I’ve enjoyed the discussion about worship over at Arthur’s blog “the voice of one crying out in suburbia” (see his posts “A call for a new Reformation in the church: Worship, regulative or normative?“, “Good thoughts from John Frame on the Regulative Principle“, and especially “More on worship“). In that last post, he says:
I think I ended up being more narrowly focused in my post on worship than I intended. My point when I started thinking about this was not to throw mud at the RPW (regulative principle of worship), but instead to question the more broad sense of worship in the church. I have long sought a more pure worship form in Sunday gatherings (which I defined as being more “Reformed”), and I am still sympathetic to that desire, but that is not the end all of the Christian worship experience. I am concerned by an attitude in myself that if we “go to church” on Sunday, we have fulfilled our worship quota for the week when nothing could be further from the truth…
One, but only one, expression of a life of worship is corporate worship. That statement is not to denigrate or diminish the value of corporate worship, but to recognize that culturally and traditionally we expect to see the pinnacle of our worship to take place in a church on Sunday morning but that may not be the reality and probably shouldn’t be. We may affirm the idea of constant worship being a part of our general lives, but we still use the term “worship” in reference to corporate church gathering and focus our worship attention on the corporate expressions which I believe has led to an unhealthy delineation between worship and “the rest of the week”.
The disconnect between Sunday morning piety and the other six days where we live differently are crippling to the church.
(What follows is not a response to Arthur or to anyone who commented on his posts. Instead, his post, epsecially the last one, triggered me to think about worship again.)
Arthur brings up something that I’ve noticed as well. It is very difficult to discuss “worship” in the context of the American church (and perhaps in other nations as well, I don’t know) without the discussion centering on the church meeting. In fact, some readers probably bristle because I used the phrase “church meeting” instead of “worship service”. However, we must realize that the inclination to associate the church meeting with worship did not arise from Scripture.
Go ahead and study… you should. Studying the association in Scripture between the church meeting and worship is one of the reasons that I became interested in ecclesiology. But, that study also encouraged my interest in worship – not singing and praying and preaching, but worship, from the perspective of Scripture. And, as I studied worship in Scripture, I found that worship has more to do with how I live my life than what I do on Sunday mornings – although that is certainly part of it – around 1% of it (1-2 hours out of my 168 hour week). So, why do we act as if that 1-2 hours is 90% of our worship (or even all of it)?
In fact, our Sunday church meeting is not the entirety – not even the majority – of my “corporate worship” – that is, worship along with other people. What do I mean? Well, I work with other people; I live with other people; I invite other people to my house; I go to other people’s homes; I serve with other people. These activities happen throughout the week and should be lives as worship in the presence of other people, and since many of these people are believers as well, they are (or should be) worshiping also – corporate worship.
But, our worship principles (think regulative and normative principles of worship) are not very helpful in these times of worship – the majority of our worship. Whether the church sings hymns or choruses or chants or psalms does not help me worship God during 99% of my week. Whether the pastor’s teaching is expository or topical does not change how I worship God when I’m at dinner with friends. Whether we stand when we read Scripture or not does not tell me how to worship when my friends are visiting my home.
Yes, we need to talk about worship. We need to think about worship. But, more than that, we need to worship – we need to live a life – a whole life – 100% life – that honors God in everything that we do. As long as we continue to use the word “worship” as slang for the church meeting, I do not think we will understand what it means to worship. We will continue to caught up in things like what to sing or how to pray or how to teach – things not covered in Scripture at all – and we will the most important parts of life – walking daily with God, trusting him with every aspect of our lives (yes, even that insignificant aspect and yes, even that huge national problem), showing his mercy and grace, loving others, worshiping.