Freedom of Form 10: Focus

[We are] free to find place and time and dress and size and music and elements and objects that help us orient radically toward the supremacy of God in Christ. . . .

The command is a radical connection of love and trust and obedience to Jesus Christ in all of life.

—John Piper, sermon: “Our High Priest is The Son of God Perfect Forever”

Freedom of Form 9: A Missionary Mandate

The frightening freedom of worship in the New Testament is a missionary mandate. We must not lock this gospel treasure in any cultural strait-jacket. Rather let us find the place, the time, the dress, the forms, the music that kindles and carries a passion for the supremacy of God in all things. And may our communion with the living God be so real and the Spirit of God so powerfully present that the heart of what we do becomes the joy of all the peoples we are called to reach.

—John Piper, sermon: “Our High Priest is The Son of God Perfect Forever”

Freedom of Form 8: A Wider Repertoire

While we try to pare down His song down to a manageable repertoire, He is expanding it. While we are doing market research to decide whom we want to reach and, therefore, to whose aesthetic tastes we want to pander, the Singing Savior is distributing His magnificent voice across an increasingly wide spectrum of musical idioms. While we are dividing congregations along age lines, He is blending the songs of generations and nations and families and tribe and tongues to make sweet harmony, precisely through the differences, to his Father.

—Reggie Kidd, “Bach, Bubba, and the Blues Brothers: The Singing Savior’s Many Voices,” RTS Journal 1999

Freedom of Form 7: Unity in Diversity

Jesus’ voice is what counts, not ours; and His voice in “the great assembly” [Hebrews 2:12] is as rich and complex as the constitution of His people. There is a unity and diversity in the voices of His assembly which we would not be able to hold together on our own.

—Reggie Kidd, With One Voice: Discovering Christ’s Song in Our Worship, 145

Freedom of Form 6: One Voice

Let me suggest that every group brings its own voice, but no group brings the official voice. One Voice sings above them all, and this Voice sings in all their voices, excluding none. His singular voice is distributed among a plurality of people. Just because there are so many dimensions to His own being, the multiplicity of their voices amplifies His song.

—Reggie Kidd, “Bach, Bubba, and the Blues Brothers: The Singing Savior’s Many Voices,” RTS Journal 1999

Freedom of Form 5: Anglican

Article 34 – Of the Traditions of the Church

It is not necessary that Traditions and Ceremonies be in all places one, or utterly like; for at all times they have been divers, and may be changed according to the diversities of countries, times, and men’s manners, so that nothing be ordained against God’s Word. . . .

Every particular or national Church hath authority to ordain, change, and abolish, ceremonies or rites of the Church, ordained only by man’s authority, so that all things be done to edifying.

—Church of England, Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, 1563

Freedom of Form 4: Calvin

The Master . . . did not will in outward discipline and ceremonies to prescribe in detail what we ought to do (because He foresaw that this depended on the state of the times, and  He did not deem one form suitable for all ages). . . . Because He has taught nothing specifically, and because these things are not necessary to salvation, and for the upbuilding of the church ought to be variously accommodated to the customs of each nation and age, it will be fitting (as the advantage of the church will require) to change and abrogate traditional practices and to establish new ones. Indeed, I admit that we ought not to charge into innovation rashly, suddenly, for insufficient cause. But love will best judge what may hurt or edify; and if we let love be our guide, all will be safe.

—John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, IV.10.30

Freedom of Form 2: Early Church

Pope Gregory I sent Augustine of Canterbury to England as a missionary about A.D. 596 with this advice: “It seems to me that you should carefully select for the English Church, which is still new to the faith and developing as a distinct community, whatever can best please Almighty God, whether you discover it in the Roman Church, or among the Gauls or anywhere else. . . . From each individual church, therefore, choose whatever is holy, whatever is awe-inspiring, whatever is right; then arrange what you have collected as if in a little bouquet according to the English disposition and thus establish them as custom.”

—James F. White, A Brief History of Christian Worship, 44

Freedom of Form

In the New Testament, all the focus is on the reality of the glory of Christ, not the shadow and copy of religious objects and forms. It is stunning how indifferent the New Testament is to such things: there is no authorization in the New Testament for worship buildings, or worship dress, or worship times, or worship music, or worship liturgy or worship size or thirty-five-minute sermons, or Advent poems or choirs or instruments or candles. . . .

Almost every worship tradition we have is culturally shaped rather than Biblically commanded.

—John Piper, sermon: “Our High Priest is The Son of God Perfect Forever”

Freedom of Form

While there are many references to . . . worship elements in the New Testament, nowhere is a precise order or style mandated. And while we have examples of some of these elements, we never receive directives regarding the precise content or length for our expressions of them. . . .

The scarcity of liturgical mandates in the New Testament cannot reflect the writers’ lack of concern for rightly worshiping God. . . . Instead, the lack of explicit detail must reflect an intention to guide us by transcendent principles rather than by specific worship forms that could become culture-bound, time-locked, and superstition-invoking.

—Bryan Chapell, Christ-Centered Worship: Letting the Gospel Shape Our Practice, 108

Form and Freedom

Now public worship is a vital part of the life of the local church. It is even essential to its identity. Yet in the interest of “spontaneity” worship services often lack both content and form. . . . Most churches could afford to give more time and trouble to the preparation of their worship. It is a mistake to imagine either that freedom and form exclude one another, or that the Holy Spirit is the friend of freedom in such a way as to be the enemy of form.

—John Stott,The Gospel and the End of Time, 124

On Form and Freedom

A Church of Scotland minister was visiting his Anglican friend in north of England during the 19th century. As they were getting ready to leave the vestry to enter the sanctuary where the Presbyterian minister was going to give the message, the Anglican said to him, ‘Your vestments are right there.’

‘Oh, do I have to wear them?’

‘No.’

‘Well good, then I will.’

–source unknown