Saturday, February 2, 2013

Can you comment on the style of worship you have chosen?


I really love to discuss worship.  On occasion folks from other churches, that incorporate a different worship style than us, vocalize their notion that we follow a "traditional" style.  In other words, we do what we do, because it's always been done this way or because it's old.

It is true, we sing lots of songs that were written a long time ago. The ministers wear robes. We are committed to expositional preaching. We have a choir that sings classical introits and such. We have pews and kneelers. We celebrate communion every Sunday. Our building looks very classical. The organ is our main accompaniment instrument on Sunday morning.  Yes, sure, we do it "old school", I guess.

Honestly, I don't care how people characterize our worship style commitment.  Further, I don't survey other current worship practices and think we're somehow superior and they are weak and superficial. We, the leaders of RPC, actually give this issue lots of thought and pay it careful attention.  We do not lead the congregation in anything just for the sake of tradition. We simply try to provide a biblical worship service that assists the people of God, as a whole and across the generations present, in the worship of God through our mediator, Christ Jesus.

Recently a life long ministry brother, currently a missionary in Central America, wrote and asked me the following excellent question:

Can you comment on the style of worship you have chosen? 

I'll cut and paste my quick email response to him, with a couple tweaks for presentation here:

Great question, and an important one. I could speak long on this, but let me try to be succinct. In our view, how we worship is dictated by why we worship. We worship for the glory of God. We worship as a response to His command, but also as a response to God's great, great, great, grace to us, in Christ.

The purpose of worship is the glory of God. One of the beauties of right worship is how it returns a magnificent blessing to the worshiper. Our edification is not the main point of worship, but it is absolutely one of the key results. So, our style is formulated with the question "How might God direct us to worship Him?.  Also, worship is for God's people. Worship is not on the first level an outreach activity or evangelistic primarily. Now, worship can and does function in these ways as many unbelievers will visit and hear the gospel. I'm just saying that our main point of evangelistic contact and effort isn't through our Sunday morning worship service. We have many other outlets and efforts for that.

Now, having said that, don't get me wrong about style. I don't think a particular style is clearly delineated in Scripture. There are many styles that fit the right purposes for worship. The churches in our presbytery are diverse in worship style. Furthermore, we (RPC) have very good relationships with other churches in the KC area who differ greatly in style, from us. Style is largely contextual. In our context (suburban Kansas City), styles range from "contemporary" to "mixed" or "blended" to "traditional" to "liturgical". There's now "missional", which is basically the same as "blended", but anyways...

For as particular as our worship service is structured, we're not snobs about our style and have even tried to introduce a more casual worship approach on Sunday nights with guitar, piano, and choruses, etc. Our outreach efforts may incorporate a different worship style than we practice at Redeemer Sunday mornings, it depends on exact context, but decisions in this realm will still be driven by the aforementioned purpose for worship- the glory of God.

As for our particular style here Sunday mornings, we are purposefully liturgical and confessional. I think, however, our services are very understandable and accessible to newcomers. Also, in our context, there's lots of catholics and mainline protestants used to a more formal style, like ours, so it actually serves as an outreach mechanism. Hispanics who worship with us or visit, often comment positively about our worship style as many come from catholic backgrounds. We're not "traditional" in our style, we're carefully liturgical. You'd have to see it and be part of it to fully appreciate. You'll get a kick out of this- last Sunday morning, an African American woman and her mother visited because they heard our preaching program on the radio. They came to the early service (which is a touch more sedate than the 11am service) and sat about 4 rows from the front. I was preaching on "The Power of the Cross" from 1 Corinthians 1 and letting it rip, so to speak. They were "Amen"ing up as storm with no concern for some of the more, shall we say, reserved folk around them. It was great. After, they introduced themselves and were very encouraging about the sermon, however they did say- "boy, it's so quiet in here"!! HA HA. Well, the second service is a bit more lively (sort of). Hey, God is growing us in this area, it's a never ending process. Whatever the case, may God alone receive the glory!

Again, this was my quick email response, not a careful treatise on worship. I hope it helps with some basic foundational principles.

6 comments:

BPell said...

AMEN!

M J Mounts said...

Just wished that we'd been there to witness and experience the 'vocal outbursts' from the two African American women. What a treat!

Thank you for verbalizing what we feel worship is all about. Glorifying Our Father!

Jim Keech said...

I liked what you said. God looks at the heart when we worship in truth, knowing the Object of our worship and faith; God looks at the heart when we worship in spirit, to please Him and honor Him in our motivation. There are cultural contexts throughout the world that equally give glory to God yet inconsequential to worship in spirit and truth.

Ed Jennings said...

I just returned from Florida where I have another residence and attended a PCA Church while there. It has a more contemporary service.... a drummer within a cubicle (haven't figured out why yet), a keyboardist, two guitarists, a female vocalist, and a piano and choir, all on stage.
There are no hymnals in the pews... words to songs/hymns are projected onto the walls (the auditorium is darkened), neither are there Bibles in the pews.
The preaching is topical, and the Biblical passages and outline notes are also projected onto the walls.
All said, I thoroughly enjoyed the sermon... the preacher used some current events in the news to illustrate his points.
In the final analysis, I missed my "home" church. I prefer the traditional liturgical style of RPC and admit the "feeling" of having worshipped God rather than been entertained seems to resonate.

Woody Woodward said...

What a blessing to know where my pastors as well as our elders stand. I will never have to worry about an ear tickling, politically correct sermon designed to make the folks feel warm and cozy.

Ed Jennings said...

As a followup to my former post, I should point out that this PCA Church I visited while in Florida is a bit larger than RPC in Kansas. It is beautifully constructed, including stained glass windows. It looks traditional, however, once inside in the Narthex is a staffed book store and next to it, a coffee shop. There are large cafeteria style rooms to gather, as well as a welcome center. The auditorium is huge and the technology for audio-visual aids quite modern.

I would like to point out that the congregation seems to enjoy God and the preaching is conservatively Reformed, but adapted to modern times. I did attend at least one service about a year ago that the preacher mentioned in the sermon about some people critical of the music ministry (the band, etc.)... to which he said "...it's not all about you." but about worshiping God... and went on to say that he recognized that not everyone appreciated the modern style of worship, but that was just too bad. And guess what: there's nothing you can do about it! I swear he must have been reading my mind, so I kept my mouth shut.