Saturday, November 07, 2015

REGULATIVE OR NORMATIVE WORSHIP, WHICH?

After my first article on worship someone asked the logical question, "How do you [asking about me personally] define worship?" Great question! let me introduce some of you for the first time, to the two words that are most often used to describe the methods/modes of worship and their content, in the present day. 

The REGULATIVE view of worship states [found in the Westminster Confession, chapter 21, paragraph 1] that ONLY those elements that are commanded or depicted in scripture are acceptable in worship. Some refer to this as an EXCLUSIVE view of worship because it EXCLUDES anything that is not directly instructed or at least pictured in the pages of Scripture. This view is generally found in the more Reformed or Calvinistic version of the theological spectrum.

The NORMATIVE view of worship teaches that whatever is not EXPRESSLY prohibited in Scripture is permitted in worship. Many people refer to this as an INCLUSIVE view of worship because it can INCLUDE things that are not directly banned by the Bible. This view is most often found in the less Calvinistic versions of the theological spectrum. 

These two views have been created basically by theologians [neither word appears in the Bible] to discuss the way worship services can/are to be done. As you can imagine, there is a rising theological argument as to which is correct view of worship for congregations in Southern Baptist life. 

My contention is that NEITHER view says it the way it needs to be said or understood. For example, sound systems are not mentioned or pictured in scripture, so having those would violate the first, I'm assuming. [Not to mention pipe organs or praise bands.] The second could have a visiting circus on any given Sunday, since those are not expressly condemned by scripture. If it would build a crowd some folks probably WOULD have a circus. [Just remember that whatever it takes to GET them there it will take to KEEP them coming.]  You see how we could parse the rules laid down by both systems of thought.

I believe there is ordered in the New Testament a "True Throne Room Christian Experience"  [my coined phrase]  of worship that is to be ours both individually AND collectively. You could call it "Relational Worship" or simply "enjoying Him!" This concept would have to be characterized by the word OBEDIENCE since that's the basic meaning of worship in scripture. [Abraham said, "The lad [Isaac] and I will go yonder and worship" meaning "obey!" Genesis 22]  The highest form of praise and worship in the Scriptures is obedience to Him and to His Word. This obedience is whether we are walking in life personally, or gathering together corporately, and that worship experience [privately/or corporately] will be NEITHER by rules NOR unruly as we engage in true worship. [The two-sided coin of true worship is obedience and enjoyment because He's truly worthy.]   

Here's how I would explain what true worship is all about. 

I'm afraid that most Christians do not realize that in the New Covenant [Testament] worship is NOT AN ACTIVITY like seen in the Old Covenant [Testament] with its Temple and feast days celebrations. [ALL of which Jesus fulfilled and accomplished] But rather, true worship is a way of life as we are "being" the LIVING TEMPLE in-dwelt by God and "experiencing" His very life. [Romans 12:1-2]  [Someone has called this "inside out" living, and I think that's a great way to say it.]

For the Church, whether individually [scattered] or collectively, [gathered] there are certain instructions made clear in the text of the New Testament, to be sure. But, those instructions are about "BEING" rather than "DOING."  [Think Be-Attitudes] As we're living/worshipping individually, we are to BE people who are BEING loving, BEING forgiving, BEING one who walks in the Spirit, witnesses, etc,. Then, collectively,[gathered] as we're living/worshipping, we will BE people who are provoking each other to love, prayer, encouragement, sharing the Word, singing or making melody, instructing the saints, baptizing or sharing the table of the Lord. [All the "One Another" verses]  When the scriptures DO speak of "doing" as in Lord's Supper, it's "as often as you do." 

But the WHEN or WHERE or HOW we are to worship assembled [gathered] ARE NOT things articulated in the text of the New Testament itself. The New Testament is NOT a book of regulations or rules that we are to "follow" by "doing" certain things a certain way. It is, rather, a book of guiding principles for us to "internalize"  [feed on the Word of God] for "being" the Living Body of Christ whether "scattered" or "gathered," BY FAITH!  So, to have organs OR Praise bands, or to have sermons OR testimonies are all valid tools, to be sure. But how you DO things [The tools you use] as the people of God is NEVER SACRED in the New Testament, It is how we are BEING/LIVING all of life, by faith, that counts as His people, THAT is what is the SACRED thing. 

The FORMS [tools for doing things] our living takes, whether individually or corporately, will certainly vary. Those tools will even ebb and flow and change WITH THE CULTURE. Church buildings are a cultural concept and may vary according to the culture in which we are living. All of our life reflects this variation of tools of course. Driving cars, owning houses in neighborhoods, having air conditioning in homes and cars and church buildings, pulpits, choir robes, lights, drama, short sermons, long sermons, overhead projectors, multiple screens, are all examples. These FORMS [tools for doing things] are NOT DEVELOPED in the New Testament materials  themselves, even the tools used in worship. 

But our FUNCTION [how we're to BE] as Christians individually or corporately is certainly DECLARED in the scriptures.

I read someone who said this, "Evangelicals tend to reduce the Corporate experience of worship [the WAY or TOOL used to do worship services] to certain styles:  1)__ Worship becomes a classroom for learning [Maybe Bible churches]; 2)__ Worship becomes a family reunion for mutual encouragement [Maybe congregational churches]; 3)__ Worship becomes a welcome wagon for visitors and seekers [Maybe Seeker churches]; 4)__ Worship becomes a hospital room for spiritual, psychological, and even emotional healing [Maybe Recovery churches]:  5)__ Worship becomes even an experience that is highly entertaining." [Maybe Modern churches]  I've experienced all of them. And, as you can see, I believe NO ONE of these modes or methods of doing church services is totally inappropriate nor does any one of these necessarily rule out the others as legitimate.  

But, here's the deal!!  I AM thinking that when ANY ONE OF THESE  is championed as the ONLY one or RIGHT one ACCORDING TO SCRIPTURE, there is something wrong with our understanding of scripture itself. 

On top of that, I believe any one of these forms can BECOME an IDOL in a Christian's life! You might ask, "What are the indicators that it has become an idol?" My thinking is when someone DEMANDS all others fall down before and AGREE with a certain way of doing things they've overstepped SOME kind of line. But If they then get ANGRY when someone disagrees with them about it, you might want to assume they have taken it WAY too far, if not made it an idol. As I said, no one of these models is entirely wrong, but when any one of these is declared to be the ONLY model for corporate worship, it's dangerously close to becoming idolatrous,


New Testament instructions for individual OR gathered Christians are instructions about "BEING" rather than "DOING." As we're living/worshipping individually, we are to BE people who are BEING loving, forgiving, BEING people who walk in the Spirit, witnesses, etc,. Then, collectively,[gathered] as we're living/worshipping, we will BE people who are provoking each other to love, prayer, encouragement, sharing the Word, singing or making melody, instructing the saints, baptizing or sharing the table of the Lord. [All the "One Another" verses] Worship will be this kind of experience for us all!

Paul B.

10 comments:

Aussie John said...

Paul,

Thank you for the, as usual,superlative expression of what Christ accomplished, taught and modeled during His life, death and ressurrection. Indeed "BEING" rather than "DOING"!!

The traditional Linus' security blanket of so many, "We've never done it that way before",has lost its power because of the New Covenant. Sadly many brethren don't know that, and don't want to know.

Rex Ray said...

Paul,

I see you saved the best for last with this post. “BEING” and not “DOING” is something people will remember.

The other day in SS, the teacher asked if we started our day with prayer. He was raised a Catholic, and I believe he practiced the Old Covenant. The class ‘shot’ him down.

Tom Ross said...

Our style of worship should have a duty of care associated with it.

How loud we have the amplifiers cranked up demonstrates just how much the musicians/pastor really cares for the congregation.

It is claimed that 80 dB sound is the maximum sound level that a newly born baby should be subjected to during its first few weeks of life.

It is also claimed that 85 dB is the most appropriate sound level for "effective" communication. Sadly today, many people subject themselves to sound levels far above 85 dB for hours at a time and because of this their hearing has become impaired.

In the OT, corporate worship was generally an outdoor activity where the sound was not bounced around within the confines of a room.

With that being said, caring for a person is much more than just the volume of a sound system, it is the over arching care we display for the person for their personal well being both physically and spiritually such that they have the means, should they desire to do so, to always give praise unto God within their individual circumstances whether corporately or individually when they are apart from the body.

Worship is much more than the zeal we have for singing, and having a focused zeal for only one part of our worshiping of God demonstrates that we have not understood God's purpose for our own personal life where everything we do points to us worship God in everything that we do to bring Praise to Him.

Paul Burleson said...

Tom,

My small bit of research has said to me that 75 dB is the same as the dial tone of a phone up to your ear. City traffic can be at 85 dB and can certainly be annoying to some people. My 9 mil pistol registers 160dB. Hearing damage doesn't begin until 90 to 95 dB sustained for an eight hour period. One expert I read said this, "I think running an average of 85 to 90 db for a short period of time is totally fine as long as there aren't too many annoying frequencies."

I'm thinking it may take a good bit of subjectivity [preferences] to settle an issue like this. But I'm thinking it might be safe to say that BEING a worshipping Christian trumps DOING worship at any decibels of sound.

Tom Ross said...

Paul,

The duty of care takes many forms. A great worship team, undid their work leading worship in church by where they parked their cars next to the glass windows of the church such that the morning 10 am worship time co-insided with the right angle for the sun to be reflected off the glass windscreens of their cars into the eyes of many within the congregation in the auditorium. Their lack of consideration on this one small aspect of considering the needs of the congregation undid all their good efforts.

They parked their cars there because they did not have to carry their kit as far if they had parked in the designated car park.

Another church would turn up the sound system to indicate that the HS was moving within the congregation during that part of the service.

Another worship team played their instruments loudly to drown out their singing such that the congregation could not even hear them.

I have been in a congregation where all they had was a damaged guitar with three strings that they could not tune but the sense of community worship was overpowering. Sadly in that third world country they eyed our worship excesses and thought that that was what real worship was, not realizing that their hearts was all that God wanted to hear raised up in honor of Him.

That is the upside down church that God wants.

Rex Ray said...

Tom Ross,

Many years ago in a city church, our church got a new sound system. The song director wanted to show how good it was by its LOUDNESS. I left the building and it was still too loud until I walked a good ways. He only did that once.

I hear what you're saying. :)

Rex Ray said...

Paul,

“5)__ Worship becomes even an experience that is highly entertaining.”

This is a story of an ENTERTAINING pastor.

I attended this type of church only once where I thought Jesus might appear with his whip saying ‘You have made my Father’s House a YMCA.’

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

According to the pastor, he had grown the church from 2,000 to 5,000. They had two morning services. After attending the first service, I planned to stay for the next to see how many would stand that was saved a year ago. The pastor asked them to stand and when no one did he said, “They must be attending the next service.”

The church held the record for having the most people converted, but I was told from time to time a bus load of Mexicans would get saved and not attend anymore.

I didn’t get to attend the next service because I was escorted past a policeman in uniform to my car and told never to come back or my car would be impounded.

Again, I’m ahead in the story.

I didn’t hear ‘Jesus lifted up’ but stories about the pastor that kept the congregation laughing. Most of it was about golf with the climax having a woman chiropractor demonstrate with him moving weights to correct his neck problem that caused him to slice the golf ball.

After the service, I met him in a hall and said I had planned to hand out 700 slips of paper in my hand, but I realized he was the only one that could do anything about it. I gave him one that read:

1. “Leadership Board dissolved the xxxxx Senior Adult Bible Explorers Class on 11-6-05.
2. The teacher was fired because he would not promise to always support the Senior Pastor.
3. However, about 50 long time members have continued to meet with their fired teacher.
4. Consequently, they have been denied Sunday school literature and a Christmas party.
5. If the Board rules their disobedience is “disruption”, they may be ejected from the church.
6. Is it sad the new bylaws prevent anyone standing for them? Outsider, Rex Ray 11-27-05.”

Without names or location the Baptist Standard had printed my letter on this church’s problem.

The pastor shouted to three men (rumored they were his ‘bodyguards’), “I know this man; he is evil!”

It was not long until the teacher and three others in his class were ejected by the “Leadership Board” that was established by new bylaws.

A year later the teacher was selected ‘citizen of the year’ and the pastor was fired.

Paul Burleson said...

Rex,

The word "entertaining" can be found with these as synonyms, "delightful, enjoyable, amusing, pleasing, agreeable, appealing, engaging, interesting," With those in mind I stand by my use of the word.

What you've described is NOT entertaining in the least [by my definitions above] to this blog writer.

Rex Ray said...

Paul,

Just as every person has different fingerprints, our minds have different ‘filters’ based on a thousand things. Would you agree the synonyms of “entertaining” could be said about the other four styles of worship? I mean if a person was asked ‘How was the service today?’ the reply might be delightful, enjoyable, etc. But have you ever said or heard someone say a service was entertaining?

The pastor was leader of the ‘Leadership Board’ and the bylaws stated this Board shall make the final decision to any matter that concerns the church. It stated, “Any person deemed by the Leadership Board to…be causing, about to cause, or capable of causing disruption, may be ejected summarily.”

Three men and one woman were ejected. The pastor told the church the reason could not be told because it was too embarrassing. The woman was an officer of the church and an officer at Dallas Baptist University. She had given 30 acres of land the church was built on.

BTW, your writing that Christians are to be about BEING rather than DOING hit the nail on the head.

Gordon said...

Paul,
Thanks for always reminding us of the essence of the Christian life.

I find it helps me when a specific time is set aside to apply my mind, will and emotions to spending quality time with God , both privately and in fellowship with other believers. Jesus spent much time alone in prayer(as was his practise),and he told us to shut the door when we pray in secret. In Acts we read that believers regularly met together, from day to day, to pray in the Temple or in homes. It all takes time, resolve and discipline. Nothing worthwhile seems to happen without the diligent application of our minds and hearts.

I have found the following structure useful to concentrate and balance my thoughts:

1. WORSHIP, Praise and Adoration for all God is, such as : His Omnipotence, Omnipresence,Omniscience, Glory, Grace, Goodness, Wisdom, Faithfulness , Mercy and Love.

2. CONFESSION of sinfulness, weakness, forgetfulness, pride, unbelief, doubt, fears, selfishness, omissions, hardness of heart and failure.

3. THANKSGIVING for our creation and preservation, grace and salvation in Christ Jesus,our adoption into his family, His presence and power in us through the the Holy Spirit, for family and friend, daily food and shelter,provision and protection.

4. PETITION and INTERCESSION.. bring all our needs and the many needs of others to the Lord. We are dependent upon Him day by day, and hour by hour.


I have found that the time spent in prayerful worship predisposes my life more readily toward humble Submission to God, greater Love for the Lord Jesus and our fellow men, and to receiving Wisdom from the Holy Spirit. God doesn't need my worship but He knows I need it.

What a friend we have in Jesus. What a privilege to approach Him in prayer!
Thank You , Lord.