The highest calling and greatest privilege of all Christians is to love and worship God. In worship we encounter God with increasing awareness of who he is. In worship we together magnify God’s glory.
The following are 10 principles, developed over a number of years, and influenced by a variety of sources, that not only express my philosophy of worship, but shape my practice of worship. By no means is this exhaustive, nor is it unchangeable. But I do hope it might be helpful.
A high priority must be placed on the vertical focus in our Sunday morning service. The ultimate aim is to so experience God that he is glorified in our affections. (Deuteronomy 6.4-5, 13-15; Isaiah 42.8; Matthew 4.10)
2. Bible Based:
The content of God’s Word will be our ground of authority for all elements & appeal, and will be woven through all we do in worship. The content of our singing, our praying, our teaching, and our activity will always conform to the truth of Scripture. (Isaiah 29.13; Deuteronomy 12.32; Matthew 15.9)
God has existed from all eternity in three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. These three are one God, the same in substance, and equal in power and glory. Our worship ought to reflect this truth, and recognize all three persons (1 John 5.7; Matthew 28.9)
4. Expecting the Powerful Presence of God:
Worship is not a memorial service, nor merely our offering of ourselves toward God. True worship earnestly seeks to experience the present reality of Christ, by the work of the Holy Spirit, particularly through the Word & Sacraments. We believe that in worship God draws near to us in power, and makes himself known & felt for his glory, our good, and the salvation of unbelievers in our midst. (Psalm 139.7-10; Genesis 28.16; Matthew 28.20; Acts 2; Psalm 89.15; Ezekiel 46.3; Acts 10.33)
5. Aiming for Head & Heart:
Worship should aim at kindling & carrying deep, strong, real emotions toward God, but should not manipulate people’s emotions by failing to appeal to clear thinking about spiritual things. (Isaiah 29.13; Matthew 15.8)
Worship is an active expression of the corporate body. It is not performance by a few to be viewed by spectators. Therefore our worship shall be ordered to give the greatest opportunity for all to participate in song, prayer, testimony & confession. All choirs, singers, musicians, speakers & liturgists are to be used in such a way that they stimulate & facilitate participatory worship throughout the congregation. (1 Peter 2.9)
7. Freedom & Form:
Knowing that God has given us differing personalities, heritage & experiences we desire to allow people to express themselves in worship as they are led by the Spirit. Therefore we will not discourage the raising of hands in praise, bowing for prayer & repentance, or other such activities done decently & in order. Yet, neither will we seek to artificially stimulate such demonstrative expression within the congregation.
8. Undistracting Excellence:
Worship is to be focused on God. Therefore we will strive to sing, pray, teach & act in such a way that people’s attention will not be diverted from the substance of worship by shoddy performance, nor excessive finesse, elegance or refinement. (1 Corinthians 10.31; 2 Samuel 24.24)
Many wonderful & beautiful traditions of the church have been passed down through the ages. They are varied from culture to culture, and from generation to generation. Nevertheless, the best of these traditions convey the same love, reverence & adoration for God as we seek to experience & express. Therefore, in order to draw from the wealth of our forefathers, we will implement many of these songs, confessions & liturgies in ways & forms which are sensitive, meaningful & appropriate for the contemporary church. To be convergent means to bring the best resources of the present together with the past. (Proverbs 22.28; Hebrews 11.4c)
10. Contempory Blend:
It is a common mistake to assume that contemporary means “that which has been composed in this generation”, and traditional is a label for things composed in times past. For timeless hymns such as Amazing Grace, Be Thou My Vision, and the Gloria Patri speak to us today as clearly as they did to the Church at the time of their composition. Yet, our worship should always be contemporary in that it should speak to us clearly & faithfully of eternal truth, while being reflective of our current age & culture. Therefore, our worship should not reflect just our own age, for that would be to exclude those of the corporate body of Christ in the past. Nor should it reflect a limited scope from the past, for that would be to exclude the godly creative expressions of our own age. But in all things we seek the honor & glory of God, and we will transform traditions to to involve the truth of his Church from all ages. (Proverbs 22.28; Psalm 149.1)