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.”
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).
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).
“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!
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.
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 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.