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!