What Is the Philosophy of Worship that Unites Us?
Worship is the corporate expression of the delight, awe, and thankfulness that come from knowing our infinitely glorious and sovereign God and Savior. Because the distance between God and His creatures is so great, the only acceptable way of approaching God in worship must be revealed to us by God Himself. Therefore, He may not be worshiped in ways invented by us. This principle protects us from idolatrous worship and focuses our energies on those activities through which God has called us to draw near.
In addition to this most basic principle, the following principles(1) help us focus on the essence of true worship:
1. Preaching and worship: We do not have worship plus preaching. Preaching is the apex of biblical worship. In preaching, we encounter the living God of truth and have our hearts laid bare before him.
2. God-centeredness: A high priority of the vertical focus of our Sunday morning service. The ultimate aim is to so experience God that he is glorified in our affections.
3. Expecting the powerful presence of God: We do not just direct ourselves toward him. We earnestly seek his drawing near according to the promise of James 4:8. We believe that in worship God draws near to us in power, and makes himself known and felt for our good and for the salvation of unbelievers in the midst.
4. Bible based and Bible saturated: The content of our singing and praying and welcoming and preaching and poetry will always conform to the truth of Scripture. The content of God’s Word will be woven through all we do in worship and will be the ground of all our appeal to authority.
5. Head and heart: Worship that aims at kindling and carrying deep, strong, real emotions toward God, but does not manipulate people’s emotions by failing to appeal to clear thinking about spiritual things based on shareable evidences outside ourselves.
6. Earnestness and intensity: Avoiding a trite, flippant, superficial, frivolous atmosphere, but instead setting an example of reverence and passion and wonder.
7. Authentic communication: The utter renunciation of all sham and deceit and hypocrisy and pretense and affectation and posturing. Not the atmosphere of artistic or oratorical performance but the atmosphere of a radically personal encounter with God and truth.
8. The manifestation of God and the common good: We expect and hope and pray (according to 1 Cor. 12:7) that our focus on the manifesting of God is good for people and that therefore a spirit of love for each other is not incompatible with, but necessary to authentic worship.
9. 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.
10. The mingling of historic and contemporary music: And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old” (Matt. 13:52)(2)
11. The priority of singing: Instruments are never a stand-alone mode of worship in the New Testament; therefore, our musical energy will be directed to singing, with instruments in a supporting role.
12. The biblical pattern of singing: The Psalms are the inspired songbook of God’s people. Therefore, they will serve as a primary source of our songs as well as a pattern for our hymnody. Furthermore, the prevailing sound of our worship will be the singing voices of all God’s people praising Him.
13. Consistency of music and text: The tune, the musical style, and the instrumentation should support and not distract from the tone, mood, and message of the text.
1 Principles 2-10 are taken verbatim from “What is the Philosophy of Worship that Unites Us?” by John Piper at http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/what-is-the-philosophy-of-worship-that-unites-us. Footnotes are added.
2The primary goal here is to bring out treasure, whether old or new.