Tag: Worship

Worship in spirit and in truth (Study)

by on May.10, 2010, under Bible Study

In Heb 12:22-23a we are told: ‘But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven.’ This is a tremendous picture of worship, but we are liable to interpret it as belonging more or less to the future because it is ‘heavenly’. This week we will study another meeting on another mountain to see how ‘heavenly’ worship extends into today.

Read John 4:4-18.

  • Why was it unusual for Jesus to be talking to this woman? What kind of ‘barriers’ spring up that prevent you from sharing the gospel?
  • What is the ‘living water’ Jesus speaks of?
  • What does the woman find most attractive about the living water? Why? Are these the same things that attract you to Jesus?
  • Why does Jesus ask about the woman’s husband, when he obviously already knows the answer?

At this point the Samaritan woman changes the topic (or does she?).

Read John 4:19-26.

The topic she chooses is one that had been well-argued by Jews and Samaritans for as long as there had been Jews and Samaritans. The Samaritans were enemies of the Jews. They claimed to worship Yahweh, but chose to do so in their own way, rather than in the way God had commanded; they set up their own temple in opposition to the temple at Jerusalem. This was a source of great bitterness between Samaritans and Jews: the Jews had destroyed the Samaritan temple, whilst the Samaritans in return had attempted to desecrate the Jerusalem temple. So there are two conflicting temples, each claimed as the location of God’s presence. Each of these temples was built on a mountain: the Jewish temple on the imaginatively named Temple Mount, and the Samaritan temple on Mount Gerizim (where this story takes place). Mountains in Scripture consistently represent places where people meet with God, and where God reveals himself (compare Heb 12:18, 22). The conflict between the Jews and Samaritans came down to this: where is God found, and to whom has he revealed himself?

It is not a surprise, then, that this woman should choose this issue as the litmus-test for establishing the identity of this ‘prophet’. She wants to know where she should go to find and worship the true God.

  • What are some of the places that people expect to find God today?
  • What is Jesus’ response? What does it mean to ‘worship in spirit and truth’?
  • Is it truly necessary for both spirit AND truth in worship? What would a church look like that worshiped only in spirit? Only in truth?

There are three main occurrences of the word ‘must’ in John, and together they outline the gospel. First, Jesus instructs Nicodemus: ‘You must be born again’ (3:7). This is the first step, the source from which a life of faith and worship springs. If you are not a Christian, this is where you must start, for flesh can only give birth to flesh and not to spirit; if you want to worship God in spirit, as he requires, you must first be born again. Jesus knew that this could not happen unless he was obedient to his Father, submitting himself to his Father’s will even though it meant death. This is the meaning of the second ‘must': ‘Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert the Son of Man must be lifted up’ (3:14). Walking through the desert, the people sinned against God, and his wrath was turned against them; only those who looked to the bronze snake that the LORD told Moses to make and lift up on a pole were saved. The message is clear: we must be born again, but cannot because we are sinful and God’s wrath is against us… yet God has provided a way by ‘lifting up’ Jesus, so that anyone who looks to him can be saved. There is only one proper response to this, the third ‘must': ‘God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship him in spirit and in truth’ (4:24).

Don’t miss the importance of this. Worship is not an additional extra to the Christian life; it is not something the Christian chooses to do, or not, according to their preferences, plans or passions. It’s not just that God accepts worship in spirit and truth, God seeks it! (4:23) Worshipping God is the responsibility of all believers. ‘God is spirit, and his worshippers’ – all of us! – ‘must worship him in spirit and in truth’ (4:24).

  • What is the woman’s response to what Jesus has told her? What is your response?
  • What have you learned about worship from this text? How does this compare with your own experience of worship? What needs to change?

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Comparison of 3 worship gatherings

by on Jun.16, 2009, under Essay


Compare and contrast 3 public worship services held in different settings.

Your written consideration will include comments on the theological and pastoral value of the various components of each gathering.

The essay needs to give evidence of the reading of your textbook and appropriate readings about New Testament, Reformed, Separatist, Anabaptist, ‘Frontier’ and Pentecostal forms of worship provided in the lessons.


This essay compares and contrasts three different public worship services: the ordination and induction of a Uniting Church minister; the launch of a diocesan vision in an Anglican church; and a Pentecostal church’s first Sunday service in a new building. Each of these services is considered in terms of its content, structure and style and assessed for theological and pastoral merit. The most noticeable difference between the three services is found to be the level of interaction and participation on the part of the congregation. Finally, the common elements of the three services are highlighted, with the conclusion that the services differed greatly in the categories of structure and style but were remarkably similar in their content.


Over two successive weekends I attended three very different public worship events. The first was the ordination and induction of a Uniting Church minister; the second a diocesan-wide satellite link-up and vision launch in an Anglican church; and the third the first public worship service in a Pentecostal church’s new building.1 In what follows I will describe each of these events in terms of their theological and ecclesiological distinctives and endeavour to assess their pastoral merits.2 In doing so, I adopt an evaluative framework common to many writers, namely that of content, structure and style.3

On the 7th February, 2009, a Saturday,4 Kamaloni Tu’iono was ordained as a Minister of the Word and inducted as Minister of Sutherland and Loftus Church Congregations. Clearly this was a significant moment in the life of this church, and a good deal of effort had gone into preparing for the event. I attended with my own pastor, as unofficial representatives of our neighbouring church. We were greeted at the door and handed a copy each of the liturgy printed especially for the occasion.5

The building where the ordination was held is relatively modern, laid out along fairly conventional lines with a raised platform at one end and movable plastic seating for the congregation. On the platform, from left to right, were: seating for dignitaries; a lectern; the communion table (center); and a band consisting of 4 instrumentalists and 3 singers. As we found our seats, a sole pianist, located by himself off to the left-hand side of the building at the same level as the congregation, played 20-30 year old Christian choruses as a kind of ‘overture’.

The content of the service was appropriate to the occasion. An ordination is a recognition of a man or woman’s call into Christian ministry, and every aspect of the service reflected this. The music was thoughtfully chosen,6 the preachers were seasoned members of the presbytery nearing the end of their own season of faithful ministry, and the prayers focused on Kamaloni and his calling.

Proceedings were conducted by the secretary of the local presbytery. His role was apparently to facilitate and explain events as they occurred, as well as to act as a representative of the local presbytery who had appointed Kamaloni.7 According to the Uniting Church in Australia’s Basis of Union, ‘[b]y the participation in the act of ordination of those already ordained, the Church bears witness to God’s faithfulness and declares the hope by which it lives.’8

The presbytery were not the sole actors in this rite, for one of the key elements of this ordination and induction service was the participation of the congregation. 
Again, according to the Basis of Union, ‘[t]he Presbytery will ordain by prayer and the laying on of hands in the presence of a worshipping congregation’.9 Theologically, this is reminiscent of the commissioning of Paul and Barnabas, which also occurred in the context of a worship gathering (Acts 13:2). The implication is that the church, gathered to worship God and hear from him, is given ‘the guidance of the Holy Spirit to recognise among its members women and men called of God to preach the Gospel, to lead the people in worship, to care for the flock, to share in government and to serve those in need in the world.’10

Pastorally, it is important that the people bear witness to ordination for in so doing they take ownership of and responsibility for the ordinand.11 This is doubly vital in the case of an induction, where the ministry of the inductee is exercised in the midst of the same congregation. In this instance, the congregation expressed their affirmation and acceptance of Kamaloni in many ways. He was presented to the congregation by representatives of the local presbytery, who indicated their belief that ‘Kamaloni is worthy to be ordained as a Minister of the Word in the Church of God’, to which the people responded ‘Amen. Thanks be to God,’ followed by applause.12 Perhaps most strikingly, a representative group from the local church responded to the induction vows, bringing forward a Bible, water, bread and wine, ‘as signs of the ministry to which [Kamaloni was] ordained.’13

Use of such symbols was a characteristic of the service as a whole. Most of the symbols were at least briefly explained. For instance, in addition to the symbols already mentioned, Kamaloni was presented with a Bible as ‘a sign of the authority given you to preach the word of God and to administer the holy sacraments’ and a stole as ‘a sign of the joyful obedience which you owe to Christ’.14 Similarly, the elements of the Eucharist were explained as being a ‘sharing in the Body [and Blood] of Christ’.15 The pastoral advantage of such explanation is not that it exhaustively details the nature of the symbol but rather that it provides an entry point into its mystery. There is also theological value in exposing congregants to symbols, for it helps them grow accustomed to biblical imagery and thus to understand the Bible better.

The service was structured in a traditional manner. The distinct movements of proceedings were highlighted by headings in the “Order of Service”, and were as follows: gathering; the Word; ordination; induction; communion; and sending.16 These elements were clearly and logically connected, with the connection often made explicit by means of explanation (either by the chairperson or printed in the “Order of Service”). Again, this explanation has great pastoral implications, as it helps participants to realise that worship is not a set of discrete, isolated events but rather an organic response to God’s action in Christ.17

The style of Kamaloni’s induction service might best be described in terms of temporal, cultural and theological continuity. An important part of the act of ordination was a ‘narration of steps’, wherein the secretary of the presbytery spoke of the ordinand’s journey towards ordination, including his training and previous ministry experience. Indeed, many members of his previous congregation were present, with some contributing to a musical item. This acknowledgment of temporal continuity was matched by a recognition of Kamaloni’s cultural heritage, which found expression both in the decoration of the church and some of the music selected for musical items. Indeed, the stole presented to Kamaloni was decorated in the fashion of the Pacific Islands. Finally, it was clear that the service of ordination  and induction was in theological continuity with the historic Christian church, incorporating such well-attested elements as the salutation,18 sursum corda,19 sanctus20 and the Nicene Creed.21

Thus the service as a whole was distinctly purposeful, as appropriate for the occasion. The leadership was entrusted to those who were themselves already ordained, lending both their authority and their experience to the occasion. The congregation was encouraged to actively participate and respond, through verbal response, symbolic actions and a clear and logical structure, supplemented by explanation where required. The service as a whole was in temporal, cultural and theological continuity with historic Christianity.
Contrast this singleness of purpose with the worship service that I attended the next day at my own church. In addition to being a regular Sunday service, this particular day was the day nominated as the diocesan vision launch, with a diocesan-wide telecast, and also the parish’s Annual General Meeting of Parishioners! The service commenced at 9.30AM, 15 minutes earlier than the regular starting time, allowing half an hour for ‘local’ content before the telecast started. The pastor, acting as service leader for the day, welcomed us with a brief explanation of the agenda for the day followed by singing, prayer, notices and the annual Churchwarden’s report.22 There followed a time of intercessory prayer, with specific attention given to current events,23 missionaries, and the events to follow.24

Much of the structure and style of the service was dictated by the telecast portion of the service, which was conducted according to a strict timetable. Where the ordination could take as long as required, the time allotted for the telecast was one hour.25 These timing constraints, whilst necessary for the coordination of such a large event, led to a feeling of spectatorship rather than participation, amplified by the use of the television medium which is intrinsically passive.

Worship according to program is a growing trend in the church today. Some church-goers prefer the predictability of knowing that the service will be over in an hour and they can have the rest of the day to themselves. Others derive comfort from the familiarity of at least the structure and style, and often the content as well, being maintained from week to week. According to Dawn, ‘the development of perfect sound tracks has caused many worshipers to be dissatisfied now with merely human musicians who make mistakes’ and planning gives those ‘producing’ a worship service opportunity to make sure everything is polished.26 All of this, however, results in a culture of passivity, with a corresponding perception of worship as entertainment rather than participation.

In the case of this event, there was obviously some recognition of this potential for passivity and, wherever possible, steps were taken to overcome it and to invite participation. For example, the event was hosted by a church within the diocese rather than broadcast from a studio, and the footage included many shots of the host congregation. This made it feel like an extension of a single church’s gathering for worship; it was clearly a live event rather than a pre-packaged production. Similarly, there were many of the participational elements of a regular Anglican service, including singing, a prayer of confession, Apostle’s creed and an occasional prayer for the event. When compared to the interactivity of the ordination service, however, it was still predominantly one-way, and this was a direct consequence of the medium employed.

The use of technology in this service was ground-breaking, at least for the Anglican church in Sydney. Churches could either connect to the telecast via digital television or an internet connection. According to an Anglican Media release, 25% of churches used the event as an opportunity to improve their technological capabilities, and ours was no exception.27 In doing so, churches gain access to numerous digital video resources that may be used in church services.28 Some churches are taking this one step further, leveraging similar technology on a week to week basis in order to support multiple campuses.29 This allows greater specialisation within a large church, as pastors at the individual campuses are released from preaching duties and can focus on local concerns. On the other hand, our culture conditions us to be passive receivers of what we see on television, and it is all too easy for this to occur where the immediacy of a physically present preacher is lost.30 On balance, then, telecast is appropriate for special events such as the one under discussion, but substantial education is required before it is pastorally viable for regular worship.

It was clear to all that there was a purpose behind the telecast, and that purpose was not, primarily, to worship. The key intention was to launch the diocesan vision and the Connect ’09 program, in which the Anglican church in Sydney seeks to reach every person in the diocese with the gospel. The centrepiece of proceedings was the Archbishop’s sermon, entitled “A Great City and a Great God”, a message based on Jonah 3 & 4.31 One of the virtues of the televised service was that entire diocese were able to hear the same message at the same time. This is particularly important in launching such an ambitious program of evangelism, for which a significant commitment is required on the part of each church. People will not own a second-hand vision, and vision is pastorally important: ‘Where there is no vision, the people perish’ (Prov 29:18 KJV).

The structure and style of this service, then, were largely driven by the technology employed as a medium, as well as incorporating some elements of traditional Anglican corporate worship. In particular, the telecast format limited the amount of interactivity possible, making it very different to the Uniting Church ordination described above. Like the ordination, however, the content was determined by the occasional purpose of the event, in this case to present a vision for evangelism.

Vision was also a hallmark of the third worship event that I attended. This Pentecostal church had formally opened their new church building in the preceding week, and this was the first Sunday in the new auditorium. This was a significant milestone in the life of this church, and as such the pastor took the opportunity to once again set before the congregation the church’s vision. All who attended were handed a copy of the church’s vision statement printed on an A4-sized piece of cardboard, complete with fridge-magnets on the reverse side.32 This document calls the church to imagine a ‘God infused community of people’ and to recognise that ‘the Holy Spirit is at work bringing the church we have just imagined into being’.33 The Connect ’09 vision launch was calling people to participate in something new, but this vision had clearly already been articulated and disseminated in the church. It was both an encouragement that progress was being made in the realisation of the vision and an exhortation to continue on, for there was still much to be done.34

In his sermon, the pastor reiterated the prophecy that had directly led to the building of the new auditorium. The prophecy centred on the initial chapters of Joshua, with the people of Israel on the verge of entering the land promised to them, yet the emphasis of the sermon was on the prophecy rather than the scripture that the prophecy purported to interpret and apply.35 This was a strong contrast with the sermons at the other events described above where the address, though occasional, clearly arose directly from the text of Scripture. This model of preaching is not uncommon in Pentecostal churches, where extra-biblical prophecy is taken seriously. Most churches stop short of according them the same respect and authority given canonical Scripture, instead assessing their validity in the light of what the Bible says.36 This is in accord with apostolic mandate (1 Thess 5:20-21; 1 John 4:1). I can only assume that a similar process was followed in this case, for it was clear that the prophecy had been accepted as genuine.

The new building itself, dubbed ‘the Lifeboat’, is a 700-seat auditorium, with a raised platform at one end and large projection screens on either side. The walls of the room were decorated with brightly coloured banners and posters, but otherwise indistinguishable from a modern theatrical or concert-hall. The seating was comprised of individual plastic chairs laid out in rows facing the stage.37 This was very different to the fixed wooden pews and wooden pulpit of the Anglican church and the richly decorated and tapestried Uniting church. Clearly the purpose driving the design of the auditorium was functionality and flexibility, as there was little of the numinous found in previous generations of church buildings. Nevertheless the cosmopolitan architecture will doubtless make the building more accessible to those who would not set foot in a stained glass windowed cathedral and the flexibility will aid the church in being ‘people [who] know there are no rules when it comes to “doing Church”‘.38

This ‘no rules’ mentality was reflected in the content and structure of the service. Where the Uniting Church ordination was entirely according to a printed liturgy, and the Anglican vision launch partially so, here there was no sense of continuity with the historic church: no creeds, no sense of logical progression in the ordering of the service, no communal prayers. The eucharistic elements were accompanied, not by the traditional words of institution, but rather by a visual metaphor: the lights in the building were gradually darkened to simulate sin entering the world, then lightened to reflect the ‘light coming into the world’.39 The commentary was certainly Christ-centred but not really cross-centred. In contrast to the use of symbols in the ordination service, it was not unclear how the symbols used (light and dark) applied to the actions that followed (taking wine and bread). Perhaps the intention was to ‘purposefully avoid any liturgy or other sacred actions to demonstrate the simplicity of the gospel’,40 but I found the mixture of images confusing rather than clarifying.

The style of the service was also apparently geared towards ‘seekers’. The stage was lit, but the rest of the room was in darkness for the singing portions of the service. This lighting arrangement, together with the video being projected either side of the stage, the large band, multiple vocalists and ‘worship leader’ on stage all combined to produce a concert-like atmosphere.41 As with the telecast service above the danger was of passivity and spectatorship but, unlike the telecast, little was done to counteract this risk. There were no congregational prayers or creeds, and the only participation invited or expected was in singing, sporadic affirmations interjected by individuals during the sermon and occasional bursts of congregational applause.42 Even in the area of singing the engagement was inconsistent, for as I looked around during the musical portions of the service I estimated that only about half of the congregation actually participated in the singing. Yet the volume issuing from the band was such that their voices were not missed. It is often argued that this atmosphere is part of removing ‘any unnecessary barriers… to make way for teaching and living the gospel’,43 as it is less confronting for the unchurched. Yet we must heed Kauflin’s warning that ‘what you win people with is what you generally win them to’ for if we don’t we will end up with a church of consumers desiring to be entertained rather than worshippers wanting to worship God.44

This content of this service, like that of the two already considered, was according to its occasional nature and purpose. The structure and style, and even the architecture, were ‘seeker-sensitive’ and non-confrontational. As a consequence, however, the service was also prone to passivity for believers and non-believers alike.

On the whole, the strongest contrast between the three services was in the area of interactivity. On a continuum from full participation to non-participation, the ordination was toward the former, the Pentecostal service toward the latter, and the vision launch somewhere in between.

For all that there were many differences – theological, pastoral and practical – the three worship services included many common elements. Most of the differences were in the categories of structure and style; in spite of the occasional nature of the three services, the content was remarkably similar. All three were gospel-centred churches, focused on ordaining a minister of the gospel and transmitting it by means of an evangelism program and a new facility respectively. In doing these things all were looking to the future, whilst the Uniting and Anglican churches also acknowledged their past in the form of prayers and creeds of the historic Christian church. All of the services included preaching for instruction and exhortation, and all the sermons were based to some extent on Scripture. Prayer was a common element, as was singing. All three gatherings were local expressions of the Christian church. Above all, they each expounded and embodied the person and work of Jesus Christ, which is the very definition of Christian worship.


Burdan, Steve. “Sacred Actions among Contemporary Churches.” In The Sacred Actions of Christian Worship, edited by Robert Webber, xliii, 366 p. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, 1993.
Dawn, Marva J. A Royal “Waste” Of Time : The Splendor of Worshiping God and Being Church for the World. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans Pub., 1999.
Detscher, Alan. “The Sacred Actions of Christian Worship.” In The Complete Library of Christian Worship V. 6, edited by Robert Webber, xliii, 366 p. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, 1993.
Hippolytus. Apostolic Tradition. Translated by Burton Scott Easton. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, 1962.
“Imagine…”. Nowra City Church.
Jensen, Peter. “A Great City and a Great God.”.
Kauflin, Bob. Worship Matters : Leading Others to Encounter the Greatness of God. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2008.
Lang, Bernhard. Sacred Games : A History of Christian Worship. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997.
“Order of Worship : A Service for the Ordination of Kamaloni Tu’iono as a Minister of the Word and His Induction as Minister of Sutherland and Loftus Uniting Church Congregations.” The Uniting Church in Australia, Synod of NSW & ACT, Presbytery of Georges River, 2009.
Percy, Natasha & Halcrow, Jeremy. “Historic Live Tv Hook up Launches Sydney Anglican Campaign Connect 09.”.
Uniting Church in Australia, The. The Basis of Union : As Approved by the Congregational Union of Australia (1973), the Methodist Church of Australasia (1974) and the Presbyterian Church of Australia (1974), for the Formation of the Uniting Church in Australia. 1992 ed. Melbourne: Uniting Church Press, 1992.
Webber, Robert. Ancient-Future Worship : Proclaiming and Enacting God’s Narrative, Ancient-Future Series. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2008.
———. Worship Old & New : A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Introduction. Rev. ed. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1994.


  1. The ordination was approximately 3 hours in duration (compared to 1 to 1.5 hours for the other services) and this is reflected to some extent in the consideration given to each below.
  2. This latter is difficult because, of the three events attended, I have ongoing contact with only one of the congregations involved.
  3. e.g. Robert Webber, Ancient-Future Worship : Proclaiming and Enacting God’s Narrative, Ancient-Future Series (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2008), 90. cf. ———, Worship Old & New : A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Introduction, Rev. ed. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1994), 149ff.
  4. cf. Hippolytus, Apostolic Tradition, trans. Burton Scott Easton (Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, 1962), 2.2. Hippolytus advocates that the ordinand ‘with the presbytery and such bishops as may be present, assemble with the people on a Sunday.’
  5. “Order of Worship : A Service for the Ordination of Kamaloni Tu’iono as a Minister of the Word and His Induction as Minister of Sutherland and Loftus Uniting Church Congregations,” (The Uniting Church in Australia, Synod of NSW & ACT, Presbytery of Georges River, 2009). It is unclear to what extent this liturgy is a derivative work. It was certainly customised to the extent that names and hymns were inserted at the appropriate locations; it may, however, have been developed entirely for this event. In any case, as we shall see, it incorporated many elements common to worship throughout the Christian era.
  6. e.g. the theme of the youth band’s musical item was the lyric ‘We’ll be faithful in our calling / You’ll be faithful to finish the work you’ve begun in us.’
  7. This is an illustration of the essentially presbyterian ecclesiology of the Uniting Church in Australia, with pastoral appointments being made by the local presbytery rather than by a bishop (Roman Catholic, Anglican) or the local congregation (congregational). cf. The Uniting Church in Australia, The Basis of Union : As Approved by the Congregational Union of Australia (1973), the Methodist Church of Australasia (1974) and the Presbyterian Church of Australia (1974), for the Formation of the Uniting Church in Australia, 1992 ed. (Melbourne: Uniting Church Press, 1992), §14.
  8. Ibid. This is subtly different to the Anglican and Catholic traditions, where the participation of those previously ordained is indicative of an unbroken apostolic succession. cf. Alan Detscher, “The Sacred Actions of Christian Worship,” in The Complete Library of Christian Worship V. 6, ed. Robert Webber (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, 1993), 306.
  9. Uniting Church in Australia, Basis of Union, §14. . cf. Detscher, “The Sacred Actions of Christian Worship,” 301, 06.
  10. Uniting Church in Australia, Basis of Union, §14.
  11. cf. Baptisms and marriages, where the witnesses (the worshipping community) are charged to uphold those being baptised and married respectively.
  12. “Order of Worship,” 6. cf. ‘And when he is made bishop, all shall offer him the kiss of peace, for he has been made worthy’ Hippolytus, Apostolic Tradition, 4.1.
  13. “Order of Worship,” 12. cf. Detscher, “The Sacred Actions of Christian Worship,” 303-04. Detscher notes that the vesting of ordinands with symbols of office was a common practice by the 10th century, although were in many cases rejected by the Reformers.
  14. “Order of Worship,” 11. cf. Medieval ordination rites, where bishops were presented with a pastoral staff and ring, presbyters with a chalice and paten, and deacons with the book of the Gospels. ———, “The Sacred Actions of Christian Worship,” 303.
  15. “Order of Worship,” 18.
  16. cf. Webber, Worship Old & New, 150. Webber identifies ‘four basic acts of Sunday worship': the assembling of the people; Scripture readings and preaching; communion and prayers of thanksgiving; and sending the people forth. Thus, the pattern above matches Webber’s, with the inclusion of the two occasion-specific acts of ordination and induction.
  17. ‘Because the entire congregation constitutes the players in the drama of worship, it is important that all of the members know their parts, understanding the meaning of what is being done, and participate purposefully.’ Ibid., 82.
  18. ‘The Lord be with you: / And also with you!’ “Order of Worship,” 16. cf. Hippolytus, Apostolic Tradition, 4.2-3.
  19. ‘Lift up your hearts: / We lift them to the Lord!’ “Order of Worship,” 16. cf. ———, Apostolic Tradition, 4.3. Interestingly, whilst both the salutation and the sursum corda are traditionally associated with the Eucharist, their first appearance in the Apostolic Tradition is in connection with instructions for the ordination of bishops.
  20. ‘Holy, holy, holy Lord…’ “Order of Worship,” 17.
  21. Ibid., 4-5.
  22. Officially the Annual General Meeting follows the morning service. However it is customary in our church to present the reports from the Churchwardens and Pastor during the service, the latter forming the sermon for the day. On this occasion the Pastor’s report was postponed until the formal meeting, in deference to the Archbishop’s message during the telecast.
  23. e.g. the recent heat wave, and the Victorian bushfires.
  24. i.e. the telecast and AGM.
  25. This was how much time had been booked on the digital television station.
  26. Marva J. Dawn, A Royal “Waste” Of Time : The Splendor of Worshiping God and Being Church for the World (Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans Pub., 1999), 72.
  27. Natasha & Halcrow Percy, Jeremy, .”Historic Live Tv Hook up Launches Sydney Anglican Campaign Connect 09.”
  28. e.g. Anglican Media recently launched a plaform they call SX Digital, offering ‘video news, apologetics, illustrations, notices and other biblical content’ Ibid.
  29. The most common setup is that one preacher preaches live at one campus and that is then relayed to other campuses via satellite or DVD. e.g. at Seattle’s Mars Hill, the preaching pastor (Mark Driscoll) preaches live at the four services held at the ‘main’ campus. All of these sermons are recorded, and the best is selected and played at each of the ‘secondary’ campuses the following week.
  30. Dawn, A Royal “Waste” Of Time, 83. Dawn also highlights the risk of reinforcing and augmenting the unhealthy values that television promotes – consumerism, passivism etc. – when we adopt it as our medium for worship Ibid., 75..
  31. Peter Jensen, “A Great City and a Great God.”
  32. “Imagine…”, Nowra City Church.
  33. Ibid.
  34. e.g. All of the seats were laid out for the service, in spite of an expected attendance of less than half of the capacity. This fact was directly referenced by the pastor in his message, the point being that there were many still to be reached with the gospel.
  35. e.g. The prophecy was read, in full, at the start of the sermon, whereas the book of Joshua was appealed to only sporadically, usually in support of some point that the pastor had just made.
  36. Bernhard Lang, Sacred Games : A History of Christian Worship (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997), 404-07.
  37. These were not the ‘final’ chairs, which were yet to be purchased, but every indication was that the new chairs would be in the same mold.
  38. “Imagine…”.
  39. The lights darkened so gradually that, at first, I thought it merely a ‘technical difficulty’ in the new building!
  40. Steve Burdan, “Sacred Actions among Contemporary Churches,” in The Sacred Actions of Christian Worship, ed. Robert Webber (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, 1993), 60.
  41. cf. Lang, Sacred Games : A History of Christian Worship, 399-400.
  42. Ibid., 399.
  43. Burdan, “Sacred Actions among Contemporary Churches,” 60.
  44. Bob Kauflin, Worship Matters : Leading Others to Encounter the Greatness of God (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2008), 192.
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Origin and Purposes of Gathered Worship for Christians

by on Jun.15, 2009, under Essay, History


What is the origin and purpose of gathered worship for Christians? Comment on the biblical foundations for the practice and evaluate the way your denomination and local church conduct weekly meetings for community prayer and praise.


Why do Christians gather together to worship? This essay explores the ontological, historical and eschatological origins of gathered worship, noting that it is necessary to look both forwards and backwards in time to properly understand ‘origins’. The ontological origins are found in the action of the Trinity: God acts and men and women respond in worship. Old Testament Israel, the Jewish synagogue, and pagan religion provide the historical origins of the Christian gathering, although the earliest Christians did not adopt all of the teachings or practices they were heirs to. The assembly is also an eschatological foreshadowing of the heavenly assembly, which may be considered an ‘origin’. The purposes of gathering for worship may be considered in terms of relationships: Christians relate ‘up’ to God, offering him praise and receiving his ministration; they relate ‘around’ to one another, serving and edifying the other members of the church; and they relate ‘out’ to society at large, maintaining their distinctiveness as God’s people and holding out and proclaiming the gospel. Finally, in light of this understanding of purpose, the practice of the Sydney Anglican Church is evaluated, including its specific expression at St John’s, Sutherland.


‘Origins’ are complex things. To understand the ‘origins’ of something, one must consider both its historical antecedents and the historical context in which it originates. When the subject is Christian gathered worship, typological and teleological relationships must also be investigated. Most important, however, are the ontological foundations of corporate worship, and to discover these one looks not for an ‘origin’ but an ‘originator’.

Scripture is clear that Christian worship is always a response to the revelation and action of the triune God. It is God who makes himself known to Moses, then redeems a people out of Egypt to worship him (Exod 3:12),1 culminating in the first gathering for worship at Sinai (Exod 19-24). It is through Christ that this redemption is extended to all people in all places and at all times (Titus 2:14),2 and it is on the basis of this mercy that Christians are able to present themselves as living sacrifices in spiritual worship (Rom 12:1-2). The Spirit joins them to Christ, that they may together be one body (1 Cor 12:13).3 As one author puts it, the vision of God and his work in Christ is the fuel, the quickening of the Spirit the flame, renewed spirit the furnace and worship the resultant heat.4 The foundation of all Christian worship, including gathered worship, is forever anchored in the nature and work of the Trinity.5 God acts and people respond.

This pattern of God acting and his people responding may be traced throughout the historical antecedents of the Christian gathering. Primarily, these are Jewish in nature and recorded for us in the Old Testament, although both post-exilic synagogue worship and pagan worship were also influential.

The cardinal event in Jewish salvation history is the Exodus, and the primary expression of worship is the Passover which celebrates this event.6 The Passover was a memorial for Israel’s benefit, to remind them of God’s redemptive actions, rather than an offering to the God who redeemed them.7 The Jewish Seder is ordered to recount the events of the Exodus, as well as to instruct in the meaning of the symbolic foods and gestures of the Passover.8 The Passover is reflected in the New Testament in the Lord’s Supper, or Eucharist. The relationship is not one of absolute continuity, for the Passover came to an end with its final celebration by Jesus.9 Nevertheless the purpose of the Lord’s Supper, as with the Passover, is remembrance (Luke 22:19; 1 Cor 11:24, 25). Jesus took the symbols of the Passover, the bread10 and the cup11 and reinterpreted them as pointers to his imminent death. The Passover commemorated the Exodus; the Lord’s Supper proclaims the second Exodus, Christ leading his people out of their bondage to sin.12 Thus, Christians redeem the Passover by interpreting it christologically.
Having led the people out of Egypt, God assembles Israel for the first time at the foot of Mount Sinai. He then sets out the terms of the Mosaic covenant, which were to be foundational to the life and worship of Israel from that point forward (Exod 19-24). Whilst God initiated a relationship with Abraham and the patriarchs, it is this covenant which defined the identity of God’s people.13 Several points may be noted. Firstly, Israel gathers in the presence of God. This is of tremendous significance, for God had previously revealed himself only to individuals such as the patriarchs. Now, however, the revelation is to an entire nation, thenceforth to be known exclusively as his. Indeed, the key symbols of Old Testament worship – the ark, tabernacle and temple – seem ‘designed to be a means of acknowledging and living in relation to God’s holy presence.’14 This presents a problem, however, for how can a sinful people remain in the presence of a holy God? Our second point, then, is that the presence of God necessitates a mediator. Israel tried to secure this mediation in the form of the Golden Calf (Exod 32) but God appointed Moses instead.15 This leads directly to our third point, that worship is always and only on God’s terms. Only Moses was permitted to meet God on the mountain; the penalty for anyone else setting foot there was death (Exod 19:12-13).16 Christians, however, are urged to draw near to God (e.g. Jas 4:8). The difference is that they do so on the basis of ‘a better hope’ (Heb 7:19)17 for God has appointed a better mediator, Jesus Christ (Heb 8:6). 18

Certain aspects of Jewish worship were emphatically rejected by the earliest Christians. The most significant of these is the sacrificial cultus, which Christians understand to have been fulfilled in Christ. Although sacrificial language is used regularly in the NT, it is clear that the usage is purely metaphorical.19 Similarly, whilst the first Christians continued to frequent the Temple until its destruction in 70 C.E.20 this appears to have been based on convenience, or perhaps habit, rather than theological conviction. Peter and Paul locate the temple in the community of God’s people,21 and the writer to the Hebrews in the heavenly realm.22

Christian gathered worship also owes much to the tradition of the synagogue. The synagogue was quite distinct from the Temple, being a meeting house for the people of God rather than a house for God himself.23 The activities of the synagogue included an affirmation of faith,24 prayer, and the public reading of the Scriptures.25 The synagogue thanksgiving blessings, the berakoth, together with Jesus’ prayers and those of the earliest eucharistic liturgies strongly influenced Christian communion prayers.26 Whilst Palestinian synagogues were ‘severely didactic’, those of the diaspora were more likely to incorporate celebration in song.27 Each of these elements – creeds, prayers, Scriptures and blessings – appear in the earliest records of Christian worship.28 Indeed, as Webber concludes,

The practices of the synagogue served as the matrix out of which the early Christian’s experience of worship was initially formed.29

Not all of the influences on early Christian worship were Jewish. Along with the evolution30 of the Gentile Christian came numerous pagan teachings and practices. Some were adopted by the church, such as the use of art as objects of worship31 and the singing of hymns.32 Indeed the very word translated ‘liturgy’33 is a pagan one, denoting the public service offered by a citizen.34 For the most part, though, Christianity stood in sharp contrast to pagan religions, remaining strictly monotheistic (if binitarian)35 and resisting the demands of the imperial cult, Gnosticism36 and other mystery religions,37 and particularly the practice of temple feasts.38

In summary, then, the earliest Christians appear to have adopted a three-fold approach to their historical antecedents and contemporaries. Some things were accepted, like assembling together in the presence of God, and gathering for the public reading of Scripture. Some things were rejected, such as the sacrificial cultus and physical temple. Finally, some things were redeemed or renewed, often by means of typological interpretation, such as the Passover.

Thus, the practice of Christians meeting for worship is instituted by the trinitarian God. Historical precedents may be traced to the practices of OT Israel, the Jewish synagogue and the pagan temple. However not all originals are temporally prior to their derivatives. The aroma is not the origin of the bread, though it may well be the first experienced. The eschatological origins of gathered worship must also be considered.
Christian gathered worship is intended to be a type of the worship of heaven.39 The Revelation of John gives insight into that heavenly reality, and Christians gather together to seek its actualisation; thus believers pray that the Lord’s will should be done ‘on earth as it is in heaven’ (Matt 6:10). In so doing they seek ‘God’s rescue of the entire created order and the establishment of his rule over all heaven and earth’.40 The Lord’s Supper allows participation in the life of the age to come,41 for communicants feed on true bread from heaven.42 The future benefits of justification are experienced now as God’s people participate in the body and blood of Christ (1 Cor 10:16). The Christian gathering originates from both historical and eschatological realities.
It is good to understand origins, but this is insufficient unless purpose is also studied. The Christian gathering is intended by God to establish and express, develop and define three key relationships: between God and the church; between individuals within the church; and between the church and the world. Just as origins have been considered in temporal terms (ancient and future) the purposes of the Christian gathering may be described in spatial terms (‘up’, ‘around’ and ‘out’).

At the heart of Christian worship is the relationship between God and his people. Worship is about God and us rather than God and me.43 Jesus promises to be present where and when his people gather (Matt 18:20). The writer to the Hebrews urges believers to approach God (Heb 4:16) and to meet together (Heb 10:25).44 Believers meet with God when they meet with each other.45 At the same time, Christians are to express their relationship with God by identifying with Christ. It is no accident that the two Christian sacraments are symbols of participation. Baptism is the initiation rite, analogous to circumcision under the old covenant.46 It is a public declaration of identification and participation in the death and resurrection of Christ (Rom 6:3-41; Col 2:12; 1 Pet 3:21).47 Similarly, the Eucharist is considered an act of participation in Christ (1 Cor 10:16). The notion of participation is crucial, for it is only in union with Christ that a believer’s worship is acceptable; by being joined to him, they are one with him (1 Cor 6:17) and are permitted the ‘gift of participating through the Spirit in the incarnate Son’s communion with the Father’.48

A necessary consequence, and perhaps prerequisite, of participation in Christ is that the many become one body (1 Cor 10:16-17). Paul writes to the Ephesians that ‘there is one body and one Spirit… one Lord, one faith, one baptism’ (Eph 4:4, 5) and on this basis argues for unity in the church (Eph 4:3, 13, 15 etc.).49 Perhaps this is why singing, too, has found a place in Jewish and Christian worship since the earliest times, for congregational singing expresses and demonstrates togetherness.50 As Hughes writes, ‘We are tragically diminished by non-participation in Christ’s Body. Correspondingly, the Church is diminished by our non-participation as well.’51 Thus, the relationship between God and his people who gather for worship may be characterised in two corollary statements: (1) as Christians draw near to Christ they draw near to each other; and (2) as Christians meet with each other they also meet with God.

Meeting together with other believers has other benefits as well. Returning to Ephesians 4, Paul expands upon the metaphor of the church as the body of Christ. God has given different people different gifts, and it is only in meeting together that these gifts can be used for ‘building up the body of Christ’ (Eph 4:11-16). Paul regularly uses this imagery of ‘building up’52 when speaking of Christian gatherings.53 This work of edification is still God’s work, but he chooses to act through his people, giving gifts to individuals for the sake of the whole.54 Believers rightly sing ‘Brother let me be your servant / Let me be as Christ to you’55 for they meet in order that they might encounter Christ in one another.56 These encounters may come in the form of service, encouragement or teaching. Ultimately, regularly gathering for worship should encourage a life of worship.57

Gathering for worship is a distinctive mark of the Christian community, and worship helps define the boundaries of that community.58 It provides Christians with the answers to questions of identity, loyalty, values, power, narrative, meaning and hope.59 The Apostle Peter pictures God’s people in a series of corporate images – race, priesthood, nation, people – and declares their purpose to be proclaiming God’s mighty works (1 Pet 2:9). The cultic regulations, designed to set apart the people of God, have been fulfilled in Christ (Heb 9:26; 10:12 etc.). Nevertheless, the separation in belief and lifestyle that they engendered is still necessary if Christians are to bear witness to God’s character and will.60 Evangelism is a by-product rather than a goal of worship, but believers are the salt of the earth, and charged not to lose their distinctive saltiness (Matt 5:13). Believers are a ‘colony of the Kingdom’61 and their relationship with the surrounding world is defined by their ambassadorial calling. Thus they remember God’s past works, anticipate his future rule, and actualise both past and future in the present, thus witnessing to, and thereby transforming, the world.62

Worship, then, defines relationships with God, other Christians and society at large. Gathered worship provides the means for defining, expressing and building those relationships, as believers actualise Christ to one another and to the world. Current church practice must be evaluated according to the impact it has on these three key relationships. For example, consider the Anglican Church in Sydney, together with its specific expression in the local church in Sutherland (of which the author is a member).

Broadly speaking, the Sydney Anglican Church’s model for public, gathered worship is set forth in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer,63 supplemented by An Australian prayer book.64 The stated aim of these liturgies is,

to do that, which… might most tend to the preservation of Peace and Unity in the Church; the procuring of Reverence, and exciting of Piety and Devotion in the Publick [sic] Worship of God.65

Clearly, the framers of The Book of Common Prayer had similar relational goals to those above: unity within the church, and reverent response to God.66 They also reflect an understanding of a need to be ‘contemporary’, with explicit provision made for updating language according to cultural idiom and the needs of ministry.67 One practical application of this principle may be seen in the recent “Big Day In,” the diocesan-wide satellite-linked church service to launch the diocesan vision. During this service, children were included by means of a special children’s program, and a special greeting and prayer were offered in the Mandarin language, in recognition of the significant Chinese demographic in the Sydney diocese.

In the local church in Sutherland, St John’s, there are three public services held for worship each Sunday. The first is a ‘traditional’ service, where the liturgy outlined in An Australian Prayer Book is followed, and communion celebrated every week. The service is led by an ordained clergyman. The second is billed as a ‘family’ service, starting at 9.45 A.M. The style of this service is contemporary, and attracts a broad range of congregants, from young families to the elderly. The service is led by lay members of the congregation, and varies greatly according to the talents and tastes of these leaders. Lay leadership leads to a greater feeling of ownership, and thus participation, by the congregation for the leader is ‘one of their own’.68 The third service is in the evening, generally attracting high-school and university-aged people. Here, again, the leadership is by the laity, although on the whole the leaders are also younger, resulting in less diversity and depth in the services they lead.

Unfortunately this setup naturally leads to a stratification within the church, with members choosing a congregation to belong to rather than a church. It also promotes a consumer approach to worship, since these choices are based on preference and convenience, thus undermining our ability to stand against consumerism.69 The church is aware of this, and seeks to supplement its public worship gatherings with monthly mid-week prayer meetings, termly informal social gatherings and a bi-annual parish weekend away, all of which span the three congregations. In addition, there are occasions throughout the church year where all of the congregations meet together in a unified public worship service, such as the major events of the church calendar (Christmas, Easter etc.) and the annual general meeting of parishioners. In doing these things, relationships are fostered throughout the church, contributing to a unified body.

Unity is also fostered by having common elements between all three weekly services. These include preaching,70 prayer, communion, music and informal fellowship. Preaching and prayer express the vertical dimensions of worship as God speaks to his people and they to him. Communion and fellowship,71 articulate our horizontal relationships with one another. Music is a curious admixture of both, since Christians sing praises to God and in so doing exhort and encourage one another. This commonality of practice means that when the whole church gathers together, crossing congregational divides, there is a common vocabulary of worship, without which unity in worship would not be possible.

Of the three weekly services, only the evening service has a formal program for evangelism. This is a semi-annual event, well publicised and promoted, where members of the congregation are encouraged to invite non-Christian family, friends and colleagues. The language employed by those who lead is divested of theological ‘in’ language – or, at least, such language is carefully explained when used. Preachers are carefully selected on the basis of their gifting for evangelism, often involving the invitation of a guest preacher and the occasional guest band. Special effort is made to include fellowship over a meal and opportunity before and after the service for non-Christians to interact with the community of Christians. The service is otherwise identical to any other week, based on the belief that what you win people with is what you win them to and thus making the transition to an ‘ordinary’ service an easy one to make.72 This is not to suggest that evangelism doesn’t occur in the other weekly services, for it certainly does. There are teams devoted to welcoming visitors and helping them to establish relationship with church members. Prayers are offered for events of significance to the local, national and global communities. Leaders are instructed to use inclusive language and preachers consistently preach the gospel in the context of their didactic and exhortational ministry. Visitors go away knowing that this church worships God, proclaims Christ, and cares for each other, for the community and for them.

The origins of the practice of Christians gathering to worship are found in the character and action of the triune God. God acts and Christians respond. The earliest believers were influenced in this response by the practices, traditions and teachings of Old Testament Israel, the Jewish synagogue and pagan religions. Some of these practices were accepted, some rejected, and some redeemed and reinterpreted. Christian gathered worship also bears eschatological origins, with the Christian assembly foreshadowing the heavenly assembly. One must look both backwards and forwards in time to understand the origins of Christian worship. Christians gather for worship for the purpose of expressing and defining relationships. Christians must also look ‘up’, and relate to God as his covenant people. Finally, they must look ‘around’ and ‘out’ as they actualise Christ to one another and to the world.


An Australian Prayer Book : For Use Together with the Book of Common Prayer, 1662. Sydney: Church of England in Australia, 1978.
Ashton, Mark, and C. J. Davis. “Following in Cranmer’s Footsteps.” In Worship by the Book, edited by D. A. Carson, 64-135. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2002.
Best, Harold M. Unceasing Worship : Biblical Perspectives on Worship and the Arts. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2003.
Carson, D. A. “Worship under the Word.” In Worship by the Book, edited by D. A. Carson, 11-63. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2002.
Dawn, Marva J. A Royal “Waste” Of Time : The Splendor of Worshiping God and Being Church for the World. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans Pub., 1999.
———. Reaching out without Dumbing Down : A Theoloy of Worship for This Urgent Time. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans Pub., 1995.
Gillard, Richard. “The Servant Song.” In Scripture in Song : Songs of the Kingdom (Bk. 2), edited by David and Dale Garratt, 51. Eastbourne: Kingsway, 1981.
Green, Michael. Baptism : Its Purpose, Practice and Power. Bletchley, Milton Keynes: Authentic Media, 2006.
Hughes, R. Kent. Disciplines of a Godly Man. 10th anniversary ed. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2001.
———. “Free Church Worship : The Challenge of Freedom.” In Worship by the Book, edited by D. A. Carson, 136-92. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2002.
Hurtado, Larry W. At the Origins of Christian Worship : The Context and Character of Earliest Christian Devotion, Didsbury Lectures. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2000.
Kauflin, Bob. Worship Matters : Leading Others to Encounter the Greatness of God. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2008.
Keller, Timothy J. “Reformed Worship in the Global City.” In Worship by the Book, edited by D. A. Carson, 193-249. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2002.
Kreider, Eleanor. Communion Shapes Character. Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 1997.
Lewis, C. S. Mere Christianity. Special centenary ed. London: Fount, 1997.
———. The Screwtape Letters : Also Includes, “Screwtape Proposes a Toast”. London: HarperCollins, 2001.
Martin, Ralph P. “Hymns in New Testament Worship.” In The Biblical Foundations of Christian Worship, edited by Robert Webber, 257-62. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, 1993.
Peterson, David. Engaging with God : A Biblical Theology of Worship. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1992.
Peterson, Eugene H. Eat This Book : A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 2006.
Piper, John. Desiring God : Meditations of a Christian Hedonist. Updated [i.e. 3rd] ed. Leicester: Inter-Varsity, 2004.
Schaff, Philip. The Creeds of Christendom. 6th ed. 3 vols: Baker Books, 2007.
The Book of Common Prayer and Administration of the Sacraments and Other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church According to the Use of the Church of England Together with the Psalter, Etc. Cambridge: University Press, 1922.
Webber, Robert. Ancient-Future Worship : Proclaiming and Enacting God’s Narrative, Ancient-Future Series. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2008.
———. Worship Is a Verb : Eight Principles Transforming Worship. 2nd ed. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, 1996.
———. Worship Old & New : A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Introduction. Rev. ed. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1994.
Wright, N. T. The New Testament and the People of God SPCK, 1992.


  1. cf. Exod 4:23; 7:16 etc.
  2. cf. Gal 4:5
  3. cf. Rom 2:29; Eph 4:4.
  4. John Piper, Desiring God : Meditations of a Christian Hedonist, Updated [i.e. 3rd] ed. (Leicester: Inter-Varsity, 2004), 82.
  5. In some ways the community within the Trinity may be considered a model for the Christian gathering. cf. Harold M. Best, Unceasing Worship : Biblical Perspectives on Worship and the Arts (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 24.
  6. cf. Robert Webber, who refers to the Exodus as ‘the epicenter for worship with Israel’, Robert Webber, Worship Old & New : A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Introduction, Rev. ed. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1994), 31.
  7. David Peterson, Engaging with God : A Biblical Theology of Worship (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1992), 125.
  8. Eleanor Kreider, Communion Shapes Character (Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 1997), 201.
  9. Peterson, Engaging with God, 121.
  10. cf. John 6:35
  11. cf. 1 Cor 10:16. The cup is somewhat of a paradox, since the cup itself is a symbol of suffering (e.g. Matt 26:42) whilst wine is typically a sign of blessing (e.g. John 2:1-11).
  12. Webber, Worship Old & New, 42.
  13. Ibid., 20.
  14. Peterson, Engaging with God, 49.
  15. Ibid., 34. This mediation is distinct from the OT cultus; it is Moses the mediator rather than Aaron the priest in view here.
  16. cf. Num 12:8
  17. cf. Heb 10:22
  18. cf. Gal 3:19-20; 1 Tim 2:5; Heb 9:15; 12:24
  19. N. T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God (SPCK, 1992), 363-4.
  20. e.g. Acts 2:46; 3:1; 5:21, 42 etc.
  21. e.g. Rom 9:4; 1 Cor 3:16-17; 6:19; 2 Cor 6:16; Eph 2:21; 1 Pet 2:5
  22. e.g. Heb 3:2-6; 10:21; 12:23; cf. Peterson, Engaging with God, 247. In spite of this, concepts of physicality of place (church buildings), rituals and ministers would all resurface later in ecclesiastical history. cf. Webber, Worship Old & New, 35.
  23. Ibid., 112-3.
  24. i.e. the shema of Deut 6:4-9
  25. Webber, Worship Old & New, 37. The latter is likely founded on the events recorded in Nehemiah 8, where the people gathered to hear Ezra read from the Book of the Law of God, and finds direct parallels in the Christian Service of the Word. Peterson, Engaging with God, 198.
  26. e.g. Compare the blessings over bread and wine prescribed in m. Ber. 6 with Jesus’ blessings at the Last Supper (Matt 26:26-27; Mark 14:22-23; Luke 22:19-20) and early church practice (1 Cor 11:24-25; Justin, 1 Apol. 66). The later Didache (ca. 2nd c.) shows that what was initially descriptive had by this time become prescriptive (Did. 9-10). cf. Kreider, Communion Shapes Character, 165.
  27. Ralph P. Martin, “Hymns in New Testament Worship,” in The Biblical Foundations of Christian Worship, ed. Robert Webber, The Complete Library of Christian Worship (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, 1993), 258.
  28. e.g. Acts 2:42; 1 Cor 11:17-34; Ign. Eph. 13; Justin 1 Apol. 65-67; Ireneaus Haer. 1:10; 3:4; 4:33 etc. See also possible credal fragments in the NT e.g. 1 Cor 8:6; 15:3-8; Phil 2:6-11; 1 Tim 3:16; Heb 6:1-2 etc. cf. Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, 6th ed., 3 vols. (Baker Books, 2007), 2:3-40.
  29. Webber, Worship Old & New, 58.
  30. Or, perhaps more accurately, revolution.
  31. Larry W. Hurtado, At the Origins of Christian Worship : The Context and Character of Earliest Christian Devotion, Didsbury Lectures (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2000), 23.
  32. Martin, “Hymns in New Testament Worship,” 259.
  33. Gk. leitourgia.
  34. Eugene H. Peterson, Eat This Book : A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading (Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 2006), 75.
  35. Hurtado, At the Origins of Christian Worship, 17, 63ff.
  36. Martin, “Hymns in New Testament Worship,” 260.
  37. Webber, Worship Old & New, 106.
  38. Peterson, Engaging with God, 124. cf. 1 Cor 8-10.
  39. Ibid., 205, 77-78.
  40. Robert Webber, Ancient-Future Worship : Proclaiming and Enacting God’s Narrative, Ancient-Future Series (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2008), 57-58.
  41. Peterson, Engaging with God, 144.
  42. Ibid., 100-01. cf. John 6:51.
  43. Bob Kauflin, Worship Matters : Leading Others to Encounter the Greatness of God (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2008), 197.
  44. cf. Ign. Eph. 13.
  45. Peterson, Engaging with God, 198. cf. Timothy J. Keller, “Reformed Worship in the Global City,” in Worship by the Book, ed. D. A. Carson (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2002), 210.
  46. Michael Green, Baptism : Its Purpose, Practice and Power (Bletchley, Milton Keynes: Authentic Media, 2006), 29. cf. Webber, Worship Old & New, 230.
  47. cf. Ibid., 60. and Green, Baptism, 31f.
  48. James Torrance, cited by D. A. Carson, “Worship under the Word,” in Worship by the Book, ed. D. A. Carson (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2002), 42-3.
  49. cf. Ign. Phld. 4.
  50. Best, Unceasing Worship : Biblical Perspectives on Worship and the Arts, 143ff. Best argues that this is because ‘The human voice is the only musical instrument that God has directly created’ and that people can engage together in congregational singing regardless of talent or training.
  51. R. Kent Hughes, Disciplines of a Godly Man, 10th anniversary ed. (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2001), 174.
  52. Gk. oikodomeō.
  53. e.g. 1 Cor 14:4, 17; 1 Thess 5:11. Peterson, Engaging with God, 206.
  54. cf. C. S. Lewis, who writes that ‘[Jesus] works on us in all sorts of ways… through Nature, through our own bodies, through books, sometimes through experiences which seem (at the time) anti-Christian… But above all, He works on us through each other.’ C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Special centenary ed. (London: Fount, 1997), 157.
  55. Richard Gillard, “The Servant Song,” in Scripture in Song : Songs of the Kingdom (Bk. 2), ed. David and Dale Garratt (Eastbourne: Kingsway, 1981).
  56. Peterson, Engaging with God, 220.
  57. R. Kent Hughes, “Free Church Worship : The Challenge of Freedom,” in Worship by the Book, ed. D. A. Carson (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2002), 142. cf. Hurtado, At the Origins of Christian Worship, 49.
  58. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God, 368.
  59. cf. Marva J. Dawn, A Royal “Waste” Of Time : The Splendor of Worshiping God and Being Church for the World (Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans Pub., 1999), 22ff.
  60. Peterson, Engaging with God, 268.
  61. Dawn, A Royal “Waste” Of Time, 89ff.
  62. Webber, Ancient-Future Worship, 43.
  63. The Book of Common Prayer and Administration of the Sacraments and Other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church According to the Use of the Church of England Together with the Psalter, Etc, (Cambridge: University Press, 1922).
  64. An Australian Prayer Book : For Use Together with the Book of Common Prayer, 1662, (Sydney: Church of England in Australia, 1978). See especially the Preface, which outlines the relationship with The Book of Common Prayer, Ibid., 7.
  65. The Book of Common Prayer, viii-ix. cf. An Australian Prayer Book, 7.
  66. The third aim (not quoted above), that of ‘cutting off occasion from them that seek occasion of cavil or quarrel against the Liturgy of the Church’ (The Book of Common Prayer, ix.), is rooted in the historical circumstances in which The Book of Common Prayer was forged. Nevertheless, it shows a concern for the way the church is perceived and responded to by ‘outsiders’, even if those outsiders were other Christians.
  67. e.g. ‘[W]hereas Saint Paul would have such language spoken to the people in the Church, as they might understand, and have profit by hearing the same; The Service in this Church of England these many years hath been read in Latin to the people, which they understand not… here is set forth such an Order, whereby the same shall be addressed’ (Ibid., xi.). cf. Ashton and Davis, who write that the criteria for planning worship in Cranmer’s tradition are, in order (1) biblical content; (2) accessibility; and (3) balance. Mark Ashton and C. J. Davis, “Following in Cranmer’s Footsteps,” in Worship by the Book, ed. D. A. Carson (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2002), 82ff.
  68. cf. Robert Webber, Worship Is a Verb : Eight Principles Transforming Worship, 2nd ed. (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, 1996), 129ff. Webber argues passionately that worship needs to be ‘returned to the people’, although his vision for this is more than just lay leadership extending also to cover congregational participation.
  69. Marva J. Dawn, Reaching out without Dumbing Down : A Theoloy of Worship for This Urgent Time (Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans Pub., 1995), 41ff. and Dawn, A Royal “Waste” Of Time, 88ff. Dawn maintains that the worshipping community needs to innoculate us against secular worldviews, particularly consumerism. cf. Lewis, whose demonic character Screwtape writes to his nephew, ‘Surely you know that if a man can’t be cured of churchgoing, the next best thing is to send him all over the neighbourhood looking for the church that ‘suits’ him until he becomes a taster or connoisseur of churches… the search for a ‘suitable’ church makes the man a critic where the Enemy [i.e. God] wants him to be a pupil.’ C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters : Also Includes, “Screwtape Proposes a Toast” (London: HarperCollins, 2001), 81.
  70. Even the content of preaching across the two morning services is consistent, with the same preacher preaching on the same topic at each. The evening service usually follows its own independent program of preaching. Sadly, this does not foster church-wide community as well as might be the case if the preaching was uniform across all three services. The decision to have separate ‘streams’ of preaching is based on the ‘needs’ of a younger congregation in the evening, so church-wide unity is traded off in favour of more focused and directed discipleship.
  71. Usually in the form of coffee and food after the service.
  72. Kauflin, Worship Matters, 192.
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