My Philosophy of Worship

My Philosophy of Worship

My Definition of Biblical Worship
Worship is declaring the worth of someone or something. How I define corporate (in community with other like-minded people) worship is “Worship is the commemoration of being in covenant fellowship with the sovereign and holy God through the Lord Jesus Christ.”
How that is accomplished is by the:
1. Expressed commitment of trust and obedience to the responsibility of loving God with our whole being, and loving all other people.
2. Intentional praise and adoration of His person and work, and
3. memorial re-enactment of entering into covenant through sacrificial atonement with the confident anticipation of the fulfillment of His covenant promises.
(Adapted from Allen P. Ross, Ph.D. Worship in Ancient Israel).

Worship must be done as God desires it, in accordance with His person and works of creation and redemption. God’s purpose in creating us and redeeming us was to create genuine worshippers. Worship as an expression of “truth” is the journey we take to make God of first priority in our lives and declare through our words, thoughts and behavior that He is of supreme value. God is worthy of worship from all human beings. It is the purpose for which He created humanity and has redeemed many. The summary of God’s commandments is to love God with all our whole being (Luke 10:27).

My Understanding of Parameters for Congregational Worship

To understand the parameters for congregational worship, we must examine the qualifications for worship and the worshipper as it pertains to believers in the Lord Jesus Christ today as well as summarizing permissible corporate worship expressions.

Qualifications for Worship and the Worshipper
Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The most important qualification for a human being to worship God is that they believe in Him through the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 10:9-10). Without this critical component, a human cannot worship God. Therefore, a person who lacks faith in the Lord Jesus Christ does not and is not able to worship or please God (Hebrews 11:6).

The qualifications or requirements for those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ may be summed up when He said “Those who worship the Father must worship Him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24 NIV). He defined for believers two boundaries to worship God. The first boundary is “in truth.”
“In Truth” – Worshipping God through Jesus the Messiah. From this passage, we understand that for us to worship “In Truth,” is to worship God through the correct Messiah—Y’shua (Jesus). In this conversation with a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well in Sychar, Jesus made the reference that “salvation is from the Jews” (4:22), from which He then claimed Himself to be their Messiah (4:26). To worship God “in truth” is to worship Him through Jesus the Messiah. Since He later refers to Himself as being “the truth” (14:6), there leaves little room for debate that this is what He was referring to in 4:24. Belief in Jesus as the Messiah is the first requirement to worship of the One True God.

“In Spirit” – Unlimited Geographic Boundaries. In this same passage, the Messiah refers to God as being Spirit (4:24), which has intangible qualities. There are no geographic boundaries to the Spirit of God, as He is Omnipresent. Thus, the reason is clear for Jesus’ statement in 4:21 regarding the Jewish/Samaritan debate of where to worship God (Jerusalem in the temple or Mt. Gerizim in the Samaritan version of the temple). It soon wouldn’t matter where people worship God, because He is everywhere, and can be worshiped everywhere!

Personal Parameters for Worship

The act of worshipping God is not to be performed flippantly or without intentionality. Sincerity is essential because of three issues: personal integrity, genuine interest, and the voluntary expressions of the worshipper.
Personal integrity affects sincere worship because it assumes the righteousness of the worshipper, which occurs from prior self-examination, repentance and confession. Worship will not be inhibited when the worshipper makes time to prepare himself to be in the presence of God with other worshippers.
Genuine interest affects sincere worship because a person can’t worship God (or anything else for that matter) when one is on “autopilot.” Engaging the mind and desires is necessary for worship to occur – if one doesn’t want to worship God, then worship will not occur.
Unique and Voluntary Expressions. For a worshipper to make voluntary expressions in their worship is to do from the heart above and beyond what is expected. The Old Testament forms of worship were to an Israelite their duty, or what was expected as a minimum. God seems to have expected (and sometimes made provision for) additional acts of worship, which could be categorized as “above and beyond” or out of abundance. It is God’s desire and expectation that worshippers make a personal, unique contribution or expression of their praise to God.

Permissible Corporate Worship Expressions
My understanding of what is permissible and even valid expression of corporate worship of the Lord Jesus Christ comes from what is prescribed and what is allowable in Scripture. There are four main categories of permissible corporate worship expressions. They are as follows.

Teaching/Proclamation of the Word. The first is the teaching/proclamation of the word, in which the people’s response to hearing the word is to understand and obey. The format of this can be preaching/teaching from the pulpit, reading the Bible devotionally together, studying the Bible in a small group format, or even studying through a Christian book whose foundation is Scriptural.

Remembering the Lord’s Table. The second is remembering the death, burial and resurrection through the sacrament of the Lord’s Table. It is permissible to partake in the Eucharist once a week or once a month. My preference is every time we gather all together corporately (once a week on Sundays) we take communion together to re-enact (remember) Christ’s work on our behalf. Our response is to receive the sacraments appropriately as prescribed in I Corinthians 11.

Praising God through Creative Arts. The third category of permissible expressions of corporate worship is praising God Himself for His character and His works by using the media of art (music, poetry, writing, dance, reader’s theater, sculpture, painting, and drawing). I am committed to the Lord Jesus Christ as Head of the Church. Our worship, regardless of style of art, is to be Christ-centered, authentic, and creative; not people centered. I believe the creative arts are a vehicle to motivate us toward worshipping God, and are not ends in themselves; therefore styles ought to change as people’s needs and preferences change. The object of our worship is God, so we must come to Him in worship according to His ways and purposes (Ex. 20:3; Ps. 100, 150; Matt. 5:23-24; Matt. 18:15-20). The content of the lyrics and the excellence of the musicians are what is more important than necessarily “hymns or choruses.” So many people make the style of music an issue over which to break fellowship. However, this ought not to be. Our response is to revere God for His character and works through our artistic talents, whether they be novice or expert, everyone can participate.

Sharing Life Together in Community. The final category of permissible corporate worship expression is to share life together in community, where each member’s responsibility is to remind one another to follow Christ, to sacrifice for each other (time, energy, possessions, etc.). Since Israel was a worshipping community, and it would be more the oddity rather than the normative to worship privately or in isolation from other human beings, so the church is similar in that we are to worship corporately in community.

My Approach to Handling Contemporary Worship Issues
My approach to handling contemporary worship issues such as musical styles and dancing (for example) is pastoral in nature. Here, I will briefly explain my strategies as to how I would handle those issues within a church context.
Strategy: Four General Principles
My strategy is to use four general principles whenever thinking through how to pursue worshipping God in a local church or when conflict arises due to opinion and preference differences. The principles are “Function vs Form,” “Excellence,” “Beauty and Creativity,” and “Highest Goal: Love and Healthy Relationships.”

Function vs. Form. The function never changes… to declare God’s worth. The form, however, may change based upon the demographic of the people we are attempting to engage and reach for Christ. If the general population of the “natives” is into rap music, then I must lay aside my personal preference for hard rock and cater to that need. The style of music changes to fit the target audience. The function is to worship God and proclaim truth, which must never change. The form may be hymns, Jewish folk dancing, choruses, Christian contemporary songs, graffiti art, or liturgy, all of which may change due to target audience and preferences. The goal of art is to glorify God, not the artist. To edify the church, not self.

Excellence. Christians who desire to worship God and whose mission it is to reach the non-believing population of their surrounding community have an obligation both to God and to the skeptical world to perform with excellence. From the entrance into the parking lot, from the parking lot to the front door, from the front door into the sanctuary, from the sanctuary back into the parking lot again, the church must have a commitment to worship God well and treat these people with love. This means that there are few glitches due to dedicated practice–from parking lot attendants, to greeters, to ushers, to prayer leaders, to Scripture readers, to music team, to drama team, to those taking the offering, to the preacher, to those who are small group leaders looking to assimilate new-comers. Everyone must be doing their jobs well… it honors the King (I Corinthians 10:31), and communicates love and importance to people who are visiting and attending.

Beauty and Creativity. Being creative in worship is to go above and beyond to seek new ways of creating mediums of art or communication. From the building and grounds to the actual art being performed in the worship service, creativity and beauty ought to be expressed and appreciated, rather than deemed as an attempt to bring glory to oneself.

Highest Goal: Love and Healthy Relationships. Our highest goal is love and healthy relationships. This means that we won’t argue over what my preference of musical style is, because my relationship with my brothers and sisters in Christ is more important. If a person is stumbling over a certain style of music being played in a service, then the goal would be to pursue the reasons why they are stumbling so. If it is a valid and scriptural reason they are stumbling, then it is the obligation of the “stronger” brother to revise their approach (or song, or drama, etc.) according to Romans 14:19.

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