9 Marks of a Healthy Church, The Missing Chapter

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41Be-zFOs6L9 Marks of a Healthy Church is a great book. If you have never read it, I encourage you to read it. Dever’s work is a blessing to every local church. Each “mark” is essential and needed. His book prepares any church to honor Christ. As it stands 9 Marks is an excellent book.

So, let us pretend we can make a great book greater. Adding one important chapter to the 9 Marks book. What is the missing chapter? The Worship Service.

I started going to church during the shift from traditional to contemporary music. I remember the debates (which publishers are thankful for) and people leaving churches for their preferred musical style. These changes seem to have caused differences in how people define holy worship.Now it seems there are many different worship styles allowing a person to find a church matching ALL my preferences.

I also remember sitting through church liturgy wondering why the different colors, why sing, why read Scripture, why collect money, and why the sermon? None of these were explained to me. I believer our corporate worship is better when we know why we do what we do. I also think our debates would calm down and we would be wiser if we could discern truth from preference in corporate worship. To discern this, we need to look to Scripture. Therefore what does the Bible say about the corporate gathering (aka Sunday worship)? Looking at what it DOES say helps us discern where God wants our focus instead of focusing on my personal preferences (sermon length, pastor’s attire, or music style).

This two part blog “chapter” focuses on 5 key elements needed in every worship service: singing, reading Scripture, offering, preaching, and announcements. [1] Every part of the worship service serves to exalt God and edify believers.

Singing:

Why do we sing? Singing exalts the Triune God and teaches others, therefore edifying HandBellsCongregationeach other. “Sing to him, sing praises to Him; tell of all his wondrous works!” (Psalm 105:2). Much of the Psalms are actually composed, “To the Choirmaster.” Are you aware, these prescripts are actually included in the inspired text? The psalmists call the congregation to sing to the Lord, to praise Him, to remember His works and His character. Congregations used the psalms in their corporate gathering.

The NT emphasizes singing as a means of teaching and encouraging each other. “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Col. 3:16). Paul gives a similar exhortation in Ephesians 5:18 – 19, “But be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms . . .” Looking at both, the Spirit uses the Word of God to edify us through singing. The Holy Spirit always uses biblical content for the Triune God’s purpose (Isa 55:11). Therefore not only does your singing exalt God, but encourages and edifies other believers. What does this teach us about corporate singing? Content is the most important element. Second, because the congregation needs to sing to each other and the Lord, leaders need to organize songs allowing the congregation to easily participate. [2]

I hear this all the time, “The worship was great, but the preaching and announcements interrupted the worship.” This is not an indictment on the church, this is actually a statement revealing the critic’s ignorance. Worship is something every person does ALL the time. The nature of how we manifest our worship to God changes form. Singing praises the Lord and edifies others. But worship continues as I engage the Lord by listening to Scripture being read, opportunities to serve others through announcements, give to His work, and learn about Him through the sermon. Going to work on time, walking with integrity, working hard, and loving my coworkers is worship too!

Reading Scripture: 

bible on pulpitThe Lord instructs us in 1 Tim 4:13, “Give attention to reading Scripture.” In a church that exposits Scripture, this is important. Every week expositors dig deep into a section of text. Reading Scripture allows the church to listen to the breadth of God’s Word. His Word was meant to be read aloud and heard. Joshua read the entire words of the Law (8:34). Ezra took the Law and read it to the assembly (Neh. 8:2-3). Paul tells the church in Thessalonica “I put you under oath before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers” (1 Thess 5:27). John says regarding Revelation, “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear; and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.” God wants His word read. The Spirit uses His Word to edify, exhort, encourage, and train us in righteousness (2 Tim 3:16-17).

Offering:  

I KNEW IT, PASTOR JUST WANTS OUR MONEY!!!!money Well, no, but your pastor is concerned about your giving because it is for your profit! Paul tells the Philippians, “Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit” (4:17). Wait, who profits? Not Paul, not the church? But the giver!

“Paul did not want this fruit for himself but for them . . . the Philippians made an investment in Paul’s ministry which would bring them heavenly dividends. They were laying up treasure in heaven through him. Paul knew that they would be rewarded at the judgment seat of Christ for their financial support. Paul’s converts were, in effect, their converts. Their gifts enabled him to evangelize more people.” [3]

Paul also calls these gifts offerings. He views their financial sacrifice as a spiritual offering, “the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God” (4:18). Our giving to the church is really giving to the Lord what He has provided us. It is His money, His provision, we give to exalt Him! The offering is worship! (For more depth and to know why your pastor is concerned about your giving go here).

Today is Friday. Corporate worship is in two days. Begin today to prepare yourself (and men, your family) to be at corporate worship on Sunday. Do what you have to do to get there early to fellowship and serve. Go to exalt God and edify other believers. Pray for opportunities to love Christ by serving others. Worship is not a spectator sport or movie, it requires sacrifice where we engage the Lord by bowing to Him, exalting Him, and praying the church matures.

 

[1] Communion is not included in this chapter, but churches should celebrate communion regularly to proclaim His death (1 Cor. 11:26). Some churches do not include it in the service, but have an after service lunch celebration, evening service, or during their regular service. The Bible emphasizes regular, habitual remembrance. How a church schedules communion is up to each churches’ leadership and a preferential issue.

[2] In my opinion, this is why Christian rap is not appropriate for corporate worship, yet perfectly okay for a believer to listen to by himself or with friends. If you have not heard Shai Linne’s work on the atonement, you are missing a great song with great theology.

[3] Dr. Robert Gromacki, Stand United in Joy, Kress Publications, 191. If you have never read or used a Gramacki commentary, I encourage you to look at them. He is clear and concise . . . a preacher’s true friend. 🙂

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Jason Vaughn

About Jason Vaughn

Jason is a graduate of the Master's Seminary and the pastor of Cornerstone Las Vegas, a Grace Advance church plant. He loves Christ, his wife Kyla, sometimes his kids :), the church, missions, people, and coffee. You can also follow him on his personal blog at shepherdthesheep.com.