Foundations for Our Worship Together
Corporate worship is a gift from God that consistently calls a people prone to distorted, destructive worship of things other than God to re-orient themselves back to distinct, constructive worship of the Triune God alone (e.g. Exodus 5:1, 10:7-11; John 4, Hebrews 10:25, 1 Peter 2:9-10). Likewise, Scripture teaches that while expressions of salvation in Christ, such as affecting social renewal through word and mercy ministries, will one day cease, worship will remain forever (e.g. Revelation 21:1ff, 22:3)!
All of this is because of God alone.
Everything, including the opportunity and ability to worship, begins with God. Only because of what we receive from him may we worship. Only because he is seeking true worshipers may such a person exist. Only because of his grace (as opposed to human creativity or spiritual devotion) do we enter into true worship. If worship begins with anything else, it is no longer worship of the biblical God. Just as we must rely on the Spirit of God for our salvation (John 3) we must rely on God for the ability to worship in truth as by his grace he reveals himself to us through his Word.
Yet while worship is ultimately about God it is not only about God. The ultimate goal is certainly God’s glory, but the proximate goal is the good of God’s people. As we gather together, using the gifts the Spirit has provided, we build one another up as individuals and as a faith family (e.g. 1 Corinthians 14, Ephesians 5, Colossians 3). So what glorifies God and builds up his people? God-directed, gospel-centered, people edifying, worship.
Style of Our Worship Together
We believe God-directed, gospel-centered, people edifying, worship can be expressed through a variety of styles of worship. In fact, many of us have come from varying different styles of worship that we believe accomplished those goals! And so we, like so many others, run the risk of being divided over musical tastes and the “right” way to worship. While these risks are real and even daunting at times, we have chosen a ‘blended’ style for our worship service. This means we have a choir and a praise band; we have liturgies and spontaneous prayer; we wear suits and we wear jeans. Some important reasons for this choice are:
1) It helps us remember it is not our musical tastes that we worship, but Jesus, who perfects human endeavors to come and have fellowship with him and each other. The blended style helps us remember there is no “one, perfect way” to worship. Jesus bids us to come and worship him just as we are. This is because it is Jesus, not us, who perfects our services to be holy and pleasing to God. Every human expression, no matter how excellent, is fallible and partial to our own experiences.
2) The love of God compels us to seek unity. From the very beginning churches were divided over culture. We see this in Acts 6 where Luke records that Hellenistic Jews and Hebraic Jews vied for priority within the local church. We also see this in the book of Galatians, where Paul rebuked Judaizers for trying to convert Gentile believers into the norm of Jewish culture, not to the gospel of Jesus. Differing opinions are not new. From the 1st century onward, Christians had to, in faith, come to terms with those who have different cultural takes on things. This is precisely why Jesus prayed that our oneness with each other will be like that of Him and the Father (John 17:21). It is the will of our Lord Jesus that Christians seek unity through the gospel, in spite of our personal differences. This is especially true in how we worship. Blended services aim to draw us closer to that unity, not only with one another today, but with believers who have worshipped Jesus through the centuries.
3) Moments of discomfort cause us to stretch in our ability to love God and others. Jesus said “A new command I give you: Love one another.” (John 14:34). One cannot help but have preferences in worship styles (this is normal to the human experience and not a bad thing in itself). However, we must make room for, and also grow in, our ability to love and value those who don’t think, act, live, or worship just like us. How deep will our love for one another go? Will we die to our preferences to bring life to one another? Each blended service encourages us to extend love to those who prefer other styles. When it is hard, we remember that Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:35)