Our Pursuit of Biblically Authentic Worship

Our Pursuit of Biblically Authentic Worship


Introduction
The glory of God is the end of all things and Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church (Galatians 1:3-5; Ephesians 1:22; 3:20-21; 5:23; Colossians 1:18).  Therefore, the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ must order her steps according to the direction of her Head and, in pursuing the mandate of God-magnifying worship, Immanuel Bible Church must conform to a philosophy directly constructed by the revelation found in Scripture.  Since our conviction is that Christ exercises rule in His Church by the scepter of His Word, Scriptural principles will be our final authority.  Based on the study of the biblical models of corporate worship and the ways the church has historically applied them, we will document those principles and apply them to the planning and administration of our own worship services.  This philosophy statement is of course not exhaustive, but we pray will serve as a guiding document as we strive to glorify our great Redeemer in a lost and dying world.


Principle #1
(Based on: Exodus 20:2-5; Isaiah 43:7,21; Mark 12:29-30; John 4:23; 1 Peter 2:9; Revelation 4:1-11; 5:13-14)

Because biblically authentic worship is the ultimate priority for the church, the reason man was created, the reason regenerate man was redeemed, and the culmination of history...
… God’s design for worship must be understood and implemented at Immanuel Bible Church with the following considerations:

 Reverential awe and fear (bowing down) accompanied OT worship.
2 Kings 17:36; 1 Chronicles 16:25; Job 1:20; Psalm 5:7; 95:6; 96:4-9

NT worship was offered in fear, awe, and devotion (bowing down).
Matthew 8:2; 9:18; 28:8-9

OT and NT worship included adoration and thanksgiving.
Genesis 24:48; Exodus 12:27; Judges 7:15; 1 Chronicles 29:13-14; Psalm 89:1; 92:1,4; 138:2; 1 Timothy 2:1

OT and NT worship included obedience and service.
Joshua 5:14; 1 Samuel 1:27-28; 15:22; Isaiah 6:8; Romans 12:1, 9-13; 15:15-16; Hebrews 12:28-29

OT worship included confession that God is righteous and my sin is offensive.
Joshua 7:19; 1 Samuel 15:30-31; 2 Samuel 12:19-20; Psalm 51; Isaiah 6:1-7

OT and NT worship included acts of sacrificial giving.
Deuteronomy 26:10; 2 Kings 17:36; 1 Chronicles 16:29; 2 Chronicles 29:28; Acts 4:36-37; 2 Corinthians 8:1-5; 9:6-7;  Philippians 4:15-18; Hebrews 11:4; 13:16

OT and NT worship included praise.
1 Chronicles 16:9-10, 23-25; 2 Chronicles 29:30; Psalm 29:2; 66:3-6; 71:22-23; 89:1; Hebrews 13:15; Revelation 5:9-14; 15:3

OT worship included public prayer and the NT called for it.
1 Chronicles 29:11-20;  Acts 2:42; Colossians 4:2; 1 Timothy 2:1-4

OT and NT worship included the public reading and expository teaching of Scripture.
Nehemiah 8:5-8; Luke 4:16-19; Ephesians 4:12; 1Timothy 4:13; 2 Timothy 4:1-2

OT worship included a variety of musical instruments.
2 Samuel 6:5; 1 Chronicles 15:16; 25:6; 2 Chronicles 5:12-14; 7:6; 29:25-28; Nehemiah 12:27

OT and NT worship included singing in both corporate and private worship.
Exodus 15:1; 1Chronicles 16:9, 23; Psalm 66:1-2; 71:22-23; 81:1-2; 89:1; 92:1; 108:1-3; Mark 14:26; Ephesians 5:18-20; Colossians 3:16

OT and NT worship exalted the theme of God’s gracious redemption of His people.
Exodus 15; Psalm 95; Philippians 2:9-11; Revelation 5:1-14

NT worship gave priority to regular fellowship around the Lord’s Table.
Acts 2:42; 20:4; 1 Corinthians 11:23-34



 

Principle #2
(Based on: Psalm 19:1-14; Nehemiah 8:5-8; 1 Corinthians 2:11-16; James 1:21-27; 1 Timothy 4:13; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 4:1-2; 2 Peter 1:19-21)

Because biblically authentic worship is a response to the revelation of God in His Word and the Bible is the mind of God in written form, which is the sword of the Holy Spirit...
… the corporate services at Immanuel Bible Church will uphold the supremacy of Scripture reading and biblical preaching.

We will seek to incorporate the public reading of substantial portions of God’s Word into our corporate worship services.  

Our pastors will unashamedly continue the biblical, historic practice of unfolding the Scriptures by passionate expository preaching with personal application toward Spirit-empowered growth in Christlikeness of the redeemed.

One of the tendencies in modern worship is to make a distinction between preaching and “worship.”  However, preaching that is truly biblical is acceptable worship; both the preacher and the listener worship by how he communicates, studies, listens to, and responds to God’s Word.

Biblical worship is first and foremost submission of the heart (mind, emotion, and will) to God.  This cannot take place without consistent exposure to the revelation of God in His Word.



 

Principle #3
(Based on: 2 Samuel 6:5; 1 Chronicles 15:16; 2 Chronicles 29:30 Psalm 47; 81:1; 92:1-4)

Because biblically authentic worship is a reverent celebration of God, His attributes, works and character...
… the corporate services at Immanuel Bible Church should lift the worship perspective up to the level of God, and not down to the level of man.

Understanding that there may be a variety of emotions included in times of worship, the act of worship itself should be full of energy and expression in all of its aspects. The music used should be uplifting as well as textually edifying.  Music that fails to reflect a godliness of spirit cannot promote healthy worship.

Music should show creativity and engender the sense of awe and wonder that God deserves.

Our worship should include enthusiastic singing and music accompanied by instruments and voice expressed with joy to the Lord.

Though joyfully uplifting music should be the norm there will also be times, in authentically biblical worship, for the use of songs of a more sober, reflective nature (Eg. times of confession of sin or self-examination in preparation for the Lord’s Table).

Understanding that Scriptural examples of worship reveal a variety of physical expressions of godly emotion, we will seek to cultivate a non-judgmental atmosphere that communicates freedom of outward expression that is offered in genuine praise and not self-glory.

The spirits of believers can become stale when they become so complacent that the truths found in various psalms, hymns and spiritual songs are overlooked and taken for granted. We need to be creative enough in our design of services and selection of songs and meditations to invoke depth of thought concerning God’s character and nature, yet familiar enough to allow focus on God, not the newness of the material.



 

Principle #4
(Based on: Exodus 20:4-5; Leviticus 10:1-2; 2 Chronicles 5:13; Psalm 50:22-23; Mark 7:7-9; Romans 1:25; Revelation 15:4)

Because biblically authentic worship is truly God-centered, and because He is jealous to receive the sole worship of His creation according to His prescription ...
…  each person involved in leading worship up front must have as the goal to perform for an audience of One: God!   It must never be to entertain man.

Because worship is offered to God not men, there is no need to applaud individuals or groups who perform visibly in worship services.  Although applause may be a form of expressing gratitude toward those who minister, it may also detract from the sole recipient of biblical worship.  A verbal “amen” or smile or silent prayer of thanks may be more appropriate.

Worship music must have God as the subject, not human beings. When testimony songs are utilized, they should contain a strong emphasis on God’s character and should leave the worshipper with a clear picture of God, not man or the individual singing.

Edification of believers is a byproduct of biblical worship.  In other words, if worship is truly God-centered, those present cannot help but be built up, encouraged, and transformed.  Therefore, it is proper for believers to “get something” out of the worship service.

Styles of music used in worship must remain consistent with the reality that God is the subject and audience.  Battles over music or worship styles (often called “worship wars”) regularly miss the point that worship is to God  and for God.  When worship becomes primarily something done for personal benefit it can become idolatrous (worshipping worship instead of worshipping God).  Styles of singing or playing instruments should not seek to draw attention to one’s gift or person.  All involved must be careful to draw attention to God.

Those leading in worship should maintain appropriate and modest appearance and dress that does not distract worshipers from concentrating on God and the music’s message.

Because worship is a personal sacrifice to God, no worship task or assignment should be “beneath” someone who is truly serving God.  Persons who lack a servant spirit will be asked to refrain from involvement in the music ministry of the church until a Christ-like attitude is shown.

As much as is possible and practical, our corporate worship services should be set apart from announcements and “business” issues in order to maintain a clear focus on God, not man.  When the pastors deem announcements as a necessity for the sake of community life, they should be creatively placed in the order of service and handled in such a way so as not to detract from the Godward focus of the service.

Our services should be designed to lead believers to worship God. They should not be designed as “seeker” services for the lost. The best way to evangelize the lost that may be present in a worship service is to present the real God in all His holiness and Jesus Christ as the one true Mediator between God and man.

In order to allow the church’s instrumentalists ample opportunities for the further development and use of their gifts and abilities and not hinder body function, live accompaniment of singers will be the normal practice at Immanuel Bible Church.  An exception may be made for guest musicians who have been invited to minister to the body and, therefore, whose music philosophy has already been approved by the pastors.



Notes:
Often times terms that apply to music are best understood by musicians. One example is the use of the word “performance.”  Let it be known that the word performance is not synonymous with the word “entertainment.”  The word “performance” is the ultimate test and finality of discipline, training and rehearsal.  In this sense, to a musician, the use of  musical talent in a worship service is a performance.  For a believer it is a performance intended for the audience of God, not man; its goal is to please God and draw the worshipper’s attention to Him rather than impress man with one’s musical abilities.

 

Principle #5
(Based on: 1 Chronicles 15:22; 23:3-5; 25:6-8; 2 Chronicles 34:12b; Numbers 8:24-26; Deuteronomy 14:27-29; I Chronicles 9:33; Ezra 7:24; Nehemiah 10:39; 12:27, 47)

Because biblically authentic worship in the Old Testament had requirements for singers and musicians including training and musical skill as well as dedication and financial support …
… those involved in our music ministry must remain oriented to the importance of their service and use of their musical abilities.
  

The heart of a worshiper is the first priority, but should not be the exclusive criterion for a musician participating in corporate worship.  There should also be a commitment to continual growth toward a higher level of skill and proficiency, displaying a desire for excellence attached to the use of musicians in service.

Vocalists and instrumentalists with musical skill should be identified and then trained in order to develop them more fully for service.

Because Scripture supports it, musicians and the music ministry should also be financially supported when appropriate and/or necessary.

The use of musicians has always been an important part of the corporate worship service.  They were vital to the worship of the temple and were set aside to be free to use their talents in making music. The use of musicians can be a positive and exciting addition to our corporate worship. We should be willing to honor them for their willingness to use their years of study and discipline in assisting and blessing corporate worship.



 

Principle #6
(Based on: 2 Chronicles 29:28; 2 Chronicles 5:12-13; 7:6; Ezra 3:10; Malachi 1:7-10; 1 Corinthians 14:23,26,40)

Because biblically authentic worship in the Old Testament shows organization and excellence in its production with reference to both vocalists and instrumentalists leading in music as well as in organized and well-ordered services; and, because acceptable worship should be conducted “decently and in order;” and because OT worship that was “less-than-one’s best” was not acceptable …
… the ministry of worship by Immanuel Bible Church must strive for excellence and always bring the best sacrifice that it can offer.

People who are adequately prepared and organized should lead worship and music.

Preparation, organization and execution of the worship service should also be viewed as an act of worship.  God desires order and excellence as a part of daily living and, therefore, should extend into the worship service as well.



Notes:
There are those who would say the only requirement God has for acceptable worship is the heart we bring to it. For a musician, skill, preparation and excellence are a vital part of the heart that is brought into worship.  To offer a sacrifice of praise that falls short of the excellence we are capable of providing indicates a heart that is withholding the total worship that God desires. All of our resources, including time, energy, talents and finances should be a part of our worship.  It should also be noted, however, that we can go too far in setting a standard of excellence or “professionalism” that frightens some away from developing their gifts for God. We need to balance our passion for an excellent sacrifice with the need to develop new people for the worship ministry (see Principle 5).

 

Principle #7
(Based on: Joshua 7:19-21; 1 Samuel 15:22; Psalm 51:15-17; Isaiah 1:11-15; Hosea 6:4-6; Amos 5:21-24; Matthew 5:23-24; 1 Thessalonians 5:19)

Because God does not accept worship when sin is knowingly unconfessed and religious hypocrisy and rebellion squelch the powerful working of God...
… musicians and those who serve in worship leadership whose lives do not demonstrate personal holiness ought not be used until repentance is evident.

It is each individual’s responsibility not to serve with unconfessed sin.  Immanuel Bible Church should strive to cultivate an atmosphere that takes holiness seriously and offers forgiveness graciously.  Therefore, all persons involved in the music ministry should remain open and honest before God and the church.  If one knows in his heart that his personal struggle with sin has escalated to a point of causing him to be more of a hindrance than an aid to corporate worship, he should graciously refrain from involvement and seek counsel from the pastors.

Because the process of becoming a member of Immanuel Bible Church includes the hearing of a clear salvation testimony, either before or at the time of obedience to the Lord in baptism, and the completion of a basic course in biblical doctrine; it seems best to the pastors that regular involvement in “up front” ministry in the corporate worship services of the church be limited to those who are members.  The pastors reserve the right to make exceptions to this pattern if they deem it necessary and/or beneficial to the church body as a whole.

Bringing “outside” musicians in to assist our worship is not inherently wrong, but should be carefully scrutinized for several reasons: (1) Only believers can worship in spirit and truth, (2) God does not accept worship when unrepentant sin is knowingly present, and (3) Every person should be encouraged to first use their giftedness and talents to serve and worship God in their own local church where they can be held accountable.



Notes:
There are significant benefits to bringing in outside worship/music participants.  For example, second chair instrumentalists, not qualified or comfortable to play on their own, get the chance to use and develop their talents for God.  However, the risks associated with not knowing the lives of outside participants could outweigh these benefits, and accordingly, reasonable effort should be made to determine their spiritual maturity and faithfulness.

 

Principle #8
(Based on: John 4:21-24; 1 Corinthians 3:16; Philippians 3:3; Hebrews 9:24; 10:19-22; 1 Peter 2:5)

Because biblically authentic worship of God is in spirit (not in a physical temple, but in Christ by means of the Holy Spirit)...
…  an over-emphasis on high church formalism, buildings, decorations, and humanly engineered atmosphere used to “produce worship” should be avoided.

 While acknowledging the healthy expression of God-given emotions, we will avoid modern worship techniques that attempt to manipulate people.

We should use a variety of musical instruments, which are appropriate for God-centered worship, and cultivate variety in each service through the alternate use and nonuse of them.

We should cultivate a joyful freedom of spirit in the congregation in contrast to stodgy formalism.

We should maintain openness to the Holy Spirit’s leading to bring freshness to our worship services.  A musical selection will not be based on whether it is old or new, but rather whether it meets the requirements of biblically authentic worship described throughout this document.




Principle #9
(Based on: Psalm 51:6; 145:18; Proverbs 9:10; 28:6; Hosea 6:6; John 1:1; 4:21-24; 1 Corinthians 2:6-16; Titus 2:1)

Because biblically authentic worship of God is in truth ...
… only the regenerate can offer acceptable worship to God and the message of every element of the worship service must honor and exalt Christ and sound theology.

We will not knowingly allow the unsaved to lead.

We will ensure that the psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs used have theologically correct words.

The words (theology) and the music (medium) should be compatible.

Any musical selections that seem to trivialize or “cheapen” God or the biblical message will be avoided.

Those leading in worship must be people of integrity.  Therefore, we will honor God by obeying music copyright laws.

Biblically authentic worship must exalt the living Word of God—Jesus Christ, Redeemer, Lord, and King.



 

Principle #10
(Based on: Psalm 133:1; Romans 14:13-15,18; 1 Corinthians 8:9,11-13; 14:1-16; Galatians 5:13-14; 1 Thessalonians 4:6)

Because biblically authentic worship should also be conducted with the edification of fellow believers in mind...
… sensitivity in the selection of music must be preserved in order to avoid needless offense.
  

We will not elevate the pursuit of “musical excellence” above shepherding people with gentleness.  The people involved in the church and music ministry must have higher priority.  All involved will be encouraged to bring their best offerings to God, though everyone’s “best” will not be of the same quality.

We will not elevate personal musical preference above the unity of a multi-generational church, which is dear to the heart of God.

Those leading in worship and music should maintain appearance and modesty in dress that will not in any way defraud others or be a cause for stumbling.

In light of Ephesians 2:1-3, it is likely there are those within the congregation of Immanuel Bible Church who, while at one time under the rule of Satan and their own flesh, indulged in various sinful pleasures that both coincided with and were enhanced by sensual music.  Therefore, since sensual music sprang out of the pursuit of sinful indulgences and was crafted to enhance one’s experience in them, it is inappropriate to compromise the deliverance of those freed from its influence through the power of the blood of Christ by using it in the worship of the Holy One.   If Christian liberty is demanded at the expense of the spiritual health and growth of fellow believers, we are guilty of sinning against Christ.

In light of these, musical selections used in worship at Immanuel Bible Church will…(1)celebrate deliverance from bondage to sensuality and; (2) feed the spirit rather than the flesh and; (3) enhance our joy in the glory of God.



Conclusion
This philosophy statement has been developed with the sole purpose of providing guidance toward our ongoing pursuit of biblically authentic worship, which we believe is characterized by:

God-centeredness;
Christ-exaltation;
Spirit-freshness;
Word-saturation; and
Edification of believers toward the holiness and love inherent in Christlikeness.



The pastors of Immanuel Bible Church pray that our local body of Christ will never grow complacent in our never-ending pursuit of this highest goal.


(The basic format of this statement came from a publication of Byron Center Bible Church of Byron Center, Michigan .  It has been revised and expanded by the pastors of Immanuel Bible Church who take full responsibility for all statements contained herein.)

 

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