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There is nothing more important in life than worship. We all worship something or someone. The only question is whether we will worship the right One in the right way. At University Reformed Church we want all of life to be worship to God (Rom. 12:1-2; 1 Cor. 10:31). He is worthy to receive glory and honor and power (Rev. 4:11). In particular, we want our worship services on Sunday to be pleasing to Him. We want our corporate worship on Sunday to inspire and instruct our all-of-life worship Monday through Saturday. To gather with God’s people on the Lord’s Day to worship at God’s throne under the authority of God’s word is our solemn duty and joyful privilege.

It is with that supreme goal in mind that our church holds to a number of values when it comes to corporate worship. The list below is far from comprehensive or complete. Rather, it is meant to provide a brief summary of the most important principles undergirding our theology and philosophy of worship. Please consult the numerous appendices to see many of these points spelled out in further detail.

1. Glory to God – Worship is ultimately for Him. He is the most important audience at every service. Corporate worship is meant to be an anticipation of the heavenly gathering of God’s people. The grand scenes of heavenly worship in Revelation are both present and future. We too should direct all our attention to the throne. We too should sing of Christ’s work. We too should be earnest and uncompromising in our devotion to God. Our weekly gatherings—whether small or large, beautiful or forgettable—are meant to be a sweet foretaste of the heavenly worship we will one day experience for ages unending.

2. Focused on the Gospel of Christ – The gospel—Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection— is what makes worship possible. The gospel is what we proclaim in worship. The gospel is what we sing in worship. The gospel is what calls a people together in worship, inspires a people to praise in worship, and sends a people out in a life of worship. Every Sunday is another opportunity to sing about the cross, glory in our Redeemer, and marvel at the good news that is Christ for us and in us. Jesus Christ is at the center of all biblical thinking about worship. He is the mediator between God and man. His substitutionary sacrifice on the cross is the propitiation for our sins. He is the procurer of salvation and blessing for the nations. He is the new temple in which and around which all true believers gather. Christ draws us to himself in worship and through him a new relationship with the Father is made possible. While our corporate worship is not specifically focused on unbelievers (as if they were the audience we need to please most), our focus on Christ means that we certainly want the gospel presented credibly and intelligently to non-Christians. We are privileged to have visitors every Sunday, some of whom are not converted. One of our prayers each week is that unbelievers would hear Christ’s call to faith and repentance, and that God would seek and save those who are lost.

3. Biblical – The whole service teaches God’s people, so everything—the prayers, the songs, the preaching—must be biblical. In corporate worship we read the Bible, preach the Bible, pray the Bible, sing the Bible, and see the Bible in the sacraments. Every element in the service must be evaluated based on God’s revelation in the Scriptures: are we singing, saying, and hearing what is true? Because of this conviction, we also affirm that “the acceptable way of worshiping the true God is instituted by himself and so limited by his own revealed will” (WCF 21.1). This “regulative principle” should not be the source of endless conflict and idle speculation, but an opportunity for God’s people to find unity and freedom in worshiping God as he wants to be worshiped.

4. Edifying to God’s people – Corporate worship is set apart from all-of-life worship in its focus on edification. Because of this focus, there are many activities that are appropriate for the Christian in all of life that aren’t appropriate in a worship service. There are many art forms that can be practiced and performed to the glory of God which would nevertheless not be suitable for corporate worship. Paul’s principle in 1 Corinthians 14 is that corporate worship must strive for maximum shared intelligibility. This means, among other things, that the worship service will not only be Word-centered, but also full of words.

5. Emphasizing the ordinary means of grace – God can work in many ways, but he has committed to being with us and transforming us through certain “means of grace.” He communes with us through prayer, through the word, and through the sacraments of the Lord’s Supper and Baptism. Our services emphasize these ordinary means whereby God promises to give us more grace. We come to worship to give God glory, but even more so to meet with him and receive a blessing from his hand (Num. 6:24-26). The central act in the worship service is the preaching of God’s word. We believe this is best accomplished through the careful, Spirit-filled exposition of Scripture. Normally, this means working verse by verse through a book of the Bible. No matter the approach, every sermon should flow manifestly from Scripture and proclaim the gospel of God. Through all this, we hope that every worshiper will want to cry out, “Surely the Lord is in this place” (Gen. 28:16).

6. Congregational Singing – Choosing the appropriate musical composition and lyrical content for corporate worship is a task which requires careful attention to musical principles and even closer attention to theological fidelity. We believe there are new songs to be sung to Jesus. We also believe there is a great heritage of church music that we should embrace. We have no problem projecting words on a screen. But we also believe in the abiding value of using and learning from a good hymnal. Our services use music from different genres and different centuries. We use a variety of instruments, everything from guitars and drums to the organ. In all this, the most important sound is that of the congregation singing.

7. Liturgical (Worn Lightly) – Almost every church has an order of service and a familiar pattern of doing things, which means almost every church has a liturgy. Even though we wear our liturgy lightly, we still want it to be rich, rooted, and biblical. Our service has four parts: praise, renewal, proclamation, response. We see this pattern in the covenant renewal ceremonies of Scripture and in various divine encounters. In Isaiah 6, for example, Isaiah comes before God and praises him; then he confesses sin and seeks renewal; God then speaks his word to Isaiah; and finally Isaiah responds with commitment to God. This is also a gospel pattern: we approach God in awe, we see our sin, we hear the good news, and we respond in faith and obedience. Our services do not look the same every week, but neither are we trying to invent something new every Sunday. Within these four “acts” (praise, renewal, proclamation, response) can be found basic liturgical elements like a prayer of confession and assurance of pardon, a long pastoral prayer, Scripture readings, and flexible forms used for Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

8. Reformed – The Church has been thinking about how to worship for centuries. We want to learn from our spiritual ancestors and build on their models. To that end, we are eager to employ the Ten Commandments, creeds, confessions, catechisms, responsive readings, and other forms that have been common in church history. We want our services to be comprised of more than an opening worship set, a sermon, and a closing song. As a PCA church, we resonate with the guidelines outlined in The Directory for the Worship of God (see the PCA BCO, Chapters 47-63). We want our worship to be winsomely—that is to say, not archaically or obnoxiously—Reformed, rooted in history and true to the Scriptures.

9. Prayerful – Our services include many different prayers. Often you will find a prayer of confession because we sin every week and need gospel mercy every week. We usually have a longer congregational prayer, which is an important time to pray for the needs of our church family and for the world. Other prayers are common too: a prayer of adoration at the beginning of the service, a prayer of illumination before the sermon, and a brief prayer after the sermon. We typically have a prayer service on the first Sunday evening of the month. It will be hard for God’s people to know that they must pray, or see that they can pray, or learn how to pray if prayer is not a significant part of what we do when we gather for worship.

10. Undistracting Excellence – In corporate worship, the focus should be on the gospel and the all-surpassing glory of Jesus Christ. If the guitars are out of tune, and the sound system screeches, and the preacher fumbles over his sentences, and those leading up front make everyone else feel a bit nervous, then our focus will be in the wrong place. Because doing things decently and in order is helpful to others and pleasing to God, we should seek to “do worship” with excellence (1 Corinthians 14:40). But it must be undistracting excellence (to borrow John Piper’s phrase). If the guitarist goes off on some fantastic riff, and the sound system includes sub-woofers under every seat, and the preacher waxes overly eloquent, and those leading up front make everyone else feel a bit like they are enjoying a performance, then our focus will be equally in the wrong place. The goal is to lead in such a way that we are neither so clumsy nor so clever that the glory of God is all but forgotten.

NOTE: You can find a longer version of this document on our church’s website. The full document is 25 pages and includes nine appendices which flesh out many of the specific points found above.


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33 thoughts on “A Theology of Worship”

  1. Neville Briggs says:

    Mr De Young starts off so well, saying that worship is to be all of life and then immediately heads off to write an article devoted to activities that take place inside a building on one day of the week.
    Isn’t this sort of focus playing right into the thinking of the world, the world that wants Christianity to be a private hobby, practiced in a private room or hall that must never be allowed to escape out into the community and upset the landscape.
    What does God think of worship “services”, the prophet Isaiah gives God’s word to Israel;

    “When you come to appear before me, who asked this from your hand.
    Trample my courts no more, bringing offerings is futile.
    incense is an abomination to me.
    New moons and Sabbath and calling of convocations
    I cannot endure, solemn assemblies with iniquity,
    your new moons and appointed festivals my soul hates;
    they have become a burden to me, I am weary of bearing them.
    When you stretch out your hands I will hide my eyes from you;
    even though you make many prayers I will not listen; your hands are full of blood.
    Wash yourselves and make yourselves clean;
    remove the evil of your doings before my eyes;
    cease to do evil, learn to do good;
    seek justice, rescue the oppressed,
    defend the orphan, plead for the widow. ”

    I don’t suggest that the University church is full of dirty killers, but we can see what God’s priories are in worship. God doesn’t seem to be interested in creeds, confessions or guitars being out of tune but how His people are going to live their lives displaying His redemption and reconciliation to all the world, not just in a safe and comfortable place where there is approval and maybe even admiration from those who look like us.
    Yes, the NT shows that gathering of Christians is important in some way.

    Mr De Young thinks it is a privilege to have visitors in the building, some of whom are not believers. Outside of the building are millions of people who are not believers, the privilege of worshipping God by meeting with them and bringing God to them is available any day of the week, any time.

    Unlike Mohammed, Jesus never have any instructions for how liturgy or convocation was to be done. Jesus gave a lot of instruction about how the whole of life was an act of worship to God.

    I say all this because the other day I was in a place where I remember attending a service years ago and there is still the big building with comfortable seating. They once had a great choir, fine musicians, well trained talented preachers and ordered sophisticated routines for liturgy and church activities.. To-day the place has just a handful of old people who will die out soon and the place will be empty. And it appears that that will make no difference to the local community at large.

  2. It is interesting to note that the single comment so far….on this article on worshiping God highlights the main problem with its emphasis. That is we have to go to the temple to really worship God following a formulae. As Neville clearly outlines the main point of our calling to follow Christ is leave behind the 4 walls and a roof tradition and go out into all the world as Christs disciples……which has been missed by Kevin’s article. According to recent research in the US, of the 210 million adults in the United States, 65 million of them used to attend church regularly but no longer do, and 2.7 million more leave every year. One wonders what the reason is for that? Some might say it’s the great falling away predicted in the last days, to me it seems more likely the great calling away! Often persecution in the past to this very day in many countries, scatters Christians away from the temple into the world. However, I suspect the reason why so many are leaving the institutional church today in the west is disillusionment with the temple model and a drive to find their first love that is Jesus Christ and the real calling on their life which is sharing Gods grace to the world as ministers of reconciliation. Yes we do need to gather together as the ecclesia but that can be in a hall or in a house or under a tree, sharing our journey with Christ with other believers. Thus we must always look to the evidence before our eyes, the temple Neville referred to was once full with people but now is almost empty. 65 million US Christians leaving the established church is a indictment on man created traditional religion. I live in Australia and the same proportional exodus is happening here, so the great calling away is well underway

  3. anaquaduck says:

    I love the way orchestral sounds come together to make a unified sound & dialouge, so much better & fuller than a clanging cymbal out of harmony.

    No where in Scripture does God call his people away from His people as if we are not to be a community whether its the Old or the New & how things will be in REVas KDY points out. I suppose that is the difference between a trained teacher & bloggers who may lack discernment when it comes to Scriptural context.

    Worshiping in a building is consistant with the life of Jesus, especially inside on those cold & bitter days of winter or the stinking hot ones of summer. How the psalmist loved to gather with God’s community & bring praise, worship & offerings, partake in the supper etc. even a place for the sparrow.

    I dont see how measuring things with our eyes or focusing on people who have left a church community has any substance when many gather in God’s holy name. People have done as they pleased in ages past but that is not Theology is it. Satan could be just as much behind it as God if we are to judge with our eyes.

    To close your eyes to public worship is to close your eyes to so much of Scripture depriving yourself of spiritual gifts that God has placed in the lives of His children. But I have seen cars struggling up the road not running on all cylinders, people trying to drive on a rim with no rubber scarring the surface of the road.

  4. anaquaduck no where did I say we had to neglect the gathering or worship of God. Its about the reason we are actually here, The entire ficus of the newtestiment is following Chrsit outwards not inwards and the the traditions of men. In relation to the millions of beleivers leaving the church, I guess ti will come down to very empty CHurchs befroe some will change their focus. Paul calls us to discern with our minds or understand, and by their fruit you show know them. Lets look at who is fullfilling the great commission and then decide shall we.

  5. I would also like to point out I am a Chaplain and I have no trouble is desscerning scripture, so that is not the issue at hand…. its 2000 years of tradition of men verses what we are called to do ie love CHrist and follow him just the way he did with the gentiles.

  6. Neville Briggs says:

    For anaquaduck. It is not a matter of not being a community. It’s about the paradigm or world view of church and worship. When Jesus spoke with the woman at the well, her world view was about the “right” building and ritual ( her question sounds a bit like denominationalism ) Jesus immediately steered her off to God’s perspective of worshippers worshipping in spirit and truth, not about correct ritual or dedicated place .
    In the years that I have been attending the church meetings, it just seems to have become a sort of theatre, concentrating on music, clever sermonising and ritual action. There is some sense of community but that is secondary to the structure of the so called ” service “. Mr. De Young’s idea is a very polished and structured notion of serving God in a collective formality, but is that enough ?.
    I think it is very instructive that in scripture God’s direct voice from the prophets tells us that God is unimpressed by set ritual and never wanted the temple. God did want the tabernacle because that was mobile, it could move all around the countryside., the temple stayed in one place. The message seems to be that God does not want to be worshipped in a set place, He is too big for that,. Worship of God takes place everywhere. The seraphim that Isaiah saw in his vision cried ” Holy. Holy, Holy is the Lords of hosts, THE WHOLE EARTH is full of His glory ”

    I think that we could reflect on the fact that the temple in Jerusalem has been desolate for 2000 years, and God has permitted the Muslims to dominate the site so that no chance of a reconstruction is possible.
    No doubt God has brought blessing from the familiar structure of the traditional church ” worship” but that doesn’t mean that there is a way that accords more closely with God’s desire for church ( ecclesia ) life.

    Let’s not allow the theatre to set the pattern for worship, let’s look to Jesus, the man who engaged with the community and not only that but the outcasts, the sick and the needy. James tells us that is true religion if we want to be religious. .

    By the way, the first martyr, Stephen, was murdered when he declared that God does not live in buildings made by men. His killers were serving the edifice and the liturgy in defiance of the Holy Spirit.

  7. anaquaduck says:

    Hi Grahame:

    The great commission is a wonderful place to start & from what I see Reformed churches are very much into teaching __all__ of God’s Word but as KDY post begins…

    “The only question is whether we will worship the right One in the right way.”

    Yes there are different kinds of worship…personal & private & then there is corporate worship, which is identified time & again throughout the OT & NT & we are given a glimpse from Rev.Corporate praise & worship from every nation.

    God mercifully gives us teachers, leaders, people with admin gifts, others good at showing mercy & compassion, musical ability etc…so that we may come together as one just like a living body with christ as the head.

    It was actually God who insitigated the tabernacle then the temple then Jews & Gentiles in Christ coming together as one in the NT church. Paul encourages the church to meet together with order, structure & gifts or callings.

    Why you have something against something that is biblical & God honouring is beyond me, why you would call it tradition is a deception as much as a false accusation.

    You make it sound like an evangelism contest more than God bringing a people together living in a community of grace, praise & worship.

  8. anaquaduck says:

    Hi Neville,

    Yes the building can become an idol just as much as an order of service & equally they can become just as they are intended, functional & bringing glory to God. This would also be the case for those that adopt their own formula for a modern church that shuns corporate gatherings.

    Not sure where you are getting your info regarding Jerusalem but there are various Christian churches there, one with an Arab Christian minister with a Jewish Christian congregation & as you point out buildings are no more or no less a measure when it comes to wether God is at work or not.

    Regarding Acts & the early NT church lets also remember Ananias & Sapphira who held back on God just as much as Stephen. But that is hardly an argument against corporate worship built on the solid rock of Scripture.Especially when so much of Scripture old & new is filled with worshiping God in such a way.

    God is not against buildings or order or larger gatherings, Scripture tells us as much. God is into leaders & pouring out gifts, He is into following also, but as Kevin points out, we need to or should get it right. I think he has done a good job at pointing out the wonderful things that can be accomplished with God’s blessing & direction.

  9. For anaquaduck….Well I spent 35 years in leadership in the traditional NT church, as Senior Lay Pastor, Pastoral Overseer and manager of various ministries including worship. All mostly inward looking> Very few people came to know Christ from them. nOw as a Chaplain I minister to gentiles and get to see them coming to Christ. So I have an issue with the second centry onwards Roman constructed church system which birthed todays institutional church system. If you trace it back through history 1st century church was nothing like todays. Pauls letter to Corinthians was to a church in error hence the instruction. Again that church is not like todays. The church is flesh and blood and we are the temple of the Holy Spirit so we can meet any place and it will still be the church. Hope this clarifies things. In the end the last days will sort it all out.

  10. A. Amos Love says:

    anaquaduck

    I’d like to offer an alternative when you write…
    “God is into leaders…”

    I’m thinking…
    God is into “Servants.”

    Seems Jesus, God, has a unique take on *Leaders* for His Disciples… “ONE”

    Jesus, even taught that His Disciples are NOT to be called “Leaders.”
    For you have “ONE” leader – the Christ. And the Greatest shall be your “Servant.”

    Mat 23:10-12 NASB – New American Standard Bible.
    Do NOT be called leaders; for “ONE” is your Leader, that is, Christ.
    But the greatest among you shall be your “Servant.”
    Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled;
    and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.

    Mat 23:10-12 TM – The Message.
    And don’t let people maneuver you into taking charge of them.
    There is only “ONE” Life-Leader for you and them—Christ.
    **Do you want to stand out? – Then step down. – Be a servant.**
    If you puff yourself up, you’ll get the wind knocked out of you.
    But if you’re content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty.

    Jesus, God, instructed *His Disciples* NOT to be called *Leaders* and NONE did.

    Rom 1:1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ,
    Php 1:1 Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ,
    Col 4:12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ,
    Tit 1:1 Paul, a servant of God,
    Jas 1:1 James, a servant of God
    2Pe 1:1 Simon Peter, a servant

    If Jesus instructed *His Disciples* NOT to call them self “leader?”
    And someone calls them self a “leader?”
    Allows others to call them “leader?”

    Are they one of “His Disciples?” :-)

    Why isn’t what Jesus said important? ;-)

    And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold:
    them also I must bring, and they shall **hear MY voice;**
    and there shall be “ONE” fold, and “ONE” shepherd.
    John 10:16

    One Fold – One Shepherd – One Voice – One Leader

  11. anaquaduck says:

    Yes we can all pick our proof texts but God is still into leaders but also the other stuff I mentioned. Leaders need to be like servants but they are still called to lead.

    Heb 13:17 Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.

    “ ‘May another take his place of leadership.’ Acts 1:21 Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us,

    Now some may think 65 million cant be wrong but that pales into nothingness when it comes to God breathed Scripture.

    Of course there is the one true church(Eph 1) but the context of Kevin’s post regarding Theology & worship & the 10 points that he has elaborated on are a blessing & means of grace for one another as each person serves in their God given capacity. A visible reality of the power of God calling people out of darkness & into His marvelous light, living & worshiping in a community structured with the freedom & wisdom that only Christ can give.

  12. Neville Briggs says:

    Mr De Young holds that the central act of the corporate gathering is the preaching. The tradition of the clergy orator being the ” star of the show’ has been entrenched for years. It makes me wonder sometimes who is being worshipped in that sort of setting.

    Mr De Young also states that Christ is the new temple around which we gather. I wonder what scripture gives rise to this idea, especially when the apostle Paul tells his readers that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit.

    And if sitting on a rock hard seat, being unable to relate to another person except the droning sermoniser and singing songs almost bereft of any musical or lyrical value, is a sweet foretaste of heavenly worship in unending ages then I am really quite apprehensive about what is in store.
    Of course the Bible doesn’t say that, so I am sure that the new heaven and the new earth of God’s redeemed creation will be much more than what any controlling clergy system can depict.

  13. anaquaduck says:

    A brethren church we visited as a family had a time of open worship where a good number of men got up to offer words of encouragement or request a song but it still had a teaching component led by the minister, the sermon went on about the same time as a reformed service.

    In all of this people were relating to the star, the bright & morning star. So there was control or order as Paul says our coming together should bear witness to. 1 Cor 14. God is pleased to work in such environments & churches have comfortable seats, fans, heaters, air conditioners, creches, toilets, first aid, etc..

    Its such a pity that many dont get to witness God’s work in a church community, you seem to have lost sight of this & the sound of believers singing & making music to the Lord, some with great talent being put to good use just as God intended.

  14. For anaquaduck…I guess one of the mindsets Christians have to combat every day is the notion that God lives in a temple somewhere and we can only truly find Him if we get under 4 walls and a roof. Not that I want to take away from any God encounter people may have in a structured church system. I spent most of my life in church leadership and within 4 walls and a roof ethos, so I get what is being said by anaquaduck . However, scripture is very clear when 2 or more are gathered together in HIs name He is there with them. So the ecclesia can be 2 people or more. I agree with Neville each one of us is the temple of the Holy Spirit we don’t need to look any further, God the Holy Spirit or Christs spirit is within us and Christ is the word. I’ve been sermonised in church for 50 years, yes it did expand my bible knowledge however, what it didn’t do most of the time was convince me church is 7 days a week experience and the HS has a job for me to..ie….Jesus, people relationships! All the leadership did do was tell me and others to come back next Sunday…. or if you don’t you will eventually get visited to find out why you didn’t turn up at least 60% of the time…evidence you were a good believer apparently.
    The institutional church is dying in the western world “all denominations are loosing a lot of people” even Kevin De Young has stated that much. The solution in not attending a temple but gathering together to encounter Christ and support each other through word and deed. Break tradition and let Christ lead you each day into divine appointments, which will include Sunday gatherings where you build relationships and share His grace to others. If you are not sure about what I said ask yourself when was the last time I shared my faith (through word or deed) and when did I see someone come to Christ. If church is one day a week then you might be scratching to find examples. That was me till I got what was meant by Jesus, People, Relationships (both vertical (God) and horizontal (people)) ..
    In regards Heb 13:17 anaquaduck this passage has been misused a lot. “To use Heb 13:7 to justify obedience to leadership is incorrect. The word supposedly translated as “obey” in Hebrews 13:17 is in fact not the normal Greek word (hupa…kouo) that’s usually employed in the N.T. for obedience.
    Rather, it’s the word peitho. Importantly the word Peitho means to persuade or to win over. Furthermore in Hebrews 13:17 this word appears in the middle-passive form (ie it expresses the action of persuasion), so the text ought to be translated “Allow yourselves to be persuaded by your leaders.” So how does this help us in our daily choices and decision making re obedience and church membership. In essence this text appears to be an exhortation for us to give weight to the instruction of local overseers (and possibly apostolic workers). It’s not an exhortation to obey them mindlessly. It implies influential power to convince and to win us over rather than to coerce, force, or browbeat into submission. In the words of the Greek scholar W. E. Vine, “The obedience suggested [in Hebrews 13:17] is not by submission to authority, but resulting from persuasion.” Its important that you reflect on this concept as it makes a very big difference to your role in the ecclesia ie the gathering, which does not require worldly membership.
    The second part of this passage raises the issue of submission. In this case the verb translated as “submit” is traced back to the Greek word hupe…iko………. Hupe…iko in fact carries the idea of yielding, retiring, or withdrawing, ie like surrendering after battle (ie the battle to be persuaded or not). Let me say this again….this is our battle… in our hearts and minds led by God the Holy Spirit rightly dividing His word… ie to be persuaded or not… after a battle for our minds! Thus those who occupy themselves with spiritual oversight must not demand submission at all. It’s the believer’s job to decide whether to follow if they see a leader’s wisdom and spiritual maturity. If this is apparent then they are to be accorded with respect. In its out working Christians are encouraged to be uncommonly biased toward what a leader does and says if they reflect Christ. It’s Not because of an external office they hold, but because of their godly character, spiritual stature, and sacrificial service to the people of God.
    In summary therefore….. The words of Hebrews 13:7 echo a very powerful and important thread which supports the Greek translation which I have alluded to…. ie believers are to “imitate a leader’s faith” as they “consider the outcome of their life”…. but the condition is this….only if you have been persuaded.

  15. Randy Buist says:

    3 brief thoughts:
    1 – “There is nothing more important in life than worship.” Reformed pastors often claim this, but there is little biblical evidence that worship needs to happen on Sunday. Recall what the prophet Micah says is required of God followers, and you don’t hear the answer Kevin suggests. ‘To do justice. To love mercy. To walk humbly with your God.’ This is what is required of God’s people.

    2 – There is no mention of communion, or the Eucharist as many call it, here. How does a pastor forget mentioning the sacraments within the context of defining worship? Mind blowing omission here.

    3 – Nothing like a pastor who loves to stand in front of people telling these same people that they need to sit in front of him on Sunday. If this isn’t narcissistic, I don’t know what is. This is the kind of crap that keeps people leaving the doors of the church.

  16. Neville Briggs says:

    I saw with some dismay that Mr De Young’s article on worship is actually part of a document that has 25 pages and 9 appendices. That cannot be serious !!!!
    The Rabbis made 39 categories of what was unlawful work on the Sabbath and we know how Jesus confronted them, and we know what He thought of people turning God’s requirements into volumes of traditional theology.

    I have this awful sinking feeling about how the Lord might deal with those who burden his people with pages and pages and appendices of theology to exercise control over their simple acts of faith.

  17. After reading Nevilles comment re the 25 page instruction on church worship by Kevin, I noticed at least one reoccurring theme… my way brings freedom of worship. Its amazing to read the so many rules you need to follow to find that freedom. After reading it I felt no freedom at all, just burden for those who may follow it. The best worship we can give to God is be a hearer and a doer of His word…..emphasis on the doing, otherwise u just become a hearer. Now what might be the doing I wonder, help the sick, heal the blind (spiritually), help widows and orphans, provide light and hope to broken families, set the captives free, have mercy on the poor and infirm and build relationships with people as Christ did. Now that is the best worship we can do……..singing praises to God while we do it as led by God the Holy Spirit.

  18. A. Amos Love says:

    anaquaduck

    Thanks for mentioing Heb 13:17.
    And, Grahame, I agree, “this passage has been misused a lot.”
    And, I agree with questioning, ”obey,” pietho.

    The Greek word for “Obey” in Heb 13:17, is the root word for faith, “pistis.”
    It is Strongs #3982 peitho – pi’-tho and is translated in the KJV as
    KJV – persuade 22, trust 8, obey 7, have confidence 6, believe 3,

    The very next verse, Heb 13:18, uses #3982 peitho also.
    Only this time it is NOT obey. The word is TRUST.

    Heb 13:18
    Pray for us: for we *TRUST* we have a good conscience,
    in all things willing to live honestly.

    Paul uses #3982 peitho, here in, Gal 5:10.
    I have *confidence* in you through the Lord.

    Paul also uses #3982 *peitho, many times as *persuade, here…
    Rom 8:38 For I am *persuaded that neither death, nor life…
    Rom 14:14 I know, and am *persuaded by the Lord Jesus…
    Rom 15:14 And I myself also am *persuaded of you, my brethren…
    Gal 1:10 For do I now *persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men?

    Maybe WE, His Ekklesia, His Sheep, need to go to God and ask Him what
    He really means here in Heb 13:17, for “Obey.” ;-)

    Maybe this can help others who have suffered thru this “Abuse,” of Heb 13:17.

  19. anaquaduck says:

    I am happy that God provides leaders that are to give account, as I have said earlier God is into leadership.

    Eph 4:9-12.What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions?
    He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.
    So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.

    In terms of corporate worship I can say over & over that God builds up His people in this way, I can also say how it is such a pity that people deprive themselves of meeting together.

    Heb 13:7 Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.

    I have no problem with the passages provided, they surely make clear that God is into leadership & that it is a blessing for Christ’s church. Paul a leader also who emphasised his leadership & authority at times to protect the wandering & the obedient. God is good & pastors that point us to Christ & give God the glory are worthy of honour along with elders.

    1Tim 5:17 The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.

    I realise pastors are not perfect, I realise that they can be challenged & some fall into serious sin at times but even so, worship services are all about God & what He has done, the biggest & best story ever.

  20. Neville Briggs says:

    Well said anaquaduck, that is the issue
    ” Worship services are all about God & what he has done ”

    The De Young article above assumes that to be intrinsically true every time and you apparently assume that to be true, and defend anything done in the established procedure as having divine approval.
    Isaiah’s message to Israel that I quoted earlier shows that that assumption is not necessarily valid. Not only did God not approve their worship services but He hated them. Jesus Himself challenged such assumptions about worship , He said that not everyone that calls HIm ” Lord, Lord ” will enter the Kingdom of Heaven but those who do His will.
    I think that this is why the issue of falling church membership has been brought up above in comments, a church apparently going backwards should call into question whether the supposed proper practice of “doing church” is indeed in God’s will.
    The word ” worship ” as you may know comes from the construction ” worth-ship ” . So what do we consider of Godly worth……. building up and encouraging God’s people in the freedom promised by Christ or maintaining a proud heritage of forms and appearances and making God’s people prisoners of conformity.

  21. anaquaduck says:

    Well I am happy to let God be the judge of a worship service. Both the pharisee & the tax collector went to worship according to Jesus & the passage in Isaiah is for all of us, not just people who meet corporateley in God’s name.

    It is Christ’s church after all as KDY rightly points out.

  22. Blindsey says:

    I loved everything about this article! Thank you Kevin for your leadership, boldness and service to Christ….. God is great in you!

  23. A. Amos Love says:

    anaquaduck

    Seems, today, we see things a little differently.
    I understand your position, I was ordained, in leadership.
    And agreed in the past with much of what you say. But NOT so today.

    Everyone knows “Today’s Religious System” is broken. Folks are leaving in droves.
    Many are pointing at “abusive pastor/leaders,” “un-qualified pastor/leaders,” as a main problem.

    Don’t you think those who call them self “leaders” have some responsibility for this exodus?
    If these elders were Ruling Well… 1 Tim 5:17 KJV, would folks be leaving?

    It was after I left “The Corrupt Religious System” of today, tore up my papers, and walked away from “Church Leadership,” that I realized Isaiah, had prophesied about my “Leadership skills.” And the “Leadership skills” of the rest of todays “Church Leaders.” No really… ;-)

    Isa 3:12 KJV
    …O my people, *they which lead thee* cause thee to err,
    and destroy the way of thy paths.

    Isa 9:16 KJV
    For *the leaders* of this people cause them to err;
    and they that are led of them are destroyed.

    Some legacy todays “Church Leaders” are creating for themselves…

    Hmmm? Is “church leaders” a term found in the Bible?
    NO??? oh well…

    I’m in agreement with King David…

    The Lord is my Shepherd. :-)

    {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

  24. A. Amos Love says:

    anaquaduck

    You write @ October 25, 2015 at 4:29 pm…
    “I realise pastors are not perfect…”

    Doesn’t seem to be a whole lot about today’s pastors in the NT.
    And even less about what pastors get “paid” to do today.

    In the Bible…
    Did any of His Disciples ever call them self, pastor/leader? shepherd/leader?
    Did any of His Disciples ever take the “Title/Position,” pastor/leader? shepherd/leader?

    Did any of His Disciples ever become…
    Paid, Professional, Pastors, in Pulpits, Preaching, to People, in Pews?

    Hmmm? What did His Disciples know 2000 years ago?
    That those, in “Today’s Religious System,” who take the “job” of pastor, miss today?
    ———-

    Seems, in the Bible,
    The only “ONE” who called them self, “Shepherd/Leader”
    The only “ONE” who had the “Title/Position,” “Shepherd/Leader” – IS…

    {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

    Jer 50:6
    “My people” hath been “lost sheep:”
    **THEIR shepherds** have caused them to *go astray,*

    1 Pet 2:25
    For ye were as *sheep going astray;*
    BUT are now returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.

    {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

  25. anaquaduck says:

    Hi A,Amos Love,

    I am no pastor or leader as such but I have a bit to do with the songs in worship. I have aslo shared frustration & disappointment with leaders as they have with me at times but that doesnt rule my life, that would be Jesus who gives me grace in the ups & downs of life.

    Sure there are problems in churches & people leave for various reasons but that doesnt change Scripture or automatically lump worship services, local church bodies or leaders as a kind of quick sand.

    KDY’s post is not saying its pastors that save, far from it, worship services are all about Jesus, (1 Cor 3:7. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow,) & the various ways in which a local body lifts up the name of Jesus.

    There were wicked & good Kings in Israel also, David (who also fell into sin) being one. God didnt want Kings to rule the nation in the first place. Does that make Kingly rule bad…not at all. God blessed His people through good leadership & so He does today. But subjects & citizens must also accept responsability & do their bit.

    Many left Jesus also…”HOW ABOUT THAT”….must have been Jesus fault for not being a good enough or sensetive enough or humble enough leader ?

    1 Tim 5:18 For Scripture says, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “Workers deserve their wages.”

    Leaders & structure is part of the NT church in Scripture & Jeremiah had a difficult task as Israel went into exile & it wasnt the structure of the worship service that was the problem. That structure was pointing people to Jesus but the people became trapped by the deception that was happening around them as they mixed & muddied it up. Time & time again God warned & warned about the decietfulness of sin.

    Lots of religious sytems are broken but there are faithful churches out there that bring glory to God, those churches have ministers & elders that lead in various ways but they also recognise Jesus as their prophet, priest & king. And that is what can & does make a worship service great, not a concert, but a place of prayer & confession & praise as we connect corporatley with the God who made the heavens & the earth as they worship in Spirit & in truth.

    Local churches in many ways hold out the word of truth which is mighty to save, in word & deed & faith they walk with their saviour in sweet communion, imperfect but nonetheless loved, now & for all eternity.

  26. Neville Briggs says:

    Amos Love has brought up a very relevant point. That of responsibility.
    If the church clergy are going to insist on being obeyed and followed as a leadership, then they must bear the responsibility of the state of things in the church.
    It won’t do to bring up the issue of people turning away from Jesus That was not an issue of His leadership, read John ch6 . And note that with Jesus it was a person that people abandoned, in the case of the contemporary church it is a not a person but a system that people leave behind. And further the comparison fails because people did NOT leave Jesus because He was found to be using them as cash cows to finance His grand schemes, or that His disciples were paedophiles or because Jesus was keen to talk in front of an audience but had no time to listen or converse informally with the “laity”.

    The verse about the worker deserving his wages is the standard cherry picked to justify the vested interests of the clergy system. It might be noted that the context of this verse is that Paul explains his right to claim wages but instead does the job for free in case the issue of money becomes an obstacle to his ministry.
    Further if we want to argue that workers in the church deserve payment then why does not every person who performs a task get paid. Why is it mainly only the clergyperson who gets paid, while usually others are expected to be volunteers?

    No doubt there are dedicated people who really believe in the value of the traditional so-called worship service and no doubt God can graciously bring blessing from a flawed system. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t question assumptions. The Bible says that God does not change but the Bible doesn’t say that God won’t change arrangements.

  27. It seems to me Amos Love and Neville have hit the nail on the head. If you become a student of history you can trace back the clergy system we have in the western world to post William Tyndale’s bible translated from Greek/German to English. King James didn’t like the translation as it had a flat structure of leadership in it. i.e. Jesus as the King and any other positions were functional. So he commanded his style of leadership to be placed in the King James version which contained 85% of Tyndale’s translation which ensured he was the head of the church and priests were paid and priests led the church under his control. Tithes paid the priests. What’s changed today? Not much except of the millions of believers abandoning this system. I’m sure if the flat structure had been left untouched then our worship service would be very different today in the gathering as the emphasis of worship would be more focused on Jesus Christ, doing God’s word not just hearing and singing. None of this exodus should be a surprise the great evangelist Billy Graham prophesised this would happen in 1965 if the institutional church didn’t change. Well it didn’t and millions are leaving and worshiping God in other ways. It’s a good thing denominations will shrink and the church of Jesus Christ will expand.

  28. A. Amos Love says:

    anaquaduck

    Love these lines…
    “…that would be Jesus who gives me grace in the ups & downs of life.”

    “That structure was pointing people to Jesus but the people became trapped by the deception…”

    “…they also recognise Jesus as their prophet, priest & king.”

    ———-

    I appreciate your passion for the things of God.
    And your respectful conversation.

    ———–

    Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another:
    and the LORD hearkened, and heard it,
    and a book of remembrance was written before him
    for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name.
    Malachi 3:16 KJV

  29. anaquaduck says:

    A. Amos Love
    Thanks for the challenging discussion/debate also.
    Found this article yesterday which addresses or connects the dots for me.
    I like a lot more than God/religion & the Bible can seem maze like at times but so is life & relationships & working on cars. Theology is a good tool for understanding God & his Word.

    https://timmybrister.com/2012/11/tim-keller-on-every-believer-as-prophet-priest-and-king/

  30. A. Amos Love says:

    anaquaduck

    Thanks for the link to Tim Keller. Yes – WE, His Disciples are Prophets, Priests, and Kings.

    But, I am NO fan of, the “Leadership” of “Doctor Tim Keller Senior Pastor,” the little I know of him.

    Keller might be a nice guy. Might even be saved. And he is just doing the best he knows how. I have a problem with “The Corrupt Religious System” “Doctor Tim Keller Senior Pastor,” adheres to. And then, how he operates within that system. Saying one thing, doing another. Mat 23:3.

    Saying the Bible is the inerrant word of God. Then using many terms, titles, positions…
    NOT found for one of His Disciples in the Bible. (Any Doctors, Senior Pastors, in the Bible?)
    And “Ignoring” verses that do NOT suit him.

    Church Leader, “Doctor Tim Keller Senior Pastor,” is another reason – A big reason…
    I NO longer trust those Mere Fallible Humans with the “Title/Postion” – pastor/leader/reverend.

    “Doctor Tim Keller Senior Pastor,” claims to be, Complimantarian.
    (Like his TGC friends.) NO females in Leadership positions.

    Did you know, “Redeemer” pastored by “Doctor Tim Keller Senior Pastor,” has Female Deacons?

    But, Dr. Tim Keller Senior Pastor, does NOT “ordain” them.- NO, NO, he commissions them…
    Seems Kellers Denomination, R.P.C.E.S., says NO to women deacons.
    So, Instead, Keller calls them, “unordained, commissioned deaconesses.” – I kid you NOT. ;-)

    And here Keller uses the infamous word “Biblical” to make it sound okay. ;-)

    Keller says – “There are several good **biblical** reasons
    for having *commissioned deaconesses* in a congregation.”

    Now, can anyone find, “unordained, commissioned deaconesses,” in the Bible???
    How can *unordained, commissioned deaconesses* be “Biblical?” If it’s NOT in the Bible?

    Simple, Church Leader, Dr. Tim Keller calls himself Senior Pastor. Nuff said.
    He’s the top dog. He says “Obey.” And “his” people, “obey and submit,” to him…
    “His” people submit to “his” authority, his leadership, his celebrity. Like they are taught.

    Keller’s reasoning for “commissioned deaconesses” being “Biblical” is…
    He says deacons are servants – NOT leadership – NOT judicial authority.

    Keller says – “However, I believe—like the RPCNA—that biblically,
    Deacons are appointed to service, not to juridical authority.”
    ““the office of deacon as a calling to service, not rule?”

    But, In the Bible, the very words Calvinists, Comps, use to disqualify women elders…
    Is “Ignored,” by Church Leader, “Dr. Tim Keller, Keller Senior Pastor.”

    1 Tim 3:12 KJV
    Let the deacons be **the husbands of one wife,**
    ruling (managing) their children and their own houses well.

    If anyone cares – they can read about it here…
    Be warned – Lots of double talk – and triple talk – to make this sound “Biblical.” :-(

    http://byfaithonline.com/the-case-for-commissioning-not-ordaining-deaconesses/

    NO – I’m NO fan of Church Leader, “Doctor Tim Keller Senior Pastor.”
    (Anyone with the ‘Title” Doctor, or the “Title” Senior Pastor, in the Bible?)

  31. Eric F says:

    “We want to learn from our spiritual ancestors and build on their models.”
    Isaiah 29:13
    Then the Lord said,
    “Because this people draw near with their fnwords
    And honor Me with their fnlip service,
    But they remove their hearts far from Me,
    And their fnreverence for Me fnconsists of fntradition learned by rote,

    – So the Lord is not interested in people worshiping in accordance with tradition – why did you say the opposite?

    “Undistracting Excellence”….

    So a wrong note distracts from the excellence of God?

    [1Co 13:1 NASB] If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

    So the scripture means that men while making beautiful respectful music or speaking perfect theology are actually making a very loud distracting noise with their flesh because of a lack of love.

    If you are not gracious to those singing and able to ignore their screeching or alternatively able to ignore their big production, then the noise will issue from your own heart…not from them.

    So we should be careful not to make noise with our own lack of love….Why try to restrain the performance of others when it is our own hearts that are the problem?

  32. Cody says:

    Hey, Randy Buist, if you’re still out there. I thought you strongly disliked Kevin DeYoung’s writings. Why would you want to read his blog? Wouldn’t that be kind of a waste of time?

  33. Andrew Dircks says:

    1. If we want a biblical theology of worship, then take seriously what the Bible actually says, and does not say, about “worship”:
    – The New Testament never (yes, never) associates “worship” with what we do in church.
    – The New Testament sees Old Testament Temple worship (God-instructed priestly actions, offerings, sacrifices ) completely fulfilled in Christ, the perfect High Priest and the perfect Sacrifice. If as evangelicals we don’t call our pastors “priests”, then for exactly the same reason we should not call our church gatherings “worship”.
    – Throughout the Bible, consistently, “worship” is always actions, in contrast to “praise” which is words. Worship is the actions we do to express and live out our conviction that God is God, that Jesus is Lord.
    – The New Testament consistently transfers “worship” concepts to how Christians live in the world (God-instructed living for Jesus 24/7).
    So try writing a theology of worship that never mentions what we do in church, and you’ll be a lot closer to the (biblical) truth.
    2. And if we want our church gatherings to be biblical, then look carefully in the New Testament for all the instructions and inferences about church gatherings:
    – The New Testament never offers “worship” as a paradigm or reference concept for thinking about what we’re doing in church.
    – The New Testament gives us plenty of instructions and hints about what we should do in our gatherings e.g. Acts 2:42-47 “apostles’ teaching, fellowship, breaking bread, prayers” and “praising God” (note the important distinction above between “worship” and “praise”, and in the letters, e.g. Col 3:16, 1 Cor 14 etc., but never in any of these contexts is “worship” invoked.
    – The New Testament often gives statements about the purposes of our gatherings (e.g. Hebrews 10:24-25, Ephesians 4 “builds itself up in love”, but never offers “worship” as a purpose.
    So try writing a biblical theology of our Christian gatherings that never mentions the word “worship” and you’ll be a lot closer to the biblical truth.

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Kevin DeYoung


Kevin DeYoung is senior pastor of University Reformed Church (PCA) in East Lansing, Michigan, near Michigan State University. He and his wife Trisha have six young children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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