These opinions come from an 18-year-old letter, written to a now-dear friend, describing some of my “church values” at the time. Some of this material pertains to the large-group celebrations, i.e., periodic gatherings of multiple cells or small groups, assembled as one large group. The initial thoughts on worship conceivably would pertain to any Christian gathering.
I toss around in my mind the models of worship we have briefly discussed on a couple of occasions:
a) God is beyond; worship leaders must bring Him down to the people.
b) God is beyond; worship leaders must take the people up to Him.
c) God is present; worship leaders must facilitate celebration of the Presence.
I think I’ve stated those relatively accurately. I find some validity in each. Personally, I would lead with various emphases/philosophies at various times. If pressed to choose, I suppose I, like you, would choose the third option. In the first, we could easily become irreverent. In the second, the worship leader’s bearing too quickly becomes that of a cheerleader, prodding and poking people up through the spiritual “drop ceiling.”
I would work incessantly, if necessary, to completely eradicate the idea of a “worship service.” As you well know, though the Biblical concepts of worship and service are related, they are distinct. I worship, and I serve, but only in a very limited sense do I serve God when I worship, and I’d better not be worshipping those humans that I serve. Service to others is service to God (Matt. 25). Worshipping, though, is reserved only for God.
On the large-group “celebration”
The larger assembly should occur less frequently, I think, and it should be planned to a greater extent, since spontaneity would not be as effective or as feasible in a large crowd.
No pews, by the way!! Been there, done that, and I don’t like them. Such churchy furniture isn’t natural.
The main praise and worship session would be orchestrated by those with a demonstrated heart for corporate worship. The entire leadership team would need to buy into the idea that large group, celebratory worship is important as both a means and an end in itself. Worship is not to be thought of as a mere prelude to a speech or to the altar call!
The group would be ushered into a consciousness of the Presence as fully and as often as possible.
Sermons would be rare in my ideal assembly. Teaching tools would be brief comments by any of the leaders, prepared dramatic sketches, and videotapes of movies, etc., as well as the worship music. Teaching, though, would not be the primary goal in the celebratory large group worship gathering. This is a time for joyful identification with the body at large, and it is a time for recognizing the God who has united us all. What has He done for us? Sing about it! Who is He? Worship Him for being His stupendous self!
I believe that the age-old argument over the supposedly conflicting priorities of vertically- and horizontally-oriented assemblies should never have occurred. The simple fact is that we should concentrate on loving the Lord first, and then our relationships with fellow man will fall into place. Further, and most relevant to this nearly completed document, is a truth that I have learned in my years of worshipping: there is no more edified state than that which emanates from sincere hearts truly worshipping the Lord together. When we truly worship, we will have meaningful relationships with each other, and we will be built up!
To be continued . . .