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Philosophy of Worship
Worship is a spiritual activity. When Jesus spoke with the woman at the well, he indicated that the Father is seeking a particular kind of worshipper. These true worshippers, he taught, must do so in spirit, and in truth (Jn. 4:23). While worship may involve outward acts, such as singing, praying, giving, serving and the like, it certainly does not consist in those activities. Worship can be usefully seen as “honor and adoration directed to God”[1] Clearly, when this is done in spirit, i.e. in the human spirit, it is not something that is visible. This is a crucial principle, since it is impossible to tell outwardly whether someone is actually worshipping inwardly.[2] In fact, Jesus claimed that much of the ‘worship’ of his own day was merely outward, saying that “this people worship me with their lips, but their heart is far from me,” (Mark 7:6). Clearly then, worship only truly takes place when the heart is engaged.
A biblical understanding of heart as the locale of the whole person, understanding, affections/emotions, and will, is crucial to a philosophy of worship.[3] If we are to worship God with hearts engaged, this means all aspects of our person will be involved. It follows that if we do not worship with understanding, then our hearts are not properly engaged, and so Jesus’ words to the Samaritan woman, that true worshippers would do so in truth, takes on real significance.  Worship takes place when some truth about God (who he is, or what he has done) strikes the heart/mind, and then the heart/affections respond with holy adoration directed to God. Music alone cannot do that… and it cannot prevent it, even if inappropriate music may obviously be a distraction.
With this in mind, the priorities for worship should fall into place. Worship needs to be content driven, not merely designed to stimulate emotions. For understanding, lyrics must both be comprehensible to those singing them, and contain scriptural truth that is clearly communicated. Hymns that contain antiquated language which is not explained or revised, and songs which lack the truth required to stimulate the mind to worship, both fail at this point. Furthermore, for the understanding to function, there is also an obvious requirement for order, and not chaos, as is also fitting in the worship of a God of order (1 Cor. 14:33, 40). Both the arrangement of corporate worship, and the musical styles adopted should reflect this, as well as a reverential fear of a God who is at one and the same time our Heavenly Father, and thrice Holy God.   
The fact that God has given all good things for our enjoyment (1 Tim. 6:17), including music, and the significant place of music in the worship of both OT and NT is remarkable. The fact that singing formed a crucial part of NT worship is indisputable. Jesus himself sang a hymn before going to the cross, using a tune, as did Paul and Silas in jail in Philippi (Acts 16:25). The NT church would naturally have continued that pattern. It is specifically exhorted to use psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, with which they were to speak to one another, and even admonish one another; however, no specific form of the music that accompanied such NT worship is mandated by Scripture.[4]
OT Temple worship was clearly professionally led (1 Chron. 15:22; 2 Chron. 34:12), using various instruments, choirs and musical arrangements (2 Chron. 5:12-14), including but not being dominated by congregational worship. NT examples are too sparse to form a normative example, and in the absence of specific instruction, freedom must be presumed, guided by the principles above, and governed by the overarching rule of mutual submission and love (Eph. 5:21; Rom. 14-15; 1 Cor. 8). From the NT examples that we do have however, and the clear indication that singing characterizes the worship in the place where God lives (Rev. 5:9; 15:3), it is fitting that music should characterize the worship when the future Bride of Christ gathers here below!
Excellence should be our aim in all that we do as believers, and the musical aspect of worship should be no exception (1 Cor. 10:31). Where there are individuals in the local church who possess the musical giftedness and the spiritual maturity to lead others in worship, their gifts should be exercised for the mutual edification of the body (1 Cor. 12; Ro. 12; see esp. 1 Cor. 12:7). Just as churches have no difficulty in employing the skillful services of an architect in constructing a building, rejoicing in the giftedness which – used wisely – facilitates and does not hinder heart worship… so the local church should employ the skills of those gifted individuals that can strive to ensure that the music employed and lyrics chosen, engender rather than impede.
Since there is no Biblical mandate for a particular instrument or style of music, great care must be taken to ensure that the types of music employed reflect the Biblical principles that are available, and not simply culturally generated preferences. The musical preference of any individual tends to reflect the environment in which they were raised, and in an age when different generations coexist in the same church with vastly different musical inclinations, as previously mentioned, mutual submission and love must dominate any differences in preference (Eph. 5:21; Rom. 14-15; 1 Cor. 8).
Where two (or more) musical cultures exist side by side, the danger for separation of the body into different groups is real, and although great skill is required, it is possible to sensitively blend musical styles in the same service, so long as everything that is included falls within Biblical guidelines. In this way it is possible to retain the use of the excellent hymns of the church, many of which are so rich in content that their loss would impoverish the breadth of expression in the church’s worship. It is also possible to include some of the best of contemporary music, some of which is also rich in content and often pure scripture. Blending musical styles in one service will never be an easy task, since what is entirely inoffensive to one, may grate in another’s ear, and ‘heart-stirring’ tunes may leave another cold. Musical styles that are so culturally offensive that they cause division should be avoided for the sake of love.[5]  
All believers, and thus pastors especially are to “see that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another,” (1 Thess. 5:15). In the realm of worship, without care, preferences can quickly become principles to fight over, and that which should be the high point of every gathering of the church can become the bone of contention. With God looking at our hearts and not simply our musical styles, it behooves each of us to take care that we do not allow ourselves to go beyond what is written (1 Cor. 4:6), and end up “biting and devouring each other” (Gal. 5:15), rather than “serving one another in love” and loving our neighbours as ourselves (Gal. 5:14).

[1] John F. MacArthur, The Ultimate Priority (Chicago: Moody Press, 1983), 14. MacArthur goes on to give a fuller definition: “worship is our innermost being responding with praise for all that God is, through our attitudes, actions, thoughts, and words, based on the truth of God as He has revealed Himself.” Ibid., 127.
[2] Thus it is unwise to pronounce that someone is not worshipping because the music that accompanies what they do is distasteful or distracting to the onlooker… and it is similarly unwise to declare that someone is not worshipping simply because it does not seem ‘lively’ to the onlooker. Inward worship (whether or not the outward activity seems appropriate) may or may not be taking place in either case.
[3] Jesus saw that people were thinking in their hearts (Mt. 9:4; Lu. 9:47). Paul speaks of people deciding in their own hearts (1 Cor. 7:37).  Paul similarly spoke of purposing in the heart (2 Cor. 9:7), anguish in the heart (2 Cor. 2:4). Finally, we are told to love  God and each other with/from the heart (Deut. 6:4; 1 Pet. 1:22).
[4] Once again, that function requires truth content.
[5] Music is arguably amoral in and of itself, and any ‘message’ which music communicates – it does so by cultural connotations of association. This reality of cultural understood messages  must not be ignored however. Paul S. Jones wrote, “Music that predisposes one to lightheartedness, frivolity, rebellion, or sensuality does not befit the worship of our great and holy God.” Paul S. Jones, Singing and Making Music: Issues in Church Music Today (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2006), 280.

An informal appendix:

A friend messaged me today, picking up on something I said in a previous post about wanting your prayers as we seek a 'worship leader'.

"What's the Biblical justification for a worship leader?" she wanted to know.

After I had given a (very hastily typed) reply... I thought I'd better put this up to save on having the same confusion in the minds of other friends back home... so here it is.

Please excuse the informality... This is a personal message to a friend. It's a bit rough round the edges... but I've only edited it quickly to shorten it and avoid embarrassing my friend by identifying her! Check out the texts at the bottom when I'm referring to scripture.

(For a more detailed philosophy of worship - see the worship matters tab at the top.)

Hi _________...
great to hear from you!
Yes - am praying now that you would get that ______________!
Re the biblical basis for a worship leader...
just look at what they did in the OT
When you look at the Habakkuk text - it is VERY helpful, because it proves that these 'titles' were originally part of the inspired text. We tend to ignore them, but they provide an important clue to the richness of the OT worship which was far from drab. Cymbals, lyres, flutes, harps, trumpets... quite a band.
(I don't subscribe to the unbiblical arguments that some put forward - I know you don't subscribe either at __________ - that an organ is somehow a sanctified instrument, and anything else like a guitar is somehow ungodly. They would have to prove that... and their arguments tend to go along the line that the 'regulative principle' applies to worship, so whatever is not found, they argue, in the NT, cannot be utilised. But on that basis they should have no instrument at all.. since there are no instruments found in the NT examples of worship... and no music, since although we know that they sang hymns, we don't know which tunes they used. We don't know which hymns are authorised, so we should only really use psalms... and since we don't know which tunes... we should either chant them monotone, or just recite them. Clearly that's all nonsense, but it is the logical application of the regulative principle. Once you step outside of what is written, and their favourite verse to support the regulative principle is 1 Cor 4:6, but they rip that out of context to make it support a regulative principle - as I say, once you step outside what is written, you have to allow for freedom of conscience within principles provided by scripture.

One of those principles is excellence... doing all that we do to the glory of God... and another is using the gifts that God supplies in the church.

Freedom, + those principles, + the OT example that says God is not offended somehow by well orchestrated music, all allows for a 'worship leader'.

I agree with the concerns of people who see a trend in some charismatic churches for the musical side to become purely carnal... but that only calls for those of us who want to see God honoured and worshipped in reverence, to pursue excellence in all we do, and to allow people to express their God given creativity in music, while guiding them as to biblical principles that should govern their freedom!)

You asked! ;-)

Love to all your lovely family!!
We love you guys so much... and can't wait to be only a few miles away.

In His lovely Name


Psa. 5:0 Psa. 6:0 Psa. 8:0 Psa. 9:0 Psa. 11:0 Psa. 12:0 Psa. 13:0
Psa. 14:0 Psa. 18:0 Psa. 19:0 Psa. 20:0 Psa. 21:0 Psa. 22:0 Psa. 31:0
Psa. 36:0 Psa. 39:0 Psa. 40:0 Psa. 41:0 Psa. 42:0 Psa. 44:0 Psa. 45:0
Psa. 46:0 Psa. 47:0 Psa. 49:0 Psa. 51:0 Psa. 52:0 Psa. 53:0 Psa. 54:0
Psa. 55:0 Psa. 56:0 Psa. 57:0 Psa. 58:0 Psa. 59:0 Psa. 60:0 Psa. 61:0
Psa. 62:0 Psa. 64:0 Psa. 65:0 Psa. 66:0 Psa. 67:0 Psa. 68:0 Psa. 69:0
Psa. 70:0 Psa. 75:0 Psa. 76:0 Psa. 77:0 Psa. 80:0 Psa. 81:0 Psa. 84:0
Psa. 85:0 Psa. 88:0 Psa. 109:0 Psa. 139:0 Psa. 140:0
Hab. 3:19

Interestingly, it seems from Habakkuk that these musical instructions were not only part of the original text, but also came at the END of the text, not the beginning. Interesting insights flow from this... but that;s for another time

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