|Theology Of Worship|
All worship is driven by a theology, even if unconsciously. If one’s worship is consumed with songs that exclusively focus on the creature instead of creator, sermons that are structured around the felt needs of the congregation in lieu of a Christ-centered focus, a low view of the ordinances, and prayers that are little more than requests in nature, then inevitably one will be drawn to a theology that is man-centered.
By the same token, if one’s worship is dominated by songs that are Biblical, focusing on the attributes and glories of God, sermons which maintain a Christ-centered perspective, a proper view of the ordinances and a prayer life which gives equal attention to the confessional, thanksgiving, supplication and adoration portions of prayer, the theology that is developed and promoted in that environment will be God-centered and God honoring.
Our prayer is that Covenant Fellowship’s Theology of Worship will be one which brings honor and glory to our Triune God. (1)
In order to bring about worship that is honoring to God, we must pay particular attention to the songs that are sung, the prayers that are offered, the creeds which are recited, the ordinances performed, and the sermons which are preached. It is vital that the leadership of Covenant Fellowship maintain vigilance in their responsibility regarding the worship that takes place in the confines of our assembly; assuring that Covenant Fellowship maintains proper focus and a sense of adoration and awe towards God.
The first question in both the Longer and Shorter Westminster Catechisms is: “What is the chief end of man?” The answer that follows is: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” This should be the overriding focus of our worship. The question remains; how do we go about worship that reflects this?
What is the Focus of Our Worship?
The center of all Christian worship is Jesus Christ. It is Jesus Christ who fulfilled the Law and the Prophets, establishing a New Covenant with the Father through His death, burial, resurrection and ascension. It is Jesus Christ who sent us his Spirit to guide and comfort us. We are the Body of Christ, united with Him and seated in the heavenlies. He is our High Priest, and our praises to God the Father are pleasing because of Christ’s finished work. (2)
Therefore our worship is to be formed by our relationship with God the Father through God the Son, as led by God the Holy Spirit. All worship should be Trinitarian in nature, addressing the work of our blessed Three-In-One God. “God is the One who graciously invites our worship and then hears our response. God is the One who perfects and mediates our praise and petitions. God is also the One who helps us comprehend what we hear and prompts us to respond." (3)
How are we to Worship?
We have now explored why we should have a theology of worship, and what the focus of our worship should be. Now we get to more pragmatic aspects of a Theology of Worship; i.e. HOW are we to worship.
Many will make the claim that proper worship only contains hymns, or all services must progress in a strict and regulated order. Some believe that the sacraments (known to us as ordinances) are to be offered each week; some believe that once per quarter is sufficient. This is often confusing the means with the end. As we stated in the above, worship is to have Christ as its center, being inherently Trinitarian in nature. But how do we go about ensuring that we are maintaining our focus? This section of the document will examine the area of methods in more detail.
First and foremost, our worship methods must be Biblical. This should go without saying, but in a day and age when anything goes, we must reiterate this fact.
What exactly does this mean?
Since the Bible is God’s revelation of Himself to the world, including His plan of redemption in His Son, Jesus Christ; our worship should contain prominent readings from Scripture. There should be an opening Scripture reading in our services, as well as sermons based upon the Word of God, followed by a closing reading that prepares the people to go into the world, witnessing to the lost and bringing the good news of the Gospel to all. The passages selected should illustrate God’s character, and actions.
The songs which are sung should likewise focus on God’s character, being, and actions. Songs which contain, or are written from Scripture are the best for expressing this properly. Songs which focus on feelings, or are centered on the creature should be the minority of the songs which the church sings. Feelings are expressed within the Bible, and there is nothing incorrect about them, however when the church comes together to worship God, our singing should be focused on the object of our worship.
Songs, prayers and sermons should be theologically rich, enabling the congregation to experience the beauty and depth of our faith. Hymns, both modern and ancient, should comprise a good portion of the singing. All songs should be selected carefully, ensuring that proper focus, and biblical truths are expressed.
Some thoughts regarding worship (4)
Music is a gift of God and part of the created order. From its inception, "when the morning stars sang together and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy" (Job 38:7), to its consummation, when "every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them" will sing to the Lamb on the throne (Rev. 5:13), creation is musical.
With the above in mind, here are some questions we should ask ourselves as we prepare songs for worship each week are (4)
* What theology is expressed in our congregational singing? Is it biblical? Is the range of what we sing representative of the "whole counsel of God?" What do our songs and hymns say or imply about the sovereignty and grace of God? About the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ? About the work of the Holy Spirit, the nature and mission of the church, the ordinances, and the Christian life?
Preaching should be predominately expository in nature, with the pastor working through books of the Bible. Topical preaching has its place and fills a portion of the preaching schedule; however the preaching of a book in an expository manner provides the congregation with the richest food upon which to feast.
The following is adapted from an article by Mark Bullmore (9):
What is expositional preaching? A sermon is expositional if its content and intent are controlled by the content and intent of a particular passage of Scripture. The preacher says what the passage says, and he intends for his sermon to accomplish in his listeners exactly what God is seeking to accomplish through the chosen passage of his Word… The biblical case for expositional preaching starts with the connection between the gift the ascended Christ has given to the church in pastor-teachers (Eph 4:11) and the biblical injunction for pastors-teachers to "preach the word" (2 Tim 4:2). Those who preach should preach their Bibles… In the pulpit, [this] will look like the picture we see in Nehemiah 8:8: "They read from the book . . . clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading." God has both purposed and promised to use this kind of preaching to accomplish one of his great aims — the gathering and building up of his people.
The pastor should also ensure that his prayers, whether extemporaneous or written, are God-honoring, God-focused and Biblically correct. Likewise, all leaders involved in the prayer life of the corporate body should ensure that they have active and rich private prayer lives; this will flow over into their corporate prayers.
Recitation of Creeds
Christianity is creedal. One of the earliest creeds is found in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8:
“I told you the most important part of the message exactly as it was told to me. That part is: Christ died for our sins, as the Scriptures say. He was buried, and three days later he was raised to life, as the Scriptures say. Christ appeared to Peter, then to the twelve. After this, he appeared to more than five hundred other followers. Most of them are still alive, but some have died. He also appeared to James, and then to all of the apostles. Finally, he appeared to me, even though I am like someone who was born at the wrong time”
This creed states all of the pertinent aspects of the churches faith – Jesus Christ was crucified for our sins, buried and three days later He was raised. Likewise, the Apostle’s Creed, the Athanasius Creed, the Nicene Creed all state the great truths of our faith in a succinct and memorable manner. Therefore, Covenant Fellowship shall undertake to recite from the creeds weekly, instilling in our congregation an understanding of the great truths in such a manner as the youngest member to the elder statesmen/women of the church will have an understanding of our foundations.
The ordinance of the Lord’s Supper will be observed regularly within the worship services of Covenant Fellowship. During this time, emphasis will be placed upon the covenantal aspect of our relationship with God the Father, through God the Son. The congregation should be reminded that only those who are within the Body of Christ and not living in sin are to partake. While the communion at Covenant Fellowship is not closed, we are duty-bound to remind and exhort those members who are in rebellion against God, and those outside the Body of Christ that this is a sacred celebration, to be enjoyed only by the faithful.
The ordinance of baptism must be explained and offered to any who have come to Christ. The ordinance should be offered at the first practical time possible. Before any are baptized at Covenant Fellowship, the elders will conduct an interview with the person(s) being baptized to ensure their proper understanding of the significance of the ordinance.
All aspects of our worship should be “a lavish outpouring of our love and praise to our God who has created and redeemed us.” (1) With that in mind, all of our worship should be excellent. The songs we sing, the sermons we preach, the prayers we offer should all be done to the best of our ability. Our offering should be the firstfruits of our lives, not the leftovers from a busy week.
Covenant Fellowship services will be a lavish outpouring of excellent worship to our triune God, involving prayers, preaching, Scripture reading, and recitation of creeds, singing and the practice of the ordinances of the church. All of these will be done to the Glory of God, centering on the finished work of our Savior Jesus Christ who bought us.
2. Colossians 1:15-20 - He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (ESV)
3. The Worship Sourcebook – published by the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship
4. Adapted from the Commission on Worship, Reformed Church in America, 1996
5. John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, III. 20, #31.
6. Howard Hageman, "Can Music Be Reformed?" Reformed Review, 1960.
7. Marva Dawn, Reaching Out without Dumbing Down: A Theology of Worship for the Turn-of-the-Century Culture (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), p. 201.
8. Austin Lovelace and William C. Rice, Music and Worship in the Church (Nashville: Abingdon, 1976), p. 20.
|Pre-Service Prayer||9:00 AM|
|Sunday School||9:45 AM|
|Sunday Worship Service||10:45 AM|
|Wed. Night Bible Study||7:30 PM|