How a Worship Format is Destroying the Evangelical Church

During my lifetime, many evangelical churches in American have moved from Bible-oriented gatherings to music-dominated meetings. Interestingly, both sets of religious gatherings typically bore the title, “Worship Service.”

When the evangelical church was Bible-oriented, this “worship” paradigm was in place:

(1) Not all elements of the service were considered equally important; the exposition of Scripture was clearly the first and foremost priority. All other competitors vied for a distant second place.

(2) When the term “worship” was used, it was the equivalent of our modern casual expression, “doing church.” It is important to note that the preaching of the Word was considered part of worship, as were announcements, testimonies, communion, prayer, singing, the offering, and special music. This was the typical structure of a “worship service” before 1980.

(3) Many evangelicals viewed music as a “warm up for the sermon.” In this regard, many leaders did not seem to often respect music ministry as actual ministry but many others did.

The change

But the paradigm has changed in many churches. The most important change was what the word “worship” communicates. The word “worship” is now used by clergy and laity alike to refer to the religious feelings aroused by music.

(1) The change in paradigms began with the addition on an article: “the” worship. As trivial as this seems, this was the beginning of emphasizing music and separating preaching and announcements from worship. We now have “the worship” and “the sermon.”

Here is just one possible scenario resulting from this change in definition. John Member has schedule a meeting with Pastor Jones. Let’s eavesdrop.

“Pastor, I think we need to cut down the time you preach. Fifteen minutes is plenty, I think.”

“I don’t agree,” replies Pastor Jones, “studying the Bible is crucial for every Christian.”

“Oh, I agree that the Bible is important, Pastor,” responds John Member, “but our morning service is billed as the morning worship service, so it should be mainly about worship, not preaching.”

In the above hypothetical conversation, you can see how the two meanings of the word “worship” are colliding with one another. In the pastor’s mind, Bible study is an important part of worship, but not in the mind of John Member. He views only music as “worship.”

(2) Other terminology changed. Schools that offered a major in church music (or “sacred music” for the hoi polloi) changed the major to “Worship Arts” (about the same time shades and curtains became “window treatments”). The song leader became known as the “worship leader.”

(3) Music became more emotionally intense, and a confusion between the emotional and the spiritual helped set music on an untouchable pedestal. Worship had become something one felt, not something one did. Worship was judged as good or bad based upon how it made worshippers feel. The Scriptures no longer defined good worship; the individual had become the discerner of truth based upon how he felt.

(4) In mega-churches, elitism and an attitude oriented toward musicians performing to the standards of other musicians (rather than aiming to bless the congregation) seems to be the norm. In some cases, musicians have become a special religious caste (like a priest, they lead the sacrifice of praise into the holy place).

(5) Even though Colossians 3:16 implies we should aim our hymns and songs both vertically and horizontally (we sing to one another and in our hearts to the Lord), the entire concept of worshiping God in the third person is gone, despite the fact that many Psalms speak of God as “He” rather than “You.”

(6) The goal of worship is creating a religious atmosphere and its attendant feelings. Often times worship leaders are weak in biblical and theological matters, but because more Christians value “worship” above theology, some of these leaders are carving out a pattern for church with little regard for biblical teaching about what the church is supposed to do when gathered.

(7) Here is the pattern: eventually worship (music and that religious feeling) is considered almost on a par with Scripture, then equal to Scripture, and eventually superior to it.* The Scriptures become subservient to the music and are used more as transitions between songs than holy word to be expounded. Biblical sermons have given way to self-help lectures or emotionally charged sermons with lots of illustrations—replacing the previous Psalm 1 mentality. The idea of worshiping God through deep Bible study and meditation in the Word is unknown; worship now means music and feelings.

The consequences & dangers of the new “worship format”

  1. Religion is back in vogue. We used to hear “I’m not religious, I just love the Lord,” or “Christianity is not a religion; it is a relationship.” Because of the new emphasis on religious feeling, it is fair to say that we have moved back into the domain of religion.
  2. Worship has become a religious experience dependent upon something else than the gathering of Christians to study the Word, pray, celebrate communion, and sing a few hymns. Based upon modern viewpoints, the early church must have done a poor job of worshipping God.
  3. If the church is about worship, and if worship is a religious feeling induced from a church gathering, then, if I get a stronger version of that feeling somewhere else, that is where I need to be. Rather than the Bible, a passionate feeling of worship becomes the canon by which I measure truth.

As a result, Christians not only move from evangelical church to evangelical church, but they also desert evangelicalism. Our heritage is based upon the centrality of Scripture; we are really novices at the religion game. But even if we competed well on a religious level, are we right to trash the primacy of Scripture? What about the convictions of the Reformation?

The problem is not contemporary music, seeking to have meaningful worship through songs of praise, etc. The problem is displacement. When we displace the knowledge of the Word and solid doctrine with music (whether we call music worship or not), we are no longer under the lordship of Christ. The Christian life includes public worship, but the highest form of worship is hearing and doing the Word of God. That is why the ultimate “worship book” in the Bible, the book of Psalms, begins with emphasizing constant meditation on the Word. The longest Psalm (119) makes the point even more emphatically. God seeks those who worship Him in Spirit and in truth. It is hard to worship God in truth if you don’t know the truth and if you do not make the truth a priority.

[node:bio/ed-vasicek body]

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Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I think you make some very interesting points. So much of the debate has focused on contemp vs. trad, and I never considered that there is an underlying change in definition--well, didn't connect the dots anyway. I think there's alot of truth to what you're saying.

I'm not crazy about the old model where you have preaching + "the preliminaries" though. I think it should all be viewed as worship or it should not be in the service. But I do think it's extremely damaging to subordinate the preaching of the word to the experience of feelings of devotion (generated by music/drama, etc.)

Your use of the word religion... I'm not sure I have the same definition you do. I think most of us could stand to be much more religious. What I mean by that, though, is serious, disciplined. There are forms that the centuries have proven to be helpful to believers in turning hearts toward God. So... I have no aversion to ritual, per se.
So I'm not entirely clear on what you mean by "religion."
I'll be out a while so will have to catch up later.

KevinM's picture

Ed Vasicek wrote:

Other terminology changed. Schools that offered a major in church music (or "sacred music" for the hoi polloi) changed the major to "Worship Arts" (about the same time shades and curtains became "window treatments").

Made me laugh. Nice.

KevinM's picture

I wish we would move past the Sunday Morning "Worship Service" jargon--at least the way we currently use that buzz word. I agree with Ed that the church gathers around the Word. And the "Music + Preaching" model (or lately, the "Music + Preaching + Sacramental Observance of Communion" model) hasn't been a rigorous application of New Testament teaching, which is fairly clear in its descriptions of the gathered church.

But it seems like some of those "standard activities" of the gathered church are gathering dust. Confession of sin? Prayer? Testimony? Fellowship?

Charlie's picture

Ed, I'm thrilled about your position on the centrality of the Word in worship. I entirely agree; that's why in Protestant churches, pulpits displaced the eucharistic table as the central furniture. With that in mind, though, we do have the danger Aaron mentioned: some churches take the primacy of the Word to mean "the other stuff" is tangential to or merely preparatory for the sermon.

How can we move beyond this impasse? Well, at my church, the congregation follows a modified Genevan church legacy, in which every element of worship is used to be a carrier of the Word. A liturgy from several weeks ago looked like this:

Call to Worship (responsive Scripture reading) - Psalm 97:1-4

Invocation

Hymn of Adoration - Praise to the Lord, the Almighty

Silent Confession and General (corporate) Prayer of Confession

Assurance of Pardoning Grace - Ezekiel 36:25-27

Hymn of Pardoning Grace - O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus

Sacrament of Baptism

Intercessory Prayer and the Lord's Prayer

Old Testament Lesson - Exodus 20:1-3

Sermon - The First Commandment

Sacrament of the Lord's Supper

Hymn of Response

Benediction

Dismissal (responsive)

Now, the whole liturgy is designed to focus on how law and gospel are resolved in the work of Christ. The call to worship starts with God, in the person of the minister, calling his people to worship. Then they joyfully respond. Baptism follows confession and assurance of pardon, since it depicts cleansing and the new birth. It's also why the Lord's Supper comes after the sermon, since it is God's "invitation" to us to partake of his Son by faith. Our pastor takes a minute before each element to explain the element in light of the gospel, or sometimes more specifically in light of the week's sermon. The net effect is that each element contributes to teaching. Since a theme in every Reformed sermon is Christ's fulfillment of the law and offer of the gospel, the ground is plowed before the sermon, and its message is reinforced until the end.

Of course, there may be many ways to uphold the centrality of the word throughout a service, but I offer this modified Genevan liturgy as an example to anyone who may be looking for something.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

Alex Guggenheim's picture

This is no casual essay, it is IMO, quite book worthy. Thank you Ed for the time invested in carefully considering the topic and articulating with precision the issues you raised. Some magnificent points:

Ed Vasicek wrote:
...a confusion between the emotional and the spiritual helped set music on an untouchable pedestal. Worship had become something one felt, not something one did. Worship was judged as good or bad based upon how it made worshippers feel. The Scriptures no longer defined good worship; the individual had become the discerner of truth based upon how he felt.

Ed Vasicek wrote:
...but because more Christians value “worship” above theology, some of these leaders are carving out a pattern for church with little regard for biblical teaching about what the church is supposed to do when gathered.

When I read in Acts that the Elders devoted themselves to teaching and praying and imagine the primacy in the meetings within the varying congregational subsets being that of how people "felt" and an emphasis on moods and music, it is incredibly incongruous.

The directives and examples that we have in Scripture, while allowing for varying forms, must ultimately lead to just what you stated:

Ed Vasicek wrote:
...the highest form of worship is hearing and doing the Word of God.
So whether a formal liturgy is present or not, whether some traditional form of music is present or not, as you said these are not the problems, rather it is "displacement".

I suggest, as I believe you will agree, that when the Word of God is considered primary, those attendant issues such as feelings or worship structure and elements will find their appropriate place based on a proper orientation to the Word of God.

Ed Vasicek's picture

Good comments. I would like to add the following:

(1) The old idea about the "preliminaries" is bad, as though the Word were everything. The Word is not everything, but it is to be central, I believe.

(2) Liturgy, etc., as Charlie mentioned is something neutral to me. That is one method to seek to implement a set of priorities. I neither condemn it nor advocate it, but I will acknowledge it as one of many format possibilities.

(3) If you look at the real rubric for what is to be done in a church meeting, that rubric is given by Paul (I Cor. 14:26c), I believe:

Quote:
Let all things be done for edification.

"The Midrash Detective"

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

that even when the music portion of the service is great, I'm still glad it's over when we sit down and open our Bibles?

Great post, Bro. Vasicek- and I think the primacy of Scripture also dictates that the songs themselves reflect solid doctrine and don't veer into the trite, cute, or an overabundance of distracting metaphors... goes along with your point #7, I think. If the focus of the entire service is worship (and edification and equipping and admonition...) then all things will continue to follow that path.

Are we going to talk about other 'preliminaries' such as offerings and announcements? http://www.freesmileys.org/smileys.php ][img ]http://www.freesmileys.org/smileys/smiley-scared003.gif[/img ]

Paul J. Scharf's picture

From the paradigm of my theological understanding (which is necessarily rooted in my Lutheran upbringing), I have trouble relating to this article.

Since we're all into lists today :), a few thoughts:

1) I have always believed that the preaching of the Word formed the crescendo of the worship service.

2) I have never believed (at least for a very long time) that things like announcements have any proper place in a worship service. (Would we interrupt a wedding or a funeral to make announcements? :p)

3) I have never believed (at least for a very long time) that "song leader" was a concept compatible with Biblical worship. It appears to be a relic of old-time revival meetings, where the "song service" became an element of entertainment meant to draw the crowd. (Originally, there was no Hi-Def TV back then -- the fact that there was a service going on with a "song leader" was big news in many communities. ;))

4) Like Charlie, I agree with Ed that the strength of the old evangelical/fundamentalist paradigm was its emphasis on the primacy of the Word and preaching. I just don't believe it is an either/or thing. I wish we could have the best of both worlds -- Biblical worship tied to worshipful preaching/teaching.

5) I probably don't agree with Ed on these matters, but I am also sure I do not agree with those he is really writing against. It also troubles me that many fundamental Baptist pastors can conduct a service in good conscience without any public reading of Scripture, any Scriptural call to worship or any Bible-infused pastoral prayer.

The answer is not to place less emphasis on worship; it is to place a more Biblically-literate emphasis on worship.

Church Ministries Representative for the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Paul J. Scharf wrote:

3) I have never believed (at least for a very long time) that "song leader" was a concept compatible with Biblical worship. It appears to be a relic of old-time revival meetings, where the "song service" became an element of entertainment meant to draw the crowd.

I tend to agree, especially if we are talking about 'song leader' as a paid vocation. I am... shall we say... less than enthusiastic about paid 'music' staff. But how many Christian colleges have music majors to fill just such positions?

To clarify- I think the quality of music is important, so talented and trained musicians are valuable, but I think you'd have to go spelunking in the OT to find Biblical precedent for full-time musicians for the church.

Alex Guggenheim's picture

One might respond that though the office of a Minister with an emphasis in music is not present in the Scriptures, neither is a Pastoral/church secretary that would be supported by the church. Would it be better qualified by saying there is no example, prescription or license for a church supported ordained Minister to devote his efforts to something other than primarily the teaching of God's Word (which would include Evangelists whose gifting would be gospel doctrine).

On the other hand, under the category of ancillary, non-ordained positions such as secretary, would it be valid to have a person who is not called a Music Minister, respecting the above, but Music Director (btw none of my response is intended to reveal any personal position, simply playing devil's advocate)? Not to get too far off Ed's main focus.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Sure, Alex- if the church wants to compensate someone for their labor, whether it is mowing the yard, balancing the books, or leading the choir, that's certainly permissible. But making music an ordained calling and church office is taking that function too far IMO.

But tell that to your local Bible college. Then duck and run for cover as the hymnbooks come flying at your head.

The main reason, IMO, that there is a major glut of music majors is this new definition of worship.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Paul J. Scharf wrote:

2) I have never believed (at least for a very long time) that things like announcements have any proper place in a worship service. (Would we interrupt a wedding or a funeral to make announcements? :p)

I don't like these as part of the service either, along with "artificial fellowship time," where a couple minutes (at most) are spent on "fellowshipping" (which really means shaking hands and asking people for names which will be forgotten in seconds).

On the other side, though, announcements are fairly common at the end of funerals (basically after the service part is over) telling people where to go for the graveside service, reception, etc., as well as telling people what to do with money in lieu of flowers, etc. The same at the end of some weddings I've attended as well.

If announcements are taken care of before the service starts (sometimes this is done with PowerPoint slides on the walls before the service starts), or done afterward, they are quite useful as a practicality in church families. I agree wholeheartedly with you, however, that the emphasis of a service on God should not be interrupted by announcements.

Dave Barnhart

Alex Guggenheim's picture

Susan R wrote:
Sure, Alex- if the church wants to compensate someone for their labor, whether it is mowing the yard, balancing the books, or leading the choir, that's certainly permissible. But making music an ordained calling and church office is taking that function too far IMO.

But tell that to your local Bible college. Then duck and run for cover as the hymnbooks come flying at your head.

The main reason, IMO, that there is a major glut of music majors is this new definition of worship.

I agree with you, BTW.

driddick's picture

Good thoughts and an interesting take on the current situation.

While I understand what your getting at and I agree with your point, I think your title and a some of your explanation is using broad strokes and is putting the blame on something other than the real issue.

I believe you "hit the nail on the head" with this sentence:

Quote:
The problem is displacement.

Any time we put something in place of the authentic worship of God and the proclamation of his word, we have a major issue.

I'm not sure I agree with your presentation of "music" and "the Word" as an "either/or" idea.

Quote:
When we displace the knowledge of the Word and solid doctrine with music (whether we call music worship or not), we are no longer under the lordship of Christ.

Our music could/should be scripture filled and doctrinally accurate, keeping Christ as lord and His word central.

I have visited several evangelical churches, a few of them would be some of the most recognized in the country, and I have never been in a service where the music portion of the service exceeded the sermon in either importance or length of time.

Again, I agree with your principle, I'm not sure I would draw the same practical conclusions.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

driddick wrote:
Our music could/should be scripture filled and doctrinally accurate, keeping Christ as lord and His word central.

I have visited several evangelical churches, a few of them would be some of the most recognized in the country, and I have never been in a service where the music portion of the service exceeded the sermon in either importance or length of time.

Again, I agree with your principle, I'm not sure I would draw the same practical conclusions.

You know, a broad study of the the primary Hebrew and Greek words used for worship in Scripture and their contexts is very revealing. While music can be a useful tool and a means to an end in worship, there is no support in Scripture for the notion that music is an integral or necessary part of worship. In fact, there are far more examples in Scripture of worship sans music than worship including music. I am not advocating the removal of music from our worship, only suggesting that the displacement Ed warns us about in the article is FAR more pervasive than we readily recognize.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Agree with Bro. Chip- and a pervasive problem is, IMO, the fact that if church leadership felt that changes needed to be made toward more Biblical edification and worship, but dared to depart from tradition in any area, they'd have a rebellion on their hands. "How dare you not have a choir/special music/altar call/pass the plate etc? What do you mean that's not in the Bible? So what? That's the way we've always done it!" Who is going to 'risk' their position as pastor over something like the music program?

I don't care what Meg Ryan says- sometimes it ain't personal, it's just the way it is.

rogercarlson's picture

Great Thoughts Ed. Still chewing through it. Several years ago, the anouncements thing occured to me. We now do anouncements before the service. We still have a "welcome" time where everyone is greeted. I have been neutral about doing it, but the people love it. Yet we have never called it "fellowship."

I also want to get away from the "songlead" (especially since i am doing it) but I havent found a way that I am comfortable with yet. Any ideas anyone?

Roger Carlson, Pastor
Berean Baptist Church

Charlie's picture

Regarding music pastors and song leaders, we have no one to blame but ourselves. Most American churches descend from the Reformed tradition. The original Reformed position (minus the Anglicans) was to sing only congregationally, only scripture songs, without musical accompaniment. From mainly Anglican and a little Lutheran influence, over time many of the churches added an organ, sometimes a choir, and introduced extra-biblical hymns. Revivalism brought song leaders, "special" music, and orchestras. So, now we need to pay people to keep this machine we built running.

I'm not saying that the answer is necessarily to go back to the minimalist approach. However, it does seem that innovations were embraced without regard to the consequences. Now, we find it difficult to undo what we've done. Personally, I think exclusive congregational singing and a steady diet of scripture songs would be quite healthy for the church.

rogercarlson wrote:

I also want to get away from the "songlead" (especially since i am doing it) but I havent found a way that I am comfortable with yet. Any ideas anyone?

If you want people to sing, and you don't want it to be terrible, someone or something has to lead. At my church, it's not any particular person, but the music team as a whole. You don't need to wave your arm in the air to keep time, though. People naturally keep time with the instruments.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

Paul J. Scharf's picture

Charlie wrote:
If you want people to sing, and you don't want it to be terrible, someone or something has to lead. At my church, it's not any particular person, but the music team as a whole. You don't need to wave your arm in the air to keep time, though. People naturally keep time with the instruments.

Charlie,

I agree with you here.

While there is certainly nothing inherently wrong with someone directing music -- we have all seen the two extremes: on the one hand, a song leader who was intentionally trying to display showmanship for the entertainment value; on the other hand, the guy with no musical ability who is waving his hand trying desperately to figure out how to keep time withe song, not leading anything :bigsmile:.

I will say that I have known or seen several men who were very gifted "worship leaders" who definitely had gifts from God to lead His people, and did it very well. Everyone I have seen like this was (a) a trained musician, (b) not a showman and (c) a man of the Word. They are few and far in between. Sad

I think that the music team idea is a good one, if done properly. Done improperly, of course, it can also be a means of fostering an entertainment church/seeker service mentality.

But if done correctly (especially if your church does not have the kind of worship leader available like I describe above in my 3rd paragraph) I think it's great. The team can be viewed as being representative of the congregation, set apart to lead the rest in worship and singing.

That way, the focus is not on just one individual--"On that last verse,now..." Bleah

Church Ministries Representative for the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry

Ed Vasicek's picture

There are a zillion books on worship and opinions of how things should be done. I don't really want to go there. But I will say this:

It has never been proven that church meetings are said to gather for worship in Scripture, at least in my understanding. Edification (which is emphasized) includes many things, and worshiping God is certainly an important thing for Christians to do and is perhaps not commanded for a New Testament congregation to do because it is assumed (or understood by the many admonitions in the Psalms).

But in the New Testament, worship happened when the church did what it was supposed to do. I have no recollection of a church meeting being called a worship service in my Bible study. Thus the dichotomy between announcements (which is part of Body Life) and the rest of the service seems man made, to me. Since Body Life is part of edification, and all things are to be done for edification, announcement time can meet the rubric that Paul mentions. Then again, it doesn't have to be part of a service, either.

The heart of my article is truly that the Word has been DISPLACED. I think music ministry is important. I think prayer is important. The problem is not so much that modern people tend to crave more music or drama, etc., but the real problem is that these same people no longer crave the Word. We are not adding, we are displacing.

One of the early terms for a Christian was a disciple. To be a disciple means primarily to be a learner, one who studies, memorizes, and follows the Master. Much of modern evangelicalism and even some fundamentalists have lost the determination to grow in grace and KNOWLEDGE. We come to church to celebrate, and that's fine. We come to church to praise God, and that is commendable. But do we come to learn, to be trained, and to be challenged? It comes down to displacement.

In my understanding, we have compartmentalized church (Sunday School = education, Prayer meeting = prayer, AWANA = Bible memory, morning service = praise), but the problem is that most folks only have one contact point, the morning service (at least that's what it is like in this region). We may offer more, but what percentage participate. We need to integrate more of what a church is supposed to do when we are most likely to be together. Thus depleting the Word in the morning service would still be a crime even if 75% of adults came to Sunday School, prayer meeting , and the evening service, but it is more of a crime because they don't. For many Christians, all they get is the morning service.

"The Midrash Detective"

KevinM's picture

Ed Vasicek wrote:
It has never been proven that church meetings are said to gather for worship in Scripture, at least in my understanding......I have no recollection of a church meeting being called a worship service in my Bible study.

I'm with you here, though I might add one word: "It has never been proven that church meetings are said to gather exclusively for worship in Scripture." If worship is an all-of-life activity, then Sunday morning is a logical extension of that. But all of this talk about "corporate worship" constructs a special category as if it has a well-defined New Testament definition. I'm with Ed, but it's hard question to brink up in public, sort of like formal opposition to apple pie and motherhood.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I think the fact that the people of God gathered to worship together under Moses (and music was part of that) means that the people of God are still to gather to worship... and through music. And this seems to me to be confirmed in Acts 2, 4 and Eph. 5 and Col 3. Pslams, hymns, spiritual songs... etc.
If this element of NT gatherings is not emphasized in the NT I'm inclined to think it's because it was too obvious to need mentioning very often. So other problems are the focus in the epistles.

My own conviction is that the gathered church does nothing at all more important than worship together.
That said, Rom.12.1 clues us in on a broader sense of "worship" in which, as some have said, "life is worship." So in that sense, even those much criticized announcements can be worship along with the rest. But it is obviously awkward in a very formal service (something resembling a wedding). Not so much in less formal service. Must corporate worship always be formal?

gdwightlarson's picture

This stuff drives me crazy. The Old Testament had so MUCH music that was spontaneous and enthusiastic, including "dancing" (Exodus 15). David's musicianship was skillfully used even with Saul (nothing said about whether is was "contemporary" music written by David???). He organized a wonderful "worship" team of musicians. Much is said in Nehemiah and Ezra about those post-exilic musicians. There have been many styles that were almost considered sacred at the time and "based upon the paradigm of OT "worship"(?), yet changes have come through the centuries.
Okay, announcement aren't part of worship and we do them first, then read scripture, sing, worhip in the offering, worship in the message, and worship in our responses. But the ushers are out there worshipping in giving out the bulletin, the ladies in the nursery are worshipping as they care for the babies, etc.! We constantly emphasize this. Yes, the preaching of the Word is central, but we must never be dependent even on the pastor for "worship". We also emphasize the "One Anothers" as essential--so that we're worshipping as we "greet one another", "pray for one another", "teach and admonish one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, etc. I hope you understand. I delight in the cream of the new hymns and choruses and we even changed the term "special music" to "ministry in music" just to make that point too. Some get it, some don't. Some just want to continue using the hymnal and refuse to sing(!?) if you don't.
I worship in my office during the week as I prepare a sermon as much as when I deliver it. Why suggest that paying a music man is "wrong"? Read about the history of church music and musicians. You'll find a lot we do and a lot we no longer do and a lot we'd never do....!
Ed seems to pick out and criticize the worst of some churches, especially those that have incorporated newer styles. Doesn't work for me. Sounds too much like sour grapes.

gdwightlarson

"You can be my brother without being my twin."

Ed Vasicek's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
I think the fact that the people of God gathered to worship together under Moses (and music was part of that) means that the people of God are still to gather to worship... and through music. And this seems to me to be confirmed in Acts 2, 4 and Eph. 5 and Col 3. Pslams, hymns, spiritual songs... etc.
If this element of NT gatherings is not emphasized in the NT I'm inclined to think it's because it was too obvious to need mentioning very often. So other problems are the focus in the epistles.

My own conviction is that the gathered church does nothing at all more important than worship together.
That said, Rom.12.1 clues us in on a broader sense of "worship" in which, as some have said, "life is worship." So in that sense, even those much criticized announcements can be worship along with the rest. But it is obviously awkward in a very formal service (something resembling a wedding). Not so much in less formal service. Must corporate worship always be formal?

I think that almost all of this is a matter of judgment. For example, for the 900 years of the OT after the Law was given, Jewish men were required to go to the Temple 3 times a year. I do not argue that they worshipped then. But what did they do (presumably at home) on the Sabbath? They rested, and had some sort of "holy day" (they kept it holy). It wasn't until 900 years later, during the captivity, that the synagogue was developed. So when we read the Psalms, much of them are not about a weekly formal worship, but a rare trip to the Temple. In actuality, many Jewish men were fortunate to make it to the Temple once a year, and some once in a lifetime. So we have to be careful taking models from special events and making them the weekly norm, even if we do emphasize the continuity of the Testaments. It is MUCH more complicated than people think. Synagogue meetings, on the other hand, were endorsed in that Jesus participated in them, but they were never commanded (that I can see). They were much more INSTRUCTIONAL (the Jews often call a synagogue a "shul," from which we get our word "school").

"The Midrash Detective"

KevinM's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
I think the fact that the people of God gathered to worship together under Moses (and music was part of that) means that the people of God are still to gather to worship... and through music. And this seems to me to be confirmed in Acts 2, 4 and Eph. 5 and Col 3.

Aaron, I hear what you are saying. I'm worried that your appeal to Moses interjects an interpretive rule that we aren't willing to consistently apply to the NT church. Would we apply every ritual of Israel to our NT local churches? [Of course you aren't saying that. I'm just looking at the interpretive principle. ] And while I agree that Acts 2, 4, Eph. 5 and Col 3 have much to say about our church meetings...none of them speak of "corporate worship." That's a baggage-laden phrase that isn't helping us get to the basic question of what the church does when it gathers. [Oh, there might be a reason for my technical rant, but in the meantime, I'll disclose that I'll be leading worship at my own church tomorrow morning! ]

G. N. Barkman's picture

Ed and all,

Thanks for an excellent discussion. It's good to see this issue being examined in the light of Scripture. We may draw different conclusions as to the exact details but at least we are starting at the right place--the Bible, and endeavoring to learn and apply what it teaches. Much different than the "this is what people are looking for today" approach that I often hear. "People don't like doing church the way we used to to it, so let's find out what people want and give it to them."

Too often, the debate seems to be between, "This is the way we have always done it," and "this is the way we've got to do it today if we're going to grow, or if we're going to keep our young people." The "way we've always done it" may not have been solidly Biblical in every aspect, and whatever we've got to do to meet the needs of a changing society (supposedly) is not usually very Biblical either.

Since the Bible doesn't give us an "Order of Service," we are left to work out details from the precepts and examples of Scripture. Surely if God had wanted a uniform Order of Service He would have given us one. But the absence of a Divinely given liturgy does not mean that we are thereby free to do whatever we "like" either. Let's expunge "What I like" and "What I feel" from our thinking, and start with, "What does God want?"

Cordially,
Greg Barkman

G. N. Barkman

Steve Davis's picture

I appreciate Ed's concerns. However in my experience, and of which I am guilty, much of the worship in churches has not been Word-centered. It seems to me that there are many churches today trying to go back to Scripture and history for worship directives (see Belcher's book "Deep Church" and Chapell's book "Christ-Centered Worship") and are weary of sterile, stilted, church services. I admit that there was a time in my life that I gave little thought to the structure of the worship - 3 songs on the fly maybe with the theme of the message, a couple of general prayers and interminable invitation, and yes with announcements and offering somewhere in the mix.

For one of the few times in my life I am in a church where I express and experience worship in a way that seems to be biblical, simple, refreshing, and vital. We have no song leader (which is okay but often is showmanship) and do have a music/worship team. However with words projected away from the team there is little focus on those up front. We have no choir (choirs are okay) but as a new church we don't have the resources and frankly don't know if we ever will have a choir. My own preference is no regular choir. Choirs easily lead to spectatorship rather than participation. We don't or rarely have special music. Again it easily becomes entertainment or spectatorship. We don't do announcements until after the final benediction. There are few things more stifling then announcements before the offering. Offerings are part of worship which we do after the Lord's Supper, which we observe each week.

Again I can't recommend Chapell's book highly enough which gets us back to scriptural, Christ-centered worship with gospel elements of praise, confession, thanksgiving, intercession, proclamation, communion, benediction, etc. Our typical 1 1/2 hour service begins with a call to prayer then praise in congregation singing, Scripture reading, Apostle's Creed or corporate prayer, more singing, prayer of intercession, proclamation, Lord's Supper, offering (without a big fuss), closing praise and benediction. Finally we do some announcements before our weekly fellowship meal. There's no one way to do it but there is an audience of ONE.

Ed Vasicek's picture

Kevin said:

Quote:
...[an ] appeal to Moses [on the subject of worship ] interjects an interpretive rule that we aren't willing to consistently apply to the NT church

I agree with you, Kevin. We must distinguish between prescription and description, and we must do so in the area of worship. For some reason, it seems even the best scholars abandon hermeneutical restraints when discussing worship. This tells me that the subject matter is interwoven with emotion and strong feelings. The prescription is clear: the NT assemblies gathered for edification, as quoted above.

The idea of worship (intentionally honoring and focusing upon God) is assumed in the New Testament, but NOT PLANNED, IMO. The early church was out to honor God, and worship happened when it happened. Music can be meaningful and beautiful and used to worship God, but the only essential is really the attitude of the people. We spend so much time on the mechanics but fail to grasp that it is the hearts of the people that matter most. Are they wanting to honor God? Honoring God with poor music, prayer, and listening to the Word is better than merely stirring the emotions with amazing music. This stirring of emotions is often the counterfeit that is called worship.

To say they worshipped because they sang is exactly the point I am trying to refute. Music does not equal worship, but it can be a vehicle for worship, one of several. The difference between church music (of any kind) and worship is the attitude of the people. If they are intentionally honoring God by singing, they are worshipping. If they are singing because it is expected, they are merely singing. Most of us do some of both! Smile I would argue that prayers of praise are probably one of the purest forms of worship (if we are focused). But music has no monopoly on worship, except as the term "worship" has come to mean so many things and thus sometimes nothing.

G.N. Barkman said:

Quote:
Thanks for an excellent discussion. It's good to see this issue being examined in the light of Scripture. We may draw different conclusions as to the exact details but at least we are starting at the right place--the Bible, and endeavoring to learn and apply what it teaches. Much different than the "this is what people are looking for today" approach that I often hear. "People don't like doing church the way we used to to it, so let's find out what people want and give it to them."

Too often, the debate seems to be between, "This is the way we have always done it," and "this is the way we've got to do it today if we're going to grow, or if we're going to keep our young people."

I think you are spot on. Modern church service formats really descend from Catholicism, sometimes, as Charlie point out, through the Reformed or Lutheran model (which was adapted from the Catholic). Few of us start with a blank slate and our Bibles, particularly the New Testament descriptions about what the early church did (but, then again, we have there a blending of prescription and description; we must obey the commands but not necessarily imitate their style).

Great discussion, all.
Steve Davis said:

Quote:
For one of the few times in my life I am in a church where I express and experience worship in a way that seems to be biblical, simple, refreshing, and vital. We have no song leader (which is okay but often is showmanship) and do have a music/worship team. However with words projected away from the team there is little focus on those up front. We have no choir (choirs are okay) but as a new church we don't have the resources and frankly don't know if we ever will have a choir.

Have you been attending our church? We began using projected songs on the overhead in the late 80's. We do sort of have song leaders, but they are really usually part of the music team and do not beat out patterns, but they do help transition between songs. We do occasionally have a small choir around Easter (last year, it was a woman's choir).

"The Midrash Detective"

KevinM's picture

I appreciated Steve's comments on choirs--I'm still in favor of them, and I would especially recommend them in an urban setting where many will be familiar with African-American worship traditions. But I wouldn't mandate them for every church, and I appreciate the fact that Steve isn't dogmatic on this point.

Personally, I'm not fully comfortable with Steve's assertion that the Sunday service has an "audience of ONE." If Steve is just being wary of the "performance" aspects of a service, and is trying to avoid the me-centered problems of the modern church, I think he has a point. But our Sunday services will always have components of mutual edification, testimony, and didactic teaching. We can't throw out the "one another" aspects of a church gathering, a point that I think Dwight was trying to make.

Steve Davis's picture

KevinM wrote:
I appreciated Steve's comments on choirs--I'm still in favor of them, and I would especially recommend them in an urban setting where many will be familiar with African-American worship traditions. But I wouldn't mandate them for every church, and I appreciate the fact that Steve isn't dogmatic on this point.

Personally, I'm not fully comfortable with Steve's assertion that the Sunday service has an "audience of ONE." If Steve is just being wary of the "performance" aspects of a service, and is trying to avoid the me-centered problems of the modern church, I think he has a point. But our Sunday services will always have components of mutual edification, testimony, and didactic teaching. We can't throw out the "one another" aspects of a church gathering, a point that I think Dwight was trying to make.

I'm not trying to make you comfortable. Seriously, choirs are fine but they do take on a life of their own. I won't say never-never but not now.

You're right about the audience of One. Certainly there are other things that take place among God's people in worship with Him as the One we are seeking to please. That helps keep us from the entertainment/spectator/create an atmosphere mode. There is great benefit for God's people as they actively participate (and some as they observe and listen to choirs and special music). I'd rather sing than listen to others sing in the public gathering.

However, I'm not sure how much "one another" gets done in church services or needs to get done at that time although people will be encouraged by testimonies, etc. I think the "one another" takes place more elsewhere and in smaller group settings after the "ONE OTHER" has been worshiped.

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