There are four principles that guide Metro East as preparations are made for our corporate worship gatherings:
1. Worship must be guided by God’s Word.
“The Bible provides us with God’s directions for the form and content of Christian worship" (Duncan, 57). God never encourages us to worship Him in any way we happen to prefer. Unfortunately, many prominent pastors and church leaders today teach that the form and elements of our worship are neutral and can be changed to meet current cultural expectations. This idea carries with it two deeply flawed assumptions: 1) Form and content are completely unrelated and 2) God has no preferences regarding how He is to be worshiped.
The Old Testament says much more than the New Testament about structures of corporate worship. However, some have erroneously concluded that the New Testament is silent on issues of corporate worship. While it is true that the New Covenant in Christ brought radical changes, these changes did not cast away corporate worship as a mandate for God’s people. It is important to affirm this because of the presence of serious voices within evangelicalism that hold the opinion that all elements and structures of corporate worship were simply temporary arrangements under the Old Covenant. In the New Covenant, they reason, worship has become strictly a lifestyle that defines how we approach our vocation, treat our neighbors and family, recreate, etc. and has nothing to do with corporate structures or meetings. The argument continues that the New Testament church does not gather for the purpose of worship at all but rather for fellowship, preaching, and prayer. And while those elements are certainly vital to the church’s life they are not separate from corporate worship but rather elements of it. Worship is indeed a lifestyle and should find expression in all of life. The New Testament explodes any notion that worship is confined to particular times and places. But nowhere does the New Testament call God’s people away from organized and thoughtful corporate worship.
"Worship is the supreme and only indispensable activity of the Christian Church. It alone will endure, like the love for God which it expresses, into heaven, when all other activities of the Church will have passed away. It must therefore, even more strictly than any of the less essential doings of the Church, come under the criticism and control of the revelation on which the Church is founded." - W. Nichols
Biblical elements of Christian worship:
· Music and singing
Psalm 95:1; 98:1; Acts 2:47; Eph 5:19-20; Col 3:16
Acts 2:42; 4:24-30; 12:5, 12
· Preaching and teaching God’s Word
Acts 2:42, 46; 5:20-21; 11:25-26; 18:11; 19:9-10; 20:7, 20-21
· The Lord’s Supper
Matt 26:17-30; Luke 22:19; I Cor 10:16-17; 11:17-34
I Cor 14; Heb 10:24-25
I Cor 12-14
2. Worship must engage the mind with biblical truth with an eye to increasing our affections for and devotion to God.
Worship is intellectual. That statement is taboo in a church culture that prizes subjective spiritual experience over matters of the mind. Don’t misunderstand, worship is not confined to the mind but it certainly must begin there. How can our hearts properly revel in what we do not understand? Worship begins with facts: Who God is, what God is like, what God has done. God reveals these things to us in the Bible. Worship therefore begins with the revelatory initiative of God and continues with our response of praise and thanks. God is not interested in outward forms of worship that do not engage the heart and result in glad obedience. “This people honors Me with their lips but their heart is far from Me” (Matt 15:8). “To obey is better than sacrifice” (I Sam 15:22). C.S. Lewis rightly observed that we do not properly honor that which we do not enjoy.
3. Songs must focus on God’s attributes and His redemptive plan accomplished in Jesus Christ.
Christian music is for and about God. True, worship is strongly edifying in that we are to encourage one another and spur each other on to greater love and obedience. But it is the proper honoring of God that provides the rationale for this edification. We encourage one another toward greater holiness because God is holy. We are to strive to be more loving because God is love. We are to forgive each other because God in Christ has forgiven us. All of the Christian virtues find their reason in the character of God. Therefore, our worship must be focused on God’s attributes as a means to both honor Him and exhort one another.
In addition to affirming the many attributes of God, Christian worship is incoherent if it does not include a strong Gospel orientation. How can a redeemed people not sing of their Redeemer and the means of their redemption? So worship is a grand rehearsal of the themes of the Gospel: the perfect obedience, atoning death, and victorious resurrection of Jesus Christ for the salvation of sinners.
4. Congregational singing is stressed above performance.
In His kindness God has given Metro East many gifted musicians and singers. Each Sunday we are blessed by brothers and sisters who lead us in singing God-exalting and edifying songs. Often times we are encouraged by vocal or instrumental solos that help us reflect on biblical truths concerning God and the Gospel. This is a good thing and will, by God’s grace, continue to be a part of the corporate gatherings of Metro East. However, the stress in our corporate worship will always weigh heavily toward congregational singing. God’s people must not be passive observers as they gather for worship. Neither should we allow our gatherings to breed a performance culture. Through music we love to confess God’s marvelous truth together.