"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

Worship As a Way of Life Rather than a Rule of Law

Anytime someone gives nearly six decades of their lives to vocational Christian ministry, there is an expertise that comes from both age and experience. Paul Burleson has been the pastor of small churches as well as some of the largest and fastest growing churches in the United States. He's an expert on true Kingdom ministry - he'd never say that, but I do! He writes imminently practical articles on the Christian life at his blog entitled VTMBOTTOMLINE (VTM is an abbreviation for Vital Truth Ministries)

Today my father posted an article entitled What I'm Thinking about Worship.  There's little I could add to the article. For anyone who has ever wondered what the Bible says about Christians gathering "corporately" (that means all together) and what "worship" should look like, you need to read this article - because it removes the word should from the Christians vocabulary when it comes to corporate worship. Enough said - just read:


What I'm Thinking about Worship
Paul Burleson

I'M THINKING____There is not A SINGLE verse in the New Testament that even hints that the PURPOSE of the gathering of the church is for worship. The New Testament text shows that the purpose of the gathering is all of the "One Another" verses. In other words, it is for the horizontal relationships [plural] and NOT the vertical relationship [singular] that the Church gathers on any given occasion. I'm NOT saying to worship as a gathered congregation is WRONG. I'm just saying it is NOT the PRIMARY purpose for the gathered Body of Christ in the New Testament. I'm thinking that's where we are to be today as well. John Piper said this, "The very epistles that are written to help the church be what it ought to be in this age [are] almost totally devoid of…explicit teaching on the specifics of corporate worship" There are some things that I disagree with John Piper about theologically, but NOT this.

I'M THINKING____Many churches today may be reflecting an "Old Covenant" way of thinking about worship rather than a "New Covenant" way of thinking? To "go to" a place and "to do" certain things a certain way, misses the boat on worship entirely as seen in the New Testament. In the Old Testament people DID COME to the Tabernacle/Temple [House of God] to meet with and worship Jehovah a certain way. They did bring such things such as sacrifices and offerings all the while performing their rituals regularly that led eventually to the High Priest entering into His Presence in the Tabernacle or Temple on that one occasion called the Day of Atonement.

But to see the Church in the New Testament trying to gather IN THAT WAY would be missing the point of the CROSS. Jesus Christ IS HIMSELF our sacrifice, our offering, our feast days, our cleansing, our sanctification, and all the rest that's pictured in the Old Testament Tabernacle OR Temple. Jesus IS our very life! We live DAILY in the presence of God and are to worship DAILY the One Who indwells us by His Holy Spirit. Worship for us is a life of obedience as we're recognizing His presence and enjoying HIM as being our source for All OF LIFE. Then there is a gathering occasionally to encourage and provoke one another. [See Romans 12:1-2 and Hebrews 10:25]

I'M THINKING____A debate about “music in worship” is a bit silly, if not totally futile. From" no instruments" on one side of the argument [Church of Christ], to those who enjoy what SOME MIGHT CALL "entertainment,” [Lights and Sound, drums and guitars, such as we have in my church called HHBC] ] there is a raging debate going on about it all. But my question is WHY does the way someone musically worships matter to us AT ALL?

In the New Testament music itself is simply NOT addressed, except being seen as a result of the Holy Spirit doing His infilling work. But things like washing feet, serving in love, sharing the Lord's table, teaching the saints and praying for others are addressed as a congregation. We call them the "one-another" verses mentioned in the first paragraph. Even were one to hold to the Old Testament as an example for worship, [I don't, as you can tell] it needs to be remembered that the Israelites many times used drums, trumpet blasts, silence, repetitions, singing, shouting, and numerous other interesting displays to glorify God. Nothing calm, cool or collected about that.

I'M THINKING____Jesus REALLY DID mean something special when He announced that the day has come when those who worship will do so in Spirit and Truth? NO LONGER is worship to be based on doing it a certain way, a certain time or at a certain place. Nor is it supposed to be based on one generation’s “form” of musical worship compared to another. IT IS A WAY OF LIFE!

So, as I read someone say and I paraphrase, whether in a room alone, or with others shouting and jumping with joy, or sitting in silence, or clapping to an electronic synthesizer, or with an organ or piano singing hymns, or just being intoxicated by his love as the Song of Solomon describes it, or even further, when we are reading aloud the Word, or feeding the poor, proclaiming the Good News to the broken-hearted in His name, laughing together, or giving our finances, LET IT ALL BE DONE to the glory of Jesus. We worship because we are reveling in His Grace and enjoying Him and wish to celebrate His matchless GLORY [Greek "Doxa" meaning His "manifested Presence."] whether gathered or scattered!

I'M THINKING____Wade Burleson got it right when he said this...

""Worship in many churches is either on life support or is dead. But it has nothing to do with whether saints play guitars versus Steinway pianos, or videos versus violins, or any other differences in style. Though many call the disagreements over 'contemporary' and 'traditional' styles of worship 'wars,' in reality, the REAL war in worship is the "internal battle in me." [All of us!] God calls me to rest in Him, to enjoy Him, TO BE SO captivated and enraptured by His love and grace for me, that I will burst unless I actively worship God and give expression to what's happening in my soul."

Wade goes on to say...

"Worship is an inner [spiritual] health made audible. If there is no soul-tingling, mind-bending, emotion-touching, will-transforming enjoyment of God, then there is no soul-tingling, mind-bending, emotion-touching, will-transforming worship of God! Worship of God is non-existent when enjoyment of God is non-existent. Sure, I can sing songs, play music, and 'do church,' but if there is no understanding of what it means to be fully satisfied in God, then there will be no desire on my part to publicly express my praise and gratitude in real worship of God." [Privately OR Corporately!]

Paul here...

I'M THINKING____I'll just quit typing and have a moment of worship myself.



John said...

Great post! Just the other day, I saw a post on Facebook which stated, "Lets go to church today and show God we love Him." That just did not sit well with me and now Mr. Burleson's post really set it straight. I know about the passage which tells us not to forsake the assembling of ourselves, but as pointed out by Paul, that seems to be more for the one another concept.

Anonymous said...

"It's Shouting Time!"

Bob Cleveland said...

OUTSIDE THE CHURCH: We hear we're to bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord. That's a bit hard to do if you never praise the Lord outside the church. You can only bring what you have outside.

INSIDE THE CHURCH (building): Hebrews 10:24-25 says we're to gather together to prompt one another to love and good works. Seems like that's be a good time to praise and worship God .. for those, particularly, who haven't caught the "bug" outside, and also to teach and preach (prompting others to follow Jesus' teachings to that abundant life He offers), and to love on each other. If that's what the Bible gives as the reason we're to assemble, then leaving any of it out seems to be missing the mark.

Victorious said...

Wonderful...wonderful! Thank you Paul and Wade!

Christiane said...

I am all for the presence of JOY in worship, especially communal worship and one of my favorite days is October 3rd when the Church 'blesses the animals' . . . sometimes it's a simple affair in the parking lot where the animals are brought and blessed in the open air,
but I must admit I love to see the animals brought into the sanctuary in procession with music and flowers for their blessing . . . although sometimes, you have to ask 'who is blessing whom' on such an occasion. It is said to ask of the animals, and they will teach you of the beauty of the Earth.

"7"But now ask the beasts, and let them teach you; And the birds of the heavens, and let them tell you. 8"Or speak to the earth, and let it teach you; And let the fish of the sea declare to you. 9"Who among all these does not know That the Hand of the LORD has done this. . . " (from the Book of Job, Chapter 12)


The Indian tribes of the great northwest had a saying: 'if all the beasts should die, mankind would experience a great loneliness of the spirit'

JOY is a signature sign of the Presence of the Holy Spirit in worship. Celebration, thanksgiving, blessing . . . it's all good. :)

Aussie John said...


I can only repeat what I said to Paul: You and Paul are cooking with gas. I hope that means what it does in Australia.

Anonymous said...

Paul is spot on and is speaking against a mostly untested Christian subcultural assumption. Those assumptions are hard to challenge.

My Masters thesis was an exploration of the Greek term, proskuneo which is used and translated "worship" in most of the New Testament passages. I ultimately titled the thesis, "Proskuneo: A Term for a Lifestyle of Obedience" because it represents what Paul is expressing here. The concept of worship as a noun or adjective, eg, "Are you going to worship [services]" is really foreign to the Scriptures.

There are worshippers (noun) in the Scriptures but again this is about the people. The confusion and conflicts around worship 'styles' has gone from silly to absurd to beyond biblical simply because we have become focused on subjective preferences that are basically biblically indefensible.

If we are reveling in a lifestyle of obedience to the Father, our petty preferences fade away.

Chris Riley said...

I wonder (cause I don't know) if the purpose of the music in the early church was for teaching and memory training.