Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Worship: Foundational Principles and Fundamental Elements

Please begin this blog by watching the most recent VID_CAST. You can find it on the right hand side of the page there. It's the topmost one.

Let's cut right to the chase. I'd like to begin a conversation about corporate worship and I hope it will be very provocative. I will submit for your review two foundational principles of Christian corporate worship and then offer a few fundamental elements which spring from these. Feel free to accept, amend or reject these thoughts. I want to lay a good foundation for what's next.

Foundational Principles

Foundational Principle #1 - Revelation and Response
Worship is first and foremost the creature's response to his Creator.

Foundational Principle #2 - Corporate Celebration
Corporate worship is a communal activity that celebrates God's character and gracious acts toward mankind.

Fundamental Elements

Fundamental Element #1 - Theological Accuracy
Worship must remain faithful to Scriptural revelation and must not be vague or misleading

Fundamental Element #2 -
Proper Sentiment
Worship ought to be engaged by one's whole self: heart, soul, mind, and strength in Spirit and in Truth

Fundamental Element #3 -
Transcendent Relevance
Corporate worship must be universal enough to be accessible to all worshipers from every tribe and time.

Fundamental Element #4 - Creative Excellence
Corporate worship of the Creator by creative beings must reflect an attitude of the first fruits.

Have I left anything out? Did I say something heretical or silly? What do you think?


Anonymous said...

What about sorrow? Is there a place for (godly) grief - for one's sins, for Christ's death - in worship?

Jennifer said...

Worship is response, in many varied forms.

William said...

Anything as long as God gets the glory right? Is that worship?

Zack said...

I think many think about worship a lot without doing worship enough.

NIck said...

In response to Fundamental Element #3 - Transcendent Relevance -
How is that even possible since what speaks to me might not speak to aboriginees or the other way around?

ben said...

FE#4 - Creative excellence - What if I'm not creative? is my worship not as good?

Jonathan Vowell said...

Just some thoughts:

Ben: Josh said that creative excellence means giving the "first fruits," i.e., your best. Your best may vary by degrees in regards to the "best" of others, but it must still be your best. YOUR best, but still your BEST, if that helps.

Seth: I agree (and I think Josh would too). Sorrow (i.e., godly grief) does and should have a place in worship (I believe plenty of the Psalms were laments, and of course there is the Book of Lamentations).

Nick: Different words, symbols, images, and metaphors are always going to be a factor across cultural lines, but the important things is that all of our words, symbols, images, and metaphors are informed by the transcendent and eternal qualities of God. We can speak the same things without saying the same things. Hope that helps.

Josiah said...

I think God can glorify Himself through anyone and through anything, but not everyone or everything chooses to glorify God. Lame example: I went to a Dave Mathews concert and found myself glorifying God for the creation of music, for the incredible human potential as evidenced in these musicians' instrumental mastery. It drove me to worship Him as the only True Original Creative Being from whom every good gift comes. I wondered in amazment at how God could use a Dave Mathews concert to glorify Himself in me - regardless of the band's purpose or intent.

And then someone spilled beer on my arm.

Caleb said...

I think that these are great principles and elements. I, as an obnoxious Wesley Anglican, would push to include the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, the principles of

Scripture - the Holy Bible (Old
and New Testaments)

Tradition - the two millennia history of the Christian Church

Reason - rational thinking and sensible interpretation

Experience - a Christian's personal and communal journey in Christ as well as the revelation of the Spirit from the Father through the Son

It seems that our worship is hollow until we engage in these four things.

I also want to bring into focus something I heard form an anglican priest in Kentucky. He explained that corporate worship in the Anglican and Orthodox traditions were intended to be based on what he called the three P's. They are as follows:

it is a physical action as well as an inward AND outward response that brings glory, joy, and honor to the father. In the same way a symphony is led in performance, so too does a pastor or priest lead his congregation in a performance for the Lord. Nothing more.

I covered some of this, but participation is simply the response to revelation that Josh talked about. Its the collective body joining in the great story that has been sung since the dawn of time. The story of the marriage of heaven and earth and the way we screwed up that dance. Its the story of Abraham, Isaac, Elijiah, and David. It is the story that climaxed in the life, death, and resurrection of a man from Nazareth, where nothing good had ever come from, named Jesus. It is that story that we get to physically and mysteriously join into. It is the movement and the joining in of eternity!! (Sorry I get really excited about the eternal)

Speaking of Eternal, corporate worship is meant to give a picture of the church both Universal (every tribe and every nation) and the church everlasting (saints who have gone ahead of us as well as those who have not yet been made). It is a miraculous rip in time that brings us into the throne room! Literally! Christ died so that we can join in with heaven here on earth!!

People die spiritually and emotionally without community, it's a simple fact. The church dies without itself...

Joshua Andrew Smith said...

Good content, but doesn't it all fit underneath the banners I've set? Does anything amend or contradict what has already been said, or was it just supportive info or another way to say it?

Caleb said...

It amended it... while your elements and principles are fully accurate in my mind, they paint a more singular view of corporate worship in which the individual being AROUND other believers is the focus rather than the individual being a critical and irreplaceable element within the church that is as dependent upon the people around them as they are of the individual. Ultimately it is ALL of the created responding to the revelation of the creator, not just that that was revealed in a particular Sunday morning worship service, quiet time, prayer walk, etc. but that that has been revealed throughout the ages....

elvis said...

A conversation about worship is incomplete without mention of sacrifice. Sacrifice is clearly established in Scripture as a pillar of individual worship. In Scripture’s first mention of worship, Abraham makes preparations to sacrifice his son Isaac. Christ sacrifices himself in the greatest act worshipful obedience. Paul urges the Romans to offer their bodies as living sacrifices, defining this to be their spiritual act of worship. What does sacrifice (within the framework of worship) look like for the body of Christ?

Also, I would like to challenge your word choice in Fundamental Element #2: Proper Sentiment. This phrasing seems to imply that there is one proper emotional state which functions as the gateway to worship. Personally, I have experienced joy, suffering, peace, apathy, and grief as catalysts of a deeply powerful personal worship experience. Similarly, I think that a gathering of believers can be led humbly, honestly, and wholly into worship by a number of sentiments: fear regarding a catastrophe, sorrow upon receiving news of great loss, delight at experiencing God’s provision, anger upon witnessing injustice.

Nick said...

Foundational Principle #2 - Corporate Celebration
I would agree with this statement, however, not everything that we celebrate would necessarily fall under the category of gracious. We must celebrate His justice and wrath as well. Gracious may not be best choice in my opinion.

Fundamental Element #3 - Transcendent Relevance
Unpack this for me. I'm not sure I see the need for this one. Corporate worship should be scriptural, contextual and cultural. To say that an individual culture must makes its own unique worship accessible to separate distant culture does not make sense.

Joshua Andrew Smith said...

Great push-back, everyone. Allow me to clarify and amend a few points.

Seth: I'm using the definition of celebrate that says, "To observe an occasion with appropriate ceremony or festivity." Appropriate ceremony for our sorrow would be included here. Thanks for bringing it up. The common connotation does seem to remind one of the upbeat and joyful song, "Celebrate Jesus..."

Caleb: I hope not to give the impression that my worship theology is self-centered. Corporate worship emanates from the whole body.

Elvis: You are right about sacrifice. I plan to make great mention in the next post that sacrifice is the appropriate response to God's revelation that propitiation is necessary for our sins.

In regard to your objection to proper sentiment, the answer is similar to Seth's problem. There is not just one proper sentiment for all occasions of worship, but each moment has its appropriate response.

Nick: You're right that we celebrate wrath as well as grace. He is a just God and this aspect of his character is deserving of admiration. Good point. As for the transcendence piece, I will clarify that in the next post. You're not the only one who pointed out my unfortunate ambiguity. Thank you.