“Homo adorans”

The first, the basic definition of man is that he is the priest. He stands in the center of the world and unifies it in his act of blessing God, of both receiving the world from God and offering it to God—and by filling the world with this eucharist, he transforms his life, the one that he receives from the world, into life in God, into communion with Him. The world was created as the “matter,” the material of one all-embracing eucharist, and man was created as the priest of this cosmic sacrament.

—Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World, 15

The Primacy of Worship

The only parochial [church] activities which have any real justification are those which spring from worship and in their turn nourish it.

—Jean-Jacques von Allmen, Worship: Its Theology and Practice, 55-56

Worship is the only Christian activity which is an end in itself.

—John Piper

All evangelistic activities of the church have as their goal finding more worshipers for God; all edification activities of the church have as their goal making better worshipers for God.

—Ron Man

In and Out

It is by its worship that the Church lives, it is there that its heart beats. And in fact the life of the Church pulsates like the heart by systole and diastole. As the heart is for the animal body, so the cult [worship service] is for church life a pump which sends into circulation and draws in again, it claims and it sanctifies. It is from the life of worship…that the Church spreads itself abroad into the world to mingle with it like leaven in the dough, to give it savour like salt, to irradiate like light, and it is towards the cult that the Church returns from the world like a fisherman gathering up his nets or a farmer harvesting his grain.

—Jean-Jacques von Allmen, Worship: Its Theology and Practice, 55-56

Beyond Style

It is fruitless to search for a single musical style, or even any blend of musical styles, that can assist all Christians with true worship. The followers of Jesus are a far too diverse group of people—which is exactly as it should be. We need, rather, to welcome any worship music that helps churches produce disciples of Jesus Christ.

—Michael S. Hamilton, “The Triumph of the Praise Songs,” Christianity Today 43:8 (7/12/99), 11

Dependent on the Spirit

The integrity of the Christian is grounded in the imputed righteousness of Christ mediated by the Holy Spirit. It is impossible by our own effort to come to worship to be shaped by the Holy One and at the same time to acquire the necessary holiness sufficient for worship that pleases God. 

—Robbie F. Castleman, Robbie F.  Story Shaped Worship: Following Patterns from the Bible and History, 122

Cultural Inflection in Worship

Each culture uses its own rhythms, melodies, and instruments to convey meaning through music. An intonation that signals politeness in one language may signal disbelief in another. It would be inappropriate to use victory music at a tragic scene, party music at a serious scene, or shaman music at a worship scene. A familiar musical setting helps people identify with the message. A song that sounds beautiful to a Westerner may sound dissonant to someone else and hinder them from opening up to the message.

—Wycliffe Bible Translators, “Scripture Engagement”

Mixing It Up

The glory of the gospel is to unite peoples of every language and culture under the lordship of Christ (Eph. 2:11-22; 4:3-6,13; Rev. 7:9-17). So we should not be content with divisions created by different musical tastes and traditions. As we grow to maturity in Christ we should be looking for ways to express the unity that is God’s goal for us: in gospel action, in the exchange of ministries and gifts, in combined services and in the sharing of musical resources and experiences.

—David G. Peterson, Encountering God Together: Leading Worship Services That Honor God, Minister to His People, and Build His Church, 143

The Book of God

“This Book [is] the most valuable thing that this world affords. Here is Wisdom; this is the royal Law; these are the lively Oracles of God.” With these words the Moderator of the Church of Scotland hands a Bible to the new monarch in Britain’s coronation service.

—Preface to the English Standard Version

The First Move

Christian worship is our affirmative, transforming response to the self- revelation of God. . . . We are not seeking to find or to know an obscure, frightening being who needs to be placated. God makes and continues to make the first move, showing himself in power and in love, inviting our response. In fact, worship is any and every affirmative response to God.

—Don Hustad, in Jubilate II: Church Music in Worship and Renewal

Praying beyond Our Walls

A visitor can tell a lot about a congregation from the prayers spoken in worship. Maybe you have experienced services in which congregations appear to be completely self-centered. They prayed for needs within which congregations appear to be completely self-centered. They prayed for needs within their own congregation, but said hardly a word about anything or anyone outside themselves—unless, perhaps, there had been a hurricane or some other sort of disaster in the news. Of course it is a beautiful and important part of our priestly function as a community to pray for the needs of the congregation—this is one way we rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. But we have to reach beyond our congregational families too.

Bringing the needs of the world before God in the worshiping assembly demonstrates to members and visitors that a given congregation is more than just a nice social club.

—Ron and Debra Rienstra, Worship Words: Discipling Language for Faithful Ministry, 205-206