Summary: The Assembly of God’s New Covenant People is to know Jesus Christ through the act of consecrated remembering. Worship should be conscious of the covenant relationship between God and man, fulfilled in Christ.
INTRODUCTION: THOUGHTS ON THE STATE OF WORSHIP IN EVANGELICALISM
“Everything flows and nothing abides; everything gives way and nothing stays fixed,” said the ancient Greek thinker Heraclitus. The subject of worship commands the attention of many today just because of the endless changes. If there were ever days when the Church worshiped with one voice in a unison cadence, those days are gone, for now. After the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century, the tapestry of Christian worship disintegrated. The seventeenth century became the fountain head for Protestant thought with great creedal leading to the jewels of the seventeenth century, the Westminster Confession and the systematic works of Turretin and a Brakel, though no clear unity of worship practice had been reached. Then, riding the waves of revival and revivalism, eighteenth and nineteenth century evangelicals followed many threads of the tapestry of Christian worship. The culmination of this has apexes in a quite sermon-centered, evangelism-centered worship service. Songs and a few necessary items, like offerings are to give way to the pastor’s “message.” Such revivalistic worship is at its apex, a “harvest of souls.” In the twentieth century, the high churches have seen a renewed emphasis on liturgical worship, while the low churches have been empowered by the new phenomenon of praise and worship music.
There are deeper influences which contribute to an often unhealthy diversity in worship: the emphasis on individualism and the increased role of the psychology of self. We live in a frightfully unique time in the history of the church where the concept of sin is publicly repudiated (even from some pulpits) and big glass churches. It is a sin to talk of sin. Salvation is dangerously connected to self-esteem. It seems that all the factors that make up the American mind significantly contribute to the modern kaleidoscope of American worship. With the diversity of church traditions, modern technological influences, and fundamental theological and psychological perspectives intersecting on Sunday morning, there is no end to the array of contemporary approaches to worship.
In spite of so many manifestations of worship (or perhaps because of it), it is still true that many believers are unaware of what the Scripture teaches concerning worship. Many have little motivation to go “ad fontes” (to the sources) and see what the Word declares. In addressing questions such as music, the role of Scripture, fixed forms (prayers and pronouncements), the centrality of communion, the recipients of the sacraments, many are simply “out to lunch” regarding the biblically relevant material. Either they are droned to sleep in traditionalism or they are doing aerobics with anti-traditionalists; they are defending liturgicalism or defining worship with TV variety-show techniques. Each extreme is appealed to by felt needs. “Worshipful feeling is the master and guide, rather than the sure Word of the living God. Even the mention of the Word as the ideal guide strikes many as “prideful” - because, after all, “that’s just Your interpretation.”