Understanding The Principles Of Worship

Source: The Complete Library of Christian Worship, Robert E. Webber, General Editor

Liturgical scholars generally agree that the worship of the church arises out of the gospel and is, in this sense, event-oriented. The primary focus of worship is not an abstract deity, but the God who acts in history to redeem and restore human beings and the created order. Principles of Christian worship derive from the biblical conviction that the foundational event celebrated in worship is the dying and rising of Jesus Christ, through which evil is ultimately defeated and the creation...

Principle One: Worship Celebrates Christ

In proclaiming God's saving work through Jesus Christ in song, story, prayer, and thanksgiving, the church glorifies God and extols him for his acts of redemption. Thus it accomplishes Peter's declaration that God's people "may declare the praises of him who called [them] out of darkness into his wonderful light" (1 Pet. 2:9).

Principle Two: Worship Tells And Acts Out The Christ Event

The order of worship is designed to reveal God's action in history. Through that order, the worshiping community meets the God who has acted, and who continues to speak and act among His people.

Principle Three: In Worship God Speaks And Acts

If worship is truly rooted in the gospel and celebrates Christ, then we can expect a divine action to occur in worship, revealed through words and signs.

Principle Four: Worship Is An Act Of Communication

Communication takes place in worship when the Lord speaks and acts and the people of God respond. Worship employs both the spoken word and the symbolic act so that God can touch all areas of an individual's life and communicate with people of varying personalities. By the same token, the worshiper uses both word and act to express devotion to God.

Principle Five: In Worship We Respond To God And To Each Other

More than an intellectual assent to doctrine, creed, or prayer, worship is an experience of the presence of a holy God. Response to this encounter should touch the center of the worshiper's being, creating a sense of awe and mystery. It should also result in an admission of one's unworthiness and need for repentance, and in renewed commitment to a life of obedience to the mighty and merciful God.

Principle Six: Worship Is An Act Of The People

Worship is not a service or entertainment performed for the laity, but an act that requires the participation of all members in the body of Christ. For this reason there is a need to achieve a balance between order and freedom. An overemphasis on order can lead to ritualism; an overemphasis on freedom sometimes leads to chaos. Most churches suffer from an overemphasis on order.

Principle Seven: Worship Makes Effective Use Of God’s Creative Gifts

The Bible envisions worship as an offering of the entire person in living sacrifice to the Lord. Creative and thoughtful use of space and art, as well as attention to the traditional church calendar, combine to make worship an experience that involves body, soul, and spirit.

Principle Eight: Worship Is A Way Of Life

Worship is not only an action. It is also a way of life that the church experiences in each of its members day by day. When worship is central, all of life proceeds toward it and issues from it again, in blessed rhythm.