Tag Archives: worship

The Value of Worship

Last week, we explored the history behind our fractured Christianity. This week, we’ll take a brief look at the ‘Big-T’ non-negotiable practices of shared faith and contrast them against ‘little-t’ subjective truths of how we engage in religion, how we worship. But first, let’s define the term.

It is a 16th-century compound word that combines ‘worth’ and ‘ship.’ Basically, the word is action-oriented and represents how we assign worth to what we value. In the Bible, worship was actionable: bowing down, singing, praying, giving, sexual purity, kindness, etc. Jesus’ related point was that we tend to put our resources (worth) into what we value (Matthew 6:21). Let’s go back to the first century to contrast Christian mandates with today’s religious practices.

Two thousand years ago, Christians were charged with honoring their heavenly Father with all they were and had and to treat each other with the love of Christ (Matthew 22:34-40). They were to make disciples and baptize new converts into the faith (e.g., Matthew 28:18-21); those faithful newbies received the Spirit of God in return for regeneration (e.g., Acts 5:32 & Titus 3:5). Simple devotion, baptism, charity, and disciple-making while walking by the Spirit of God in the Christian community were essential Christian activities. Being a community, Christ-followers enjoyed table fellowship that brought the remembrance of what Jesus did for humankind and why, initially on Saturday evenings during corporate worship (prayer, teaching, singing, etc. (see Colossians 3:16 for a foundation)). No mystery or magic; no strict religious focus or a one-to-many format – well, not yet anyway.

By the fourth century, candles, chants, and rituals turned baptism into a solemn religious experience, although the primary intent remained: devote to God and renounce sin. Similarly, simple table fellowship and a communal remembrance of Jesus’ sacrifice and the covenant it enabled became a formalized and mystical experience that not everyone could administer or enjoy. Corporate prayer where members in a Christian assembly participated has ceased to be a shared, communal experience. Collaborative teaching and the sharing of spiritual gifts have given way to preaching and a strict format that leaves little if any room for in-depth and applicable biblical teaching or movements by the Spirit of God.

“But, Ron – does how we sing, teach, pray, baptize, or take Communion in a worship service matter?” The answer depends on whether biblical teaching in disciple-making, heartfelt prayer, faith-fueled baptism, intimate sharing in covenantal remembrance or corporate singing and exercising spiritual gifts occur in true worship while involved in religious activities. We may practice our faith differently depending on religious culture. But, we must never forsake Communion’s intimate sharing, the devotion of baptism, communal prayer and singing, or the maturity found in discipleship.

Oh – I mentioned the phrase “Christian love.” Please join me next week to look at the different ways we do, and should, love!

Blessings and peace,

Ron Braley

Donuts and Electric Guitars?

We know from the Old Testament that Israelites praised God with instruments and voices (e.g. 1Chronicles 15:16) as the whole earth will one day (Psalm 66:3-4). And, according to Paul, the first-century Church also sang songs together in praise and worship (e.g. Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16).

There are two ways to handle music in church: listen to the music and enjoy it, which may make us feel good but does nothing for anyone else. Or . . . we can actively participate in singing and playing as instructed by the Bible. This outward expression is a great way to adore, honor, and revere our God and Christ! After all, true love (agape in the Greek) is actionable and the kind of love we’re meant to have for God and our fellow humans.

There’s some concern these days around the use of multimedia and the replaying of Christian entertainment during church services as a form of praise and worship. Whether there’s reason for concern depends on the intent of the performers and hearers.

Are the sessions prideful regurgitations of Christian top-40 music meant to evoke the same kinds of emotions you’d find in a bar over weepy love songs or among lighter-waving teens in a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert 35 years ago? Or, is the music truly a vehicle for outward-bound praise of our Lord and savior?  Only the performers and listeners know for sure.

As a praise and worship lead guitarist for roughly 34 years, I can honestly say I’ve seen it go both ways, although the trend seems to be moving away from a participatory worship to more of an appeal to the senses (in my experience and opinion).

Just remember that obedience to God’s commandments is the greatest form of true worship – assigning ‘worth’ or ‘value’ to our God. According to the Bible, this is what God desires over religious activities, and Jesus said this is how we prove we’re His. No amount of donuts in the foyer, weepy worship band music, electric guitar solos, or church programs will save us from God’s wrath to come. However, obedience out of faith will.

Keep an eye out for “Finding Answers to Stuff Churches Don’t Discuss!” scheduled for a mid-2015 publication. There, you’ll find roughly 60 topics related to daily life (such as sex, religion, finances, tattooing, and everything in between!) along with practical application of God’s guidance for navigating those difficult waters!

And, for a very comprehensive and detailed study of the very important topic of God’s judgment to come and being rescued from it, feel free to read my 2011 guide titled, “Finding the End of the World” available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and from www.ronbraley.com in paper and e-book formats. In the guide, you’ll find roughly 500 pages of building blocks to help you do your own complete and unbiased study based on Scripture and history!

Who Needs the Church?

There’s the Church, which is the entire assembly of Jesus’ followers, and there are churches (lower case), which can represent local collections of Christian believers or followers (there is a difference!).

The Church as a whole is responsible for being obedient to our covenant with the Christ. We are to do these things in particular:

  • Evangelize: How will people hear the good news of salvation if we don’t tell them?? (Matthew 28:19-20; Romans 1:16 and 10:14-15; 2Corinthians 5:18-20)
  • Be Charitable: The collecting of funds and other resources in the first-century Church was for the care of others including those who traveled to spread the Gospel message.
    • Care for brothers & sisters in Christ (Matthew 25:41-43; James 2:13-17; Acts 4:32-35; Acts 6:1-5)
    • Care for traveling evangelists (3John 1:7-8; Philippians 4:14-19)
    • Worship: Although we worship God and our Christ through our speech and actions, we can also do this in song and dance. (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16)
    • Governance: No one should be more important than another or ‘lord it over’ others, but fill roles as the Holy Spirit enables them.
      • Elders – overseers within the churches (Acts 14:23; 1Timothy 5:17)
      • Deacons – servants in the churches (1Timothy 3:8-13)
      • Bishops – overseers among the churches (1Timothy 3:1-7)
      • Discipleship: This is a very necessary step after evangelizing the Gospel message! We must share spiritual gifts, teach, mentor, and disciple to help others increase in their faith and stand firm against all kinds of wickedness and false teaching (Matthew 28:19-20; Romans 6:17 and 10:17; Colossians 1:28 and 3:16; 2Timothy 3:16; Titus 1:9 and 2:3; Hebrews 5:12-14)

In summary, the Church at large is composed of true followers of Jesus who are obedient out of their faith by honoring God and treating their fellow humankind appropriately. This includes caring for them.  Additionally, Jesus commanded us to spread the good news of salvation and make disciples. Everything we do as the corporate Church should work together for these purposes.

So . . . do you belong to the Church, a church, or both?

The Church: Then and Now

People have asked me several times to explain how today’s churches compare to the first-century Church. Good things can come from the Christian culture and church business model we experience today (some missions, some training, some benevolence, and governance).  However, they’re limited in scope and pale in comparison to the overshadowing abuse of Scripture, lack of discipleship training, and overarching concern about supporting the business of church.

Jesus intended for us to do three things per His commandments: treat God the Father appropriately, treat our fellow humans charitably, and spread the good news of salvation. This is what the early Church did despite great persecution and poverty, and they succeeded by sharing resources and using spiritual gifts. Everyone was on the same functional level and they filled roles as the Spirit of God enabled them. Today, churches are segregated business units with paid professionals, organizational charts, and exorbitant capital and operational expenses. The focus has, therefore, shifted from evangelism and charity to managing the business, and attracting and appeasing consumers of religious and emotional experiences.

A picture is certainly worth a thousand words, so you’ll find below a table that summarizes Church roles and responsibilities. It includes a comparison of the ancient and modern Churches and related Scripture references.

 

Function or Role

1st-Century Church

Today’s Church

Related Scripture

       
Evangelism One of three critical functions; To be done by all Not a priority or typically nurtured; Related to a lack of discipleship and training efforts Psalms 96

Matthew 28:19-20

Mark 16:15

Luke 24:47

Acts 1:8

Romans 1:16 and 10:12-15

2Corinthians 5:18-20

Benevolence: Brothers & Sisters in Christ Critical for survival; benevolence is one of three critical functions of the Church; we’ll be judged by Jesus for our involvement;  To be done by all Not a focus for resources or activities (only about 1% of funds collected) Matthew 25:41-43

Acts 2:45, 4:32-35, and 6:1-5

Romans 12:5-13

1Corinthians 16:1-5

2Corinthians 8:10-20 and 9:1-5

Ephesians 4:28

James 2:13-17

1John 3:14-18

Benevolence: Traveling Evangelists Critical for survival; benevolence is one of three critical functions of the Church Some missionary support; most care of missionaries/traveling evangelists comes from individual followers of Jesus outside normal ‘tithes’ Acts 20:34-35

Romans 16:1-2

1Corinthians 9:1-14

2Corinthians 11:7-9

Philippians 4:14-19

Titus 3:13-14

3John 1:7-8

Discipleship One of three important functions of the Church (the other two: benevolence and evangelism); done by those more mature in their faith Not generally a priority as evidenced by Scriptural illiteracy and lack of programs (95% or more of those who say they believe in Jesus don’t read the Bible or regularly engage in study) Matthew 28:19-20

Romans 6:17 and 10:17

Colossians 1:28 and 3:16

2Timothy 3:16

Titus 1:9 and 2:3

Hebrews 5:12-14

Governance Oversight through mature Christians and Bishops (overseers) Multiple levels of responsibilities; incumbents are usually paid Acts 14:23;

1Corinthians 12:27-29

1Timothy 3:1-13 and 5:17

Fund Raising Done for benevolence without mandate or limit Done through threats of robbing God (OT Scriptural misuse) or promises of prosperity; Funds are used primarily for salaries, real-estate, or related business expenses See ‘Benevolence’ scriptures above
Worship Outward; participatory More inward; audience and performance-based Ephesians 5:19

Colossians 3:16

 

Which ‘Church’ do you belong to?