Body Building

Paul told the Corinthians that Christian worship is primarily a corporate (and corporeal) affair; it expresses and forms the Body. If worship does not strengthen the community (the Body), it is not Christian worship (see 1 Cor 1:2; 14:26).

—William Willimon, Worship as Pastoral Care, 20

The Life of the Church

After the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit in the conception, life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we find the ‘other Paraclete’ (John 14:16) given to the apostles (John 20:22-3), the ‘Promise of the Father’ (Luke 24:29; Acts 1:4-5) made good at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-21; see also 33).  Henceforward the Holy Spirit will be the Life of the church, itself the ‘first fruits’ of God’s new creation (James 1:18) and an instrument in God’s hands for the achievement of God’s purposes among humankind.  The Holy Spirit works from the very beginning to constitute and compose the church and its members, coming to them and abiding in them corporately and individually, starting to transform them in the direction of God’s kingdom and enabling them to bear witness to the gospel for the sake of its extension.

—Geoffrey Wainwright, “The Holy Spirit,” in ed. Colin E. Gunton, The Cambridge Companion to Christian Doctrine (Cambridge Companions to Religion), 284

Jesus and the Church

1. Jesus is the new end-time Adam.
2. Jesus is the new end-time Israel.
3. Jesus is the new end-time Davidic King.
4. Jesus is the new end-time Priest.
5. Jesus is the new end-time Prophet.
6. Jesus is the new end-time Teacher of the Law.
7. Jesus is the new end-time Temple.
8. The church is all these things in its union with Christ.

—Gregory K. Beale, “Finding Christ in the Old Testament,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 63: (2020): 49-50

Pilgrims on the Way

Page 440-441

In our eschatological perspective, the historical Church is definitely in via, though not yet in patria. More appropriate than a statically conceived infallibility or a hopeless fallibility lacking all confidence in divine guidance is the model of ecclesial communities as traveling companions on the journey towards a kingdom whose prince has come ahead and promised to escort us on the way.

—Geoffrey Wainwright, Doxology: The Praise of God in Worship, Doctrine, and Life: A Systematic Theology, 440-41

A Worshiping Community and Family

The church is not simply a club of like-minded people who meet until they are strong enough to go it alone. Nor is it about being part of a social club of like-minded individuals. Being a Christian is all about being part of God’s community. The church is the family of God sharing one Father, the body and bride of Christ and temple of the Holy Spirit.

—Robin Parry, Worshiping Trinity: Coming Back to the Heart of Worship, 53

The Neglected Trinity (15)

The doctrine of the Trinity highlights the perfect unity of purpose, will, and mission of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, expressed through their distinct roles in the economy of salvation. Through union with Christ in communion with the Holy Spirit, human beings are invited to share in this life of joyful relationality, shared purpose, and other-directed love.

—John D. Witvliet, The Doctrine of the Trinity and the Theology and Practice of Christian Worship in the Reformed Tradition (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Notre Dame, 1997), 295

An End In Itself

In worship, the members of the church focus on God; in instruction and fellowship, they focus on themselves and fellow Christians; in evangelism, they turn their attention to non-Christians.  

—Millard Erickson, Christian Theology, 1066-1067

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

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

Pentecost and the Church (3)

The Spirit makes known the personal presence in and with the Christian and the church of the risen, reigning Saviour, the Jesus of history, who is the Christ of faith. Scripture shows . . . that since the Pentecost of Acts 2 this, essentially, is what the Spirit is doing all the time as He empowers, enables, purges, and leads generation after generation of sinners to face the reality of God. And He does it in order that Christ may be known, loved, trusted, honored and praised, which is the Spirit’s aim and purpose throughout as it is the aim and purpose of God the Father, too. This is what, in the last analysis, the Spirit’s new covenant ministry is all about.

—J. I. Packer, Keep in Step with the Spirit, 47

Pentecost and the Church (2)

Just as Jesus’ baptism and anointing with the Spirit in Luke 3 is to be understood as standing behind and explaining everything else, from His “Messianic” proclamation in Luke 4 to His messianic death and resurrection, so the coming of the Spirit in Acts 2 is to be understood as standing behind and explaining everything else that the church then does, particularly its worship, its mission and its bold stand in obeying God rather than human authorities. Thus, when Luke later tells us that the Christians gathered together were all filled with the Spirit and spoke God’s word with boldness, this should be understood not as a fresh and momentary filling, repeating Pentecost as it were on a strictly temporary basis, but as a fresh manifestation of what had been the case all along since Pentecost itself. The church from Acts 2 onwards is the Spirit-led church, with worship as an integral part of its proper life.

—N.T. Wright, “Worship and the Spirit in the New Testament”, 4

Pentecost and the Church

The need for a theology about the Day of Pentecost is seen by reflecting on how readily Christians misunderstand the nature of the church. For many people the church is a voluntary organization of individuals. . . .

The church is a community called together by the Spirit of the Risen One. It is not something we choose to do (and equally well could choose not to do), but something to which we are summoned. The Greek word for church (ekklēsia from which we derive “ecclesiastical”) means “those who have been called forth or summoned,” much as one is summoned to appear in a court of law. And we are called as a body of interdependent parts, not as separable individuals. The free-spirited individualism of our age is a manifestation of Babel, not Pentecost, as should be evident from the intransigent divisions and intractable conflicts such individualism fosters. The Risen One, who is present at all times and in all places, seeks to bind together by the action of the Spirit all things that have been wrongly separated. Participation therefore is not something we do on the basis of personal choice or need; participation in the Body of Christ is inherent in being Christian. The church, not the individual, is the irreducible unit of Christianity. Further, the church is to be a sign of the future: No matter how haltingly and imperfectly, the church seeks to enact in the present world the justice and grace that characterize the eternal reign of God. Therefore Christians participate in the church not so much for what they can get as for what they can give, for what they can offer as an alternative to the dominant ways of the world.

—Laurence Hill Stookey, Calendar: Christ’s Time for the Church, 76-77

The Journey into Corporate Worship

The journey begins when Christians leave their homes and beds. They leave, indeed, their life in this present and concrete world, and whether they have to drive fifteen miles or walk a few blocks, a sacramental act is already taking place, an act which is the very condition of everything else that is to happen. For they are now on their way to constitute the Church, or to be more exact, to be transformed into the Church of God. They have been individuals, some white, some black, some poor, some rich, they have been the ‘natural’ world and a natural community. And now they have been called to “come together in one place,” to bring their lives, their very “world” with them and to be more than what they were: a new community with a new life.

—Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World, 27

Particular Mix

Worship is a form of communication, and not everyone is equipped by training or inclination to communicate in the same way. The challenge for a congregation is not to conform to some universal model, but to discover how its particular mix of people can honor God with integrity and sincerity.

—Daniel Frankforter, Stones for Bread, 3

Our Worship Voice

Neither worship music nor its style should be the primary defining mark of any church. Its real engagement with the living Lord should be that defining mark in both attractions and missional ways. While leaders must give loving guidance to and development of the musical style of their community, there is something more profound to discover: its worship voice.

—Constance Cherry, The Music Architect: Blueprints for Engaging Worshipers in Song, 181

Heart Worship in the Body

Though I trust it’s been unintentional, the contemporary worship movement has conveyed that a certain level of production quality is necessary to achieve faithful modern worship.

In this sense, contemporary worship has come quite a long way from the folk guitars and simple choruses of the 1970s, which were designed to democratize congregational singing so that more people could engage with it meaningfully. In the 2000s, contemporary worship media have embraced the values of polished production and mass-market appeal. But as modern praise has become more professionalized, it’s led at least some church leaders to conclude that they’d be better off foregoing human musicians altogether and leaving accompaniment to the (virtual) experts.

The good news is that God gives each congregation all they need to serve Him. First Corinthians 12:18 reminds us that “God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.” If that means a church is unable to produce the same quality of music they see at worship concerts and on YouTube, then we can trust God’s good purposes. He cares far more about the state of our hearts than the ability of our band to recreate the sound of an online video.

—Matt Merker, “How Contemporary Worship Music Is Shaping Us—for Better or Worse” https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/reviews/singing-congregation-contemporary-worship/

For the Church

Worship is indeed for the Church, while it waits for the Kingdom, the time and place par excellence at which it finds its own deep identity….What makes the Church first glimpse, and then see clearly, its true face is meeting with Christ and learning from Him what sort of Bride it is that He loves. It is on Christ’s face that the Church learns who it is.

—Jean-Jacques von Allmen, “The Theological Fame of a Liturgical Renewal,” Church Quarterly 2(1969-70), 8

The House of God

Worship shapes individual  and community character. In specific terms, it must be relational rather than institutional. For example—and here the trivial makes the point—we almost inevitably hear the person leading worship welcome people into the house of God. This is emphatically not the case! At best, the worship leader may welcome the house of God into the building in which they are meeting! Any language that suggests that the life of the people of God is known in its institutional and physical structures must be rejected.

—Noel Due, Created For Worship: From Genesis to Revelation to You, 234