Corporate worship is supposed to be a time of celebration and edification. Unfortunately, due to strong personal preferences and confusion as to what worship is, corporate worship gatherings have segregated into different “types” of services (contemporary, traditional, blended, youth, college, and even children). Rather than segregating the body of Christ into different generational groups, at High Pointe we have committed to displaying the wisdom and glory of God by gathering together as one church (Ephesians 3:10). And instead of encouraging personal preferences, we’ve learned to emphasize certain biblical principles to guide us in our planning for corporate worship.
To clarify confusion as to what worship is, here’s a brief working definition: Worship is our whole-person response to everything God has revealed about Himself (His character, purposes, ways, and will) in His Son, Jesus Christ. To be sure, this may be an overly-simplistic definition, but at least it gives us a starting point for discussion. With this definition in mind, here are seven basic principles by which we seek to plan and practice corporate worship at High Pointe Baptist Church.
- True worship is God-centered. We were created to worship, and we are commanded to worship God only (Exodus 20:3-5; Revelation 22:9) in the ways that He has commanded in Scripture (Ecclesiastes 5:1-7). Therefore, as we prepare our hearts for worship we want to emphasize that worship is about God, not us or our preferences.
- True worship is Christ-focused. Jesus Christ is the image of God, the creator, sustainer, and reconciler of creation, and the head of the church (Colossians 1:15-20). It pleased God to reveal Himself through the Son and to reconcile us to Himself through Jesus’ death. So with the disciples, we worship Jesus (John 20:28). Jesus is the focus of worship because He’s the focus of the Father’s work (Revelation 5).
- True worship is Spirit-empowered. The Bible makes it clear that we are born into this world as children of wrath and dead to God. However, by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:1-10), we are made alive to God and dead to sin (Romans 6:1-14). Only those who have been made alive and indwelt by the Holy Spirit can truly worship God; these are the true worshipers God seeks (John 4:21-24).
- True worship is Word-based. God’s Word (the Bible) is the basis for everything we do in worship (announcements, welcome, singing, praying, preaching, etc.). Why? Because God works by His Word. He created by His Word (Genesis 1); He sustains His creation by the Word of His power (Hebrews 1:3); He came into this world as the Word (John 1:1); He saves us by the power of His Word (Romans 1:16). Preaching is the primary form of the Word in our worship because this is the model Jesus and His disciples left us (Luke 4:43; Romans 10:14-15) and because we are commanded to preach the Word until Christ returns (2 Timothy 4:1-2). And because true worship is Word-based, when we gather we want to read the Word, sing the Word, pray the Word, preach the Word, and see the Word (baptism and the Lord’s Supper).
- True worship requires us to engage God with our whole person. As defined above, worship is a response, and the worship of God is our response to God: who He is, His ways, purposes, and will. True worship requires that we engage God with our minds as we study His Word and seek to grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. This is the “truth” component of “spirit and truth” worship (John 4:24). At the same time, true worship requires that we engage God with our hearts as the fullness of the Holy Spirit in us overflows and causes us to praise God in complete delight. This is the “spirit” component of “spirit and truth” worship. Our worship, then, should be passionate and Spirit-filled because it is our whole-person (spirit) response to the truth of who God is for us in Christ. But because of confusion, this point requires clarification.Each Christian’s whole-person response to the truth of who Jesus is will inevitably look different. One person will be moved to tears of joy and thanksgiving as he reflects upon the forgiveness of sin applied to him by faith in Christ. Another may be moved to joy, raising her hands to heaven in acknowledgement of who Jesus is. Someone else may be moved to silent reflection as she ponders the glory of Christ and his gospel. While yet another will be brought to his knees in awe as he humbles himself before a holy king. And we could go on.
There is no right or wrong whole-person response to the truth of who Jesus is, provided that all things are done in an orderly fashion (1 Corinthians 12, 14), and we do not draw attention away from our corporate focus on Jesus. This is what it means to worship God in spirit and truth (John 4:24).
- True worship results in edification. Though worship is about God and not us, true worship will build up believers in both mind and heart “until we all attain the unity of the faith, and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man” (Ephesians 4:11-13; 1 Corinthians 14:26-40). In other words, though worship is all about God, it will benefit us and cause us to grow in our love for Him and one another, for worship has both a vertical (Godward) and a horizontal (corporate) direction.
- True worship is about more than Sunday. As believers in Christ, we are not to neglect gathering together (Hebrews 10:24-25). But we need to remember that under Christ, true worship is an everyday matter. We are to give our entire lives over to God as living and holy sacrifices (Romans 12:1-2). That means we worship God in how we live, work, and play every single day of our lives.