Chapter 10: Corporate Worship – part deux

41Be-zFOs6L9 Marks of a Healthy Church is a great book focusing on the essentials of church and ministry. Dever’s work is a blessing to every local church because he distinguishes essentials in a church. Each mark is required for a church to exalt God. There is however, one essential “mark” deserving its own chapter. Due to blogging and creative license, the missing chapter can now be composed (without Dever’s permission). (In fact, his book needs no addition to be great, but we the church do need to understand this subject). What is the missing chapter? The Worship Service.

This chapter seeks to answer the question, “What does biblical corporate worship require?” There are many forms of corporate worship and God’s Word is silent on many “common” elements in our corporate worship. Therefore, when the Bible speaks, we want to listen and incorporate His instruction. We want to discern preference from truth. I share Dever’s approach by asking God for His instructions regarding the worship service. In other words, “What does God want in our corporate worship?” What do I need to consider essential? By answering this question, I also learn to distinguish my preferences and not judge others for their different preferences.

prioritiesThis chapter discusses five key elements: music, offering, reading Scripture, announcements, and the sermon. [1] Throughout this chapter two common themes continually reappear: God’s exaltation and the believers edification. “Let all things be done for building up” (1 Cor. 14:26; see also Eph 4:11-13). Worship, like the angels in heaven, exists to exalt and glorify God (Isaiah 6; Revelation 4:8). Part 1 evaluates music, offering, and reading Scripture. Part 2 focuses on announcements. The next (and probably last) part will focus on the sermon.

How are announcements worship? What?!?! Announcements?!? The portion where the talking head speaks and I flip through or draw on the bulletin, talk to my kids, get distracted, and check out? How are announcements worship?

checklistIn order to understand the answer, there are four components of worship every believer needs to know: the church defined; my relationship to it; worship; and their relationship to announcements. There is a logical reason why announcements are worship.

1. The church defined

What is the church? Most of us say Sunday morning, “We’re going to church.” Or we ask our friends, “Where is your church.” The common denominator in both statements is location. But theologically, this is wrong. Dever says, “The church is primarily a body of people who profess and give evidence that they have been saved by God’s grace alone, for his glory alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. . . . [It] is a local collection of people committed to Christ, to regularly assemble and have his Word preached and obeyed, including Christ’s commands to baptize and to celebrate the Lord’s Supper.” [2] This means you do not go to church, rather the church gathers in a location.

Is the church a universal body of believers or a local congregation? “The overwhelming majority of references to the church are to a local, living, and loving collection of people who are committed to Christ and each other.” [3] Two people can attend different churches, but they are not called to be a part of the universal church. In fact, there are no universal elders I am commanded to submit too (Heb 13:17).

Dever’s definitions NAIL it — Spot on!! “Church” is not just what you do on Sunday morning. It cannot be this alone because a believer’s relationship with the church is habitual, ongoing, and lasting. It does not begin and end Sundays. Church is a group of people you are committed to by God’s design (Heb. 6:9-12). Just like loving your spouse requires hard work, sacrifice, effort, and time — the church does too.

Charlton Heston 1924 - 20082. My relationship to the church

The believer’s relationship to the church. When God saved me, I was gifted for the purpose of building up the body of Christ. Paul says, “To each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift” (Eph 4:7) Here “grace” means gift. God gave me a gift. What is the purpose of the gift? “For the work of ministry for the building up of the body of Christ” (Eph 4:12). God gifted me to be plugged into the church so the church would build up (mature). How can I do this sitting at home Sunday’s listening to my favorite pastor? How can I edify the church if worship is a spectator sport requiring no work and effort? How can I serve others if they must reach out to me first?

3. Worship

We must understand the true nature of worship. I worship 100% of the time. So does everyone. The question is “Who do you worship?” Unbelievers worship themselves. Believers live for the glory of the Lord. We seek to exalt Him all the time, “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all things for the glory of the Lord” (1 Cor. 10:31). Every person is a worshiper all the time!

So what is the difference between Sunday and Monday? The way I honor and worship the Lord. During the corporate gathering, I humble myself, sacrifice my desires and effort to exalt God and edify believers by singing, offering money, prayer, listening, and serving others. Monday, I go to work, walk with integrity, show up on time, labor, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward” (Col. 3:23-24). You mean I worship the Lord at work and during corporate gatherings? YES! Both, when done to honor the Lord, worships and exalts Him! The way we worship may look differently depending on the situation, but worship never stops or ceases!

4. Their relationship to announcements

keep-calm-and-work-hard-1269Believers are in a church relationship 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Believers are constantly worshiping, as opposed to the idea we only worship on Sunday. Announcements declare other opportunities to serve and worship the Lord outside of the Sunday gathering. Believers are committed to exalting the Lord and edifying believers. We want to be with His people regularly and serve them! God has called us into this relationship.

Consider the author’s words, inspired by God, to the “Hebrews” church, “[Hebrew church], God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love you have shown for His name by serving the saints, as you still do. And we desire each of you [habitually] show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end” (Heb. 6:11-12).

DO NOT skip over that Bible quote. There is a lot there. Examine, who did the church show love toward? “His name.” How did they show love to Him? “by serving the saints” When did they show love? in the past and in the present — “as you still do.” Should they continue to show love? “[YES!] And we habitually desire each of you habitually show the same earnestness . . .” [4]

Sunday, during corporate worship, let us not mistake announcements as a pause in worship, but an opportunity to learn where and how we can serve the body of Christ by edifying them for the glory of His name! Let us learn how we may worship the Lord outside of the corporate gathering.

 

[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] 9 Marks of a Healthy Church, 157.

[3] emphasis mine. Dever, 9 Marks, 157.

[4] The word “habitual” is my interpretation of the original language. Both verbs “desire” and “show” are in the present aspect in Greek indicating habitual, ongoing action. The idea is not the church serves one and done, but endure and serve habitually all the time.