Principles for Christian Worship (1)
The Worship Sourcebook, © 2004, Faith Alive Christian Resources, mentions eight principles for Christian worship. Such worship should be biblical, dialogic, covenantal, trinitarian, communal, welcoming, “in but not of” the world, and excellent. In this article we will consider the first four; next week we will look at the remaining four.
1. Christian worship should be biblical. In Article 7 of our Confession of Faith we say that “the whole manner of worship which God requires of us in written in [scripture] at length.” Scripture needs to regulate our worship. We need to heed the warning about false, improper worship. The essential things that scripture enjoins us to do in worship is to submit to the proclamation of the gospel, call upon God in prayer and song, participate in the sacraments, and give Christian offerings for the poor. Since the Bible focuses primarily on the person and work of Jesus Christ as the Redeemer from sin and all its nasty consequences, so must we in worship.
2. Christian worship should be dialogic. In worship, God speaks and we respond. If you think of all the different components of our worship, you can see that it is a dialogue: God greets us; we respond with a song of praise; God speaks to us his law; we respond with a song of dedication and prayer; we hear the Word of God in reading and sermon; we respond with song, prayer and offerings; God speaks to us his words of blessing before we leave. All of life with God is dialogic. God would have a relationship with us. In our lives we listen to God and respond to him. We are relational beings, and this comes out in our corporate worship too.
3. Christian worship should be covenantal. As we worship, the covenant of grace God has with believers and their children is renewed, affirmed, and sealed. The relationship that God welcomes us into is not a cold contractual relationship but a warm promise-based relationship of self-giving love. It is more like a marriage or family than a legal contract. Worship repeats God’s promises to us and calls for us to recommit ourselves to this covenantal relationship. One question to ask of any worship service is whether it has enabled us to respond to God’s goodness and grace as faithful and committed covenant partners.
4. Christian worship should be trinitarian. In worship we address the triune God–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit–one God in three persons. He is holy God full of, love, beauty, and power. We worship God the Father who loves us with perfect fatherly love. We worship God the Son who entered into our humanity to redeem us from our lostness. We worship God the Holy Spirit who creates in us faith, comforts and guides us. We worship the triune God of heaven, but our worship is earthy because God has, through Son and Spirit, come to earth. As we worship our God, we use human words to read and preach, and tangible, accessible things like water, bread, and wine; melodies, rhythms, and harmonies. As we children of God worship our God, we stay focussed on him and not worship worship itself.