outside of worship, or should it be included?
4. Should we observe the Lord’s Supper each time we meet, since the early Church, as referred to in Acts 2:42, did so?
5. Should we allow any art form – images, pictures, decorations, dancing, drama – to be used in our worship?
And it goes on.
So, the next time we gather to worship as a church, let us set our hearts not on our personal idols, but on worshipping the God of grace and glory. And, let us worship humbly.