Archive for the ‘Philosophy of Worship’ Category

From Bob Kauflin

By nature, “cool” describes something that the world esteems as hip, desirable, elitist, and perhaps elusive. Biblical worship is very un-hip, hated by the world’s value system, and a gracious gift from God to those he has redeemed. It involves magnifying the glory of Christ and minimizing our own glory. It means acknowledging our sinfulness before a holy God, expressing gratefulness for the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ for our sins, and responding in humble obedience to his commands. All very uncool activities.

This is good. Jesus put it this way – “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24) True discipleship is not “cool.” It’s a probable cause of hardship, pain, suffering, and sacrifice. Biblical worship lifts up these qualities as reality for those being sent into the world as disciples.

Biblical worship is the worship of the Tabernacle and Temple. Something costly was sacrificed. Something had to die. Something was offered up in it’s entirety – consumed for God’s glory. Biblical worship calls us to live our lives in this same way (Romans 12:1-2).


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From the Nairobi Statement on Worship and Culture

4.1. Jesus Christ came to transform all people and all cultures, and calls us not to conform to the world, but to be transformed with it (Romans 12:2). In the mystery of his passage from death to eternal life is the model for transformation, and thus for the counter-cultural nature of Christian worship. Some components of every culture in the world are sinful, dehumanizing, and
contradictory to the values of the Gospel. From the perspective of the Gospel, they need critique and transformation. Contextualization of Christian faith and worship necessarily involves challenging of all types of oppression and social injustice wherever they exist in earthly cultures.

4.2. It also involves the transformation of cultural patterns which idolize the self or the local group at the expense of a wider humanity, or which give central place to the acquisition of wealth at the expense of the care of the earth and its poor. The tools of the counter-cultural in Christian worship may also include the deliberate maintenance or recovery of patterns of action which differ intentionally from prevailing cultural models. These patterns may arise from a recovered sense of Christian history, or from the wisdom of other cultures.

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Don Saliers (in Music in Christian Worship) presented the idea of three levels of participation in worship. The first level of participation is the actual doing of the liturgy (singing, praying, reading, etc.). The second level of participation is the same actions of the first level, but doing them as the church. This level implies that worshipers are performing the functions of the liturgy not for their own fulfillment, but looking to the interests and preferences of others. Worship is done in community with those in the local Body of Christ, with the Body of Christ through the ages past and yet to come, and with the Body of Christ that is marginalized. Finally, the third level of participation in worship includes entering into the mystical communion of the Triune God. Here our lives join the divine life of the three-in-one God.

Most pastoral musicians spend the majority of their time and energy at the first level: the design and logistics of actually doing the liturgy. The second level is where I struggle. How do you nicely communicate to someone (or everyone) they are being selfish and narcissistic in worship, and not lose your job? How do you model worship that places the preferences of others over the preferences of self? We are lucky to observe glimpses of the third level. Often times joining our lives with the dance of the Trinity sounds like something only possible in the world to come. Perhaps it is also helpful to think of these levels of worship participation in reverse. Consider that every believer has unity and communion with the Trinity that is established through a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. Because we each have unity with God, in Jesus, we can share unity and communion with each other as brothers and sisters, fellow heirs of Christ’s kingdom. Finally, it is out of our unity with God and communion with each other (saints gone-by, yet to come, and forgotten) that the liturgy finds its voice and actions. The first level of actually doing the liturgy should only be approached in the knowledge that our faith is a gift of grace, and that faith is to be lived out in community.

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from The Work of the People

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Silence has long occupied an important role in both individual and corporate worship. Its presence implies the fulfillment of a biblical admonition: “The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him” (Hab 2:20). In some current worship practices, however, silence has become all but lost. Many churches whose worship is strongly influenced by revivalist traditions have dispensed with silence as “too liturgical.” Other contemporary
churches from a wide variety of denominational traditions, whose weekly worship practices have been shaped by either the demands of radio and television production or the influence of the television medium, have abandoned silence as a component of corporate worship from the mistaken assumption that it creates “dead time”—either in the broadcast/telecast of the service or in the flow of worship elements. To the contrary, appropriate moments of silence contribute to the rhythm of revelation and response in worship by providing “waiting space” for the revelatory work of God’s Spirit.

Furr, Garry, and Milburn Price. The Dialogue of Worship. Macon, GA: Smyth & Helwys Publishing, 1998, p. 12.

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The “scripting” of preaching can, like a bad play, be pre-
dictable and dull. Even worse, it can be manipulative. A play is
said to be “preachy” when it uses the medium of drama to coerce
a certain (and unvarying) response. Good preaching is direct,
understandable, and dynamic, but it also has a certain quality of
open-endedness. It is evocative—it stirs and “opens up” without
substituting for the work of the Spirit.

Furr, Garry, and Milburn Price. The Dialogue of Worship. Macon, GA: Smyth & Helwys Publishing, 1998, p. 11.

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For worshipers sensitive to the aesthetic dimensions of well-
crafted music performed convincingly, experiencing such a
moment in the context of worship can serve as a vivid reminder of
God the Creator, who, in fashioning humankind in the divine
image, graced persons with their own creative gifts. As Robert
Mitchell noted in Ministry and Music, “Through the arts, espe-
cially through music, the transcendent, the ineffable, the
incomprehensible may be encountered as God’s Spirit brings
revelation to our human spirit.”

Furr, Garry, and Milburn Price. The Dialogue of Worship. Macon, GA: Smyth & Helwys Publishing, 1998, p. 10.

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