One common question we receive from newcomers is often phrased like this: “What is your worship like?” In a nutshell, we read scripture and recite from creeds, sing both traditional hymns and modern songs, use instruments ranging from piano and organ to guitar and drums, we confess our sins through solemn prayers and celebrate the Gospel through joyful singing, take the Lord's Supper regularly and listen to Word of God through expository preaching of the Bible. You may look at some of our Sunday Worship Guides to see other ways in which our services are structured. To offer a more substantive answer, here are ten principles we seek to practice in our Sunday morning worship gatherings.
Ten Principles that Guide Us on Sunday Morning
In corporate worship we will seek to:
1. Be God-centered,
understanding that God's glory is His highest purpose in all things. We seek to make God central in our mind's attention and our heart's affections. We will seek to exalt Him by delighting in His glory (Is. 48:9-11; 26:8).
2. Worship in "spirit and in truth."
We understand worship to involve the Spirit-stirred affections of the heart, the devotion of the mind, and the submission of the will according to the truth of God (John 4:23-24). In spirit, worship flows out of a new life in Christ (a new spirit given birth by the Holy Spirit) which involves our whole being - mind, heart, and will (Phil. 3:3; Eph. 5:18-20; Ex. 20:3; Deut. 6:4-5; Rom. 12:1-2). In truth, we will seek to be Bible-saturated and doctrinally sound, giving Scripture prominence in worship as the basis of our response. We will read Scripture publicly and corporately and sing songs that reflect the truth of Scripture. All music will be examined for doctrinal correctness.
3. Hold worship as our highest calling,
understanding the supremacy of worship in the believer's life and in the mission of the church. Worship is the fuel and goal of all other ministries. Worship is the purpose for which we evangelize and do missions and the purpose for which we encourage and build each other up in the faith. Worship is the eternal purpose of the Church (Rev. 14:6-7; Ps. 96:3).
4. Incorporate both revelation and response,
understanding that all response in worship is based upon God's revelation of Himself. As God reveals His power, we respond in wonder. As God reveals His holiness, we respond in confession and contrition. As God reveals His grace, we respond in humility. As God reveals His purpose, we respond in surrender and commitment. As God reveals His plans for our lives, we respond in prayer. As God reveals His goodness, we respond in thankfulness (Is. 6:1-12; Ps. 100:4-5).
5. Sing with congregational priority and unity.
The New Testament word, “leitourgia,” (used to describe worship) means “work of the people.” The early Church understood worship to be a communal event in light of the doctrine of the priesthood of the believer. Every believer freely and enthusiastically participated in worship before the Lord (1 Peter 2:9). Therefore, we will seek to be congregational rather than leader/performer-driven in worship. We believe that any worship service whereby a worship leader, musical ensemble, soloist, etc. is given prominence over a congregation’s expression is not biblical leitourgia.
6. Worship God both in His transcendence and His imminence,
understanding that God is worthy to be worshiped as the great King upon His throne in Heaven, as well as the Savior who meets with His children intimately (Rev. 7:9-12; 3:20).
7. Blend contemporary and historical songs of worship.
We seek to mine from history the very best of hymnody and couple these with the most passionate new God-centered songs of worship from our generation (Matt. 13:52).
8. Lead by the principle of undistracting excellence.
"We will try to sing and play and pray and preach in such a way that people's attention will not be diverted from the substance by shoddy ministry nor by excessive finesse, elegance, or refinement. Natural, undistracting excellence will let the truth and beauty of God shine through. Sound system, music playing... all undistracting from the aim of thinking about God. Avoid the flair of words and chords that draw attention mainly to the performance and style and not the substance" (John Piper, from Gravity and Gladness on Sunday Morning: the Pursuit of God in Corporate Worship). We will seek excellence in all we do for the purpose of drawing attention to the supreme excellencies of God (Ps. 33:3; Jn. 3:30).
9. Value order and spontaneity in worship.
Order is the foundation of all beauty God is perfectly beautiful. Through our singing, praying, and reading of ordered elements from our liturgy, we worship the Lord together. With order we would have chaos. However, God is not contained in pre-packaged prayers. He is a "tenting God" and should be sought as one who exists outside of the order to which we get accustomed. Sometimes our worship takes the form of spontaneous moments of prayer and sharing from the scriptures over one another.
10. Be continually growing in our biblical understanding and our practice of worship.
To be growing implies that we have not yet arrived and acknowledges that knowlege is partial at best (1 Cor 13:9; James 1:5). To be in need of growth in understanding is a humbling claim and humility is the only posture of the human heart which God blesses (James 4:6).We will seek to continue growing in our knowledge of God and in our worship of him. Only on the day we stand before his great throne, free from all the affects of sin, will we worship God perfectly, even as he has loved us perfectly. (Ps. 40:3; 98:1; 149:1).