It is no secret that worship styles are the big issue in churches of Christ. It seems that agendas abound. On the one hand, there is a selfish desire to do what is right in our own eyes; on the other, there is the fear that any adjustment is a challenge to the “way we have always done it.” Worship should lift our spirits to the heavens. Often, however, it either bores us to tears, or brings about upset and heartbreak.
There is another way. We can still approach God in a manner that pleases him, and uplifts us all. There are two principles the Bible mentions that affect our worship.
1. Worship is Conducted on God’s Terms
“Let us be thankful and so worship God accordingly with reverence and awe, for ‘Our God is a consuming fire'” (Hebrews 12:28,29).
If God takes the trouble to instruct us in an aspect of worship, that ends the debate there and then! This affects our worship in song (Colossians 3:16), who it is that leads worship in the assembly (1 Timothy 2:11,12), when we are to partake of the Lord’s Supper (Acts 20:8) and other subjects. The God who formed our hearts knows what those hearts need; the child of God will humbly and willingly oblige. If this criterion is not met, no other will suffice!
2. Worship Must Build
“When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening (edification) of the church” (1 Corinthians 14:26).
Once (and only once) we have established that a worship practice is Biblical, we can ask how it affects humans. The Bible draws from the language of construction to express this thought. As a preacher, it fascinates me that people expect a sermon to be well prepared and thoughtful (and so they should), but that other aspects of worship can be haphazard and “off the cuff.”
When it comes to serving God and his people, there is no such thing as being over prepared! I think the Lord deserves better than a song leader tossing the hymnbook to his family on the way to church and saying, “Choose a couple of songs, will you? I forgot I was supposed to lead singing today.” What we often think of as spontaneous is often nothing more than unprepared and results in a worship service that is about as deep as a birdbath.
The question is not, what will produce the most credits, but what will please the Creator. Worship is not production, it is petition. It is not measured by the world’s standards; it brings us, heart and mind, up to the Lord’s standards.
There should be only one agenda in worship. God’s.
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