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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Three Questions that Can Change How You Plan Worship

When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation.all of these must be done for the strengthening of the church. 1 Corinthians 14:26

I am greatly indebted to Drs. Terry York and David Bolin in their book, The Worship Matrix, for the basic idea of this blog. I would consider this a "must have" for all those who plan and lead worship.)

In Paul's letter to the church at Corinth, that Apostle addresses several problems in which the believers were having. Disorder in worship was one of those issues. The passage above is descriptive, not prescriptive, that is, this is a historical account, not a general commandment for all Christians for all time. That is to easy that we should not take this passage to mean that in every church, every believer should have one of the five activities for every time they might meet, then as well as right now. While that is true that the passage is not prescriptive, there certainly is more to the passage than a historical account of how Paul dealt with a particular problem. We can ask ourselves if there are some general principles that might be applied to our present situation. I believe there are. In the following paragraphs I would like to suggest a few, not that these are the only ones, but they might serve as a start.

First, there seems to be an assumption of regular corporate worship in which congregational participation is the norm. The focus of activity seems to be sharing among the congregation, not just the activity of the leadership. In Paul's context, these congregations would have most likely been groups meeting in homes, and not very large. For that reason it would have been a small enough so that everyone could have participated. So, what might be a general principle be in this case?

For one, congregational participation is vital to worship. It is easy for worship leaders to build a service more around what they can do and hope the congregation joins in, than to build into a service maximun participation. If we are not careful in our planing how to involve the congregation, it will be easy for the service go become "entertainment" and not worship. One of the key words for 'worship' in the Greek is the word 'lituguria,' which means 'the work of the people'. If there is no 'work of the people' we may rightly ask, "Has there really been worship?"

Another important part of the passage is the reason given why it was done that way: "all of these must be done for the strengthening of the church." Priority is given for the edification of the church as a whole, not just the personal preferences of any one group or persons. As we look at how this might apply to to us, it is crucial that we hear the words of the Apostle that all that is done is done to strengthen the whole body, not ignore a segment, because of age, preference, etc. A key question to ask ourselves as we plan is, "Does this service edify the whole church body?" This is not an easy question to answer honestly, and and even more difficult one to accomplish.

Some questions for us to ponder are: How many of our people really participate in the worship services we plan? Are there enough varied activities that provide ample opportunity for such widespread participation? Is what we are doing in worship focused more on a single group, or are we consciously planning for the building up of every member?

I am grateful to both York & Bolin for helping me think through these issues, and I pray that they will be a help to you as well.

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