the weblog of Alan Knox

Let’s all stand and worship the Lord together…

Posted by on Jun 25, 2013 in blog links, gathering, worship | 17 comments

Let’s all stand and worship the Lord together…

If you follow me on Twitter (@alan_knox) or if you “like” my Facebook page, then you know that I link to several older posts each day along with linking to my new post of the day. I started linking to this older posts a couple of years ago in order to continue the conversations on those posts, and it has worked tremendously!

For example, yesterday I linked to a post I wrote two years ago called “Why keep the worship service?” Believe it or not, my thoughts about the church began to change drastically when I began to study the “worship service” from the perspective of Scripture. In short, I couldn’t find it. Instead, I found believers gathering in completely different ways from the “worship service.”

In response to that link yesterday, Doug from “With your Latte” (a great blog name, by the way) left a comment on my older post and wrote a post of his own called “Why a Worship Service?

In part of that post, Doug writes:

I have questioned the worship service many times myself and have asked others about it. The question of doing away with the worship service is normally met with a look of puzzlement. The idea of not having “church,” in the tradition sense, is just too far of a reach – its a foreign concept to be embraced only by the poor and/or persecuted. Besides, where would the clergy find employment? – (that was some of the cynicism i mentioned)

Before you brush off this question, ask yourself where in Scripture we find a description even remotely similar to the modern “worship service.” For something so important that it defines most church groups today, you would think it would be found somewhere in the New Testament at least… in one of the passages that discusses believers gathering together. But, no.

A few years ago, I made an interesting discovery. During the “Reformation,” Martin Luther took the Roman Catholic Mass and modified it slightly and called it “Divine Service” (i.e., “worship service”). This is the pattern that most Protestant (non-Catholic, non-Orthodox) church groups follow today – both “traditional” and “contemporary.” Oh, sure, there may be differences here and there, but for the most part, it’s the same.

But, guess what? Luther designed this “worship service” for unbelievers, not for the church. Luther did not believe that “true believers” should meet in this way. He had a different kind of gathering in mind for Christians, but he could not find anyone interested in this other kind of meeting. In other words, Luther was suggesting something very similar to how “house”, “organic”, “simple” churches gather today. (For more information about Luther’s different kinds of “divine service” see my posts “Luther and the non-Christian ‘worship service’” and “Luther and the Church.”)

So, I’ll ask the same question that I asked in that earlier post: Why keep the “worship service” for the church?


17 Comments

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  1. 6-25-2013

    “Why keep the worship service?”, well the questions I would ask is ;
    1. What is wrong with the worship service?
    2. Is the church growing , stagnant or retrogressing?
    3. Is there any correlation between the current mode of worship and church growth ?
    4. Does the current mode of worship service allow a CLOSER BOND between all in the community and the church?
    5. What is the definition for “worship service”?
    6. Is the definition for “worship service” tied in with our prime aim…”to follow Jesus”?

    I have never had the cause to re-think our current worship service till I stumbled upon “THE FORT” who oversees this site, and already some ideas are cropping up in my thoughts which seem to ssy one thing….”we could do better”.
    Mr. Alan knox , even though I might not agree with you on everything , I still think you are a GOD-SENT. If I get any answers to your question….I would come back to this.

  2. 6-25-2013

    Alan, we need people to sit in a row and still so we can count them so we as preachers can brag about “our” growing church. :)

    Frank

  3. 6-25-2013

    This is so awesomely true… and awesomely frustrating too…

    I remember when we first started wrestling over the way we were doing things with Church and feeling called away from “it all”…. Chris Wellman who was my first “outside the Sunday box” Christian I met….said to me…. I’m just really looking for a Church that’s for christians. That was so intriguing to me… and what I was feeling too. And that really helped us start off on this journey.

    The “worship services” we see now do make so much more sense to me when I understand they really are for non christians. It’s the ‘storefront’ of their business to get people excited about what is they are marketing. Very interesting. Very not from the Bible.

  4. 6-25-2013

    Franklin,

    You ask some good questions. But they generate others.
    How do you define “church”?
    How do you define “growing, stagnant or retrogressing” (this depends on the definition of “church”)?
    If the definition for “worship service” is not found in Scripture, does that make it anti-biblical or extra-biblical for professing believers?

    “…some ideas are cropping up in my thoughts which seem to say one thing….”we could do better”.”

    Yes. But better how? And when do we decide that we have perfected our method such that we implore others to follow it?
    Then what will keep that new, perfect way from becoming a “tradition of men” for generations to come?

    Jesus said: Take my yoke upon you and LEARN of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

    We are not content with bringing the horse to water. We want to force it to swallow and then declare that it is no longer thirsty. It makes us feel so much better.

  5. 6-25-2013

    Franklin,

    I agree with Eric… you do ask good questions. How do we seek to answer those questions?

    Frank,

    In some cases, I think you’re right. I do know, though, that many are convinced that the “worship service” is what God wants for his children when they gather together. Of course, I think there are also many who have never considered the possibility of gathering any other way.

    Randi,

    I’m not opposed to “evangelistic meetings”… even if I don’t think they’re that effective at evangelism. The problem is that these kinds of meetings are often considered to be “for the church.”

    Eric,

    This is a very interesting statement: “We are not content with bringing the horse to water. We want to force it to swallow and then declare that it is no longer thirsty. It makes us feel so much better.”

    As a church, our little group often makes decisions that I personally don’t agree with. Sometimes, people recognize this and ask, “Why don’t you just tell them what to do instead?” I think your statement above is a great answer to that question. Or, as I like to say, “We should never seek to control people among the church.”

    -Alan

  6. 6-25-2013

    Alan – It seems like a pep rally to keep the already convinced convinced, a hope for mass inspiration through a carefully prepared presentation, a way to cause people to feel guilty about not measuring up, a means of motivating people to support an organization, and/or a demonstration of the church’s coolness. For it become more valuable, it would have to be much, much more real.

  7. 6-25-2013

    What about Luther’s idea… a divine service for the unbelievers?

    I know of a very large church here in Georgia that has as it’s mission to be a “church for the un-churched.” Now, I would be hard-pressed to find such an organization in Scripture. Personally, I don’t find it to be a good use of resources.

    But to visit a phrase that I occasionally interject into your comment section:

    1. Do they/we have the “liberty” to have a seeker-sensitive worship service?
    2. Is it beyond God to put such a dream inside of a man?
    3. Was Luther out of God’s will by creating such a service?

    I have many more questions but this is your blog, not mine :)

    Again, let me be clear – I believe if the church was functioning in the manner that the New Testament irrefutably indicates it should, there would simply be no need for a worship service of any kind. Further, I personally think that the worship service, well meaning as it may be, may actually be undermining the kingdom.

    But my questions still are of interest to me

  8. 6-25-2013

    Alan you said:

    “I’m not opposed to “evangelistic meetings”… even if I don’t think they’re that effective at evangelism. The problem is that these kinds of meetings are often considered to be “for the church.”

    I KNOW!!! I’m with you.

    I’m sorry my comment wasn’t clear… which happens a lot :)

    I do have a problem with these meetings. The only way they make any sense to me at all is if I see them as being for non christians. And even then — I don’t agree with it or support it…. but it’s the only way I can have peace with them. If they really think that meeting is for christians….it’s all just so far off from what I see in scripture and the priorities/goals/functioning of the Church… I can’t have any peace with it….

    so it helps me to believe that that meeting is for non christians and everybody understands that.

    Can’t we just pretend so I can have more peace & less frustration about it? :)

  9. 6-25-2013

    Glenn –
    I appreciated that description, thank you :)

  10. 6-26-2013

    I am not sure how people are defining the worship service when they comment (Goes back to one of the pertinent questions raised by Franklin). For me the definition of the word worship means that when the church comes together, they come into the presence of God in awe and in reverence to give Him His worth; to glorify and exalt His name.

    In that sense only those who believe are able to do that; only those to whom He has revealed Himself. The people of God in the Old Testament gathered together to worship, praise and thank God in the wilderness at Sinai, then at the Tabernacle. The same happened in the Temple. Many of the psalms are worship and praise psalms to be sung in the congregation of the people, led by the orders of Levites.

    There is nothing to suggest that the practice of meeting together to worship God did not continue in the New Testament as our Lord went regularly to the synagogue and it was the first place the Apostle Paul went when he went to a new town and Paul encourages the brethren to sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs which in form and often in content is worship.

    So I think it’s about how we define “worship”, and the biblical definition of what worship is, is clear.

  11. 6-27-2013

    Alan, you have discerned my meaning exactly.

    “Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.
    Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”

  12. 6-27-2013

    Glenn,

    I’ve heard “worship services” presented that way before – on purpose. In other words, they wanted their “worship service” to get people pumped up for the rest of the week.

    Doug,

    Like I told Randi, I’m not opposed to “evangelistic services.” The problem to me is that these “services” are often presented as for the church as much as for unbelievers. Otherwise, I don’t really know the answers to your questions. I’m more concerned with how the church gathers, and I think we have some good examples, principles, and even commands in Scripture to help us with that.

    Randi,

    One of the big American megachurch – one that others base their own church organizations own – came out with a study a few years ago and admitted that their “worship service” (a seeker type service) had created a very immature church, because the church considered their “worship service” to be for the church.

    Philip,

    About worship, you said: “they come into the presence of God in awe and in reverence to give Him His worth; to glorify and exalt His name.” I agree that worship is about reverence and awe and glory given to God as well as the love and service we offer to others in response to God. However, in the NT, it seems this “worship” is part of our entire life, not something that we gather for. In the NT, Christians gathered to build one another up (edify), and by doing so, they worshiped God.

    Eric,

    Thank you again for the comment.

    -Alan

  13. 6-28-2013

    Thank you for not letting me live in fantasyworld.

    I am encouraged that I continue to hear more and more people understand the priority of relationships & sharing life. Now if they could just stop feeding the giant that keeps eating all their time & money & energy.

  14. 7-20-2013

    I’m coming a bit late to this discussion, but I want to add my 5 cents worth…

    As an advocate for interaction and active learning in church, I believe the “worship service” has been specifically designed to create the ideal setting for passive listening to a lengthy monologue.

    People don’t sit through lectures and monologues quietly. They fidget, and yawn, and get irritable, or they take notes because their grades depend on it. However, after 30 minutes of group singing (starting fast and moving into slow songs), a speaker can have them “eating out of his hand”. It is a highly effective mood enhancer/ pacifying strategy to get people all mellow and relaxed. It can bring them into a receptive listening mood, or even just leave them so zoned out they feel no need to listen – but it makes it much easier to speak at them.

    Unfortunately, if you want them active and involved in their learning journey, the “worship service” won’t help you at all.

    Just my thoughts,

    – Kathleen

  15. 7-21-2013

    Kathleen –
    u are exactly right about the music being a way to mellow & relax so they will listen.. INTERESTING! I never thought about it… but of course that would just be phrased with jargon like, “to prepare their hearts”… “to get people in the Spirit”….. totally wrong use of that phrase, but that’s what they would say… anything can be justified and made to look like it’s good intentions & different, pure motives.

    <3 Thanks for that insight.

    mood enhancer, pacifying strategy. wow so interesting. and yet those who do that… probably don't even realize that's why they are doing it….. it's just their tradition.

  16. 7-24-2013

    I believe that worship CAN occur during the traditional Sunday morning service. However, I also believe that the tradional Sunday morning event has become a substitute FOR worship instead all too often.

    Romans 12:1, 2 clearly defines the nature of worship and Sunday morning is more about what folks think THEY want rather than a presenting of themselves to God. It also implies that worship is a once a week type of thing and inadevertantly ‘teaches’ this rather than how to worship all week long.

    Sunday morning would be better for equipping/teaching and fellowship (oh, how I scarcely dare to use THAT term, but…). Ultimately, we have made a collective error in speaking of this as Worship instead of what it actually is, thus folks have a tragic misunderstanding of the true nature of worship and have accepted that what we see, watch, observe and the 3-4 songs we sing is actually worship.

  17. 7-24-2013

    Let me clarify my statement above. The Sunday morning service implies that worship is a once a week thing, not that Rom 12:1 implies such.