Churches with a “non-liturgical” worship tradition tend to equate liturgy with rituals (what my friend Professor Eddie Gibbs describes as “bells and smells”), including standardized prayers. Though a “liturgical” approach toward worship might seem contrived and stiff to people used to a less formal style, it is valid when given to the Father, through Jesus, “in spirit and in truth,” as Jesus explained to the Samaritan woman in John 4.
References to: worship
Worship styles are fundamentally a matter of culture. That means that the outward form of the worship service does not need to be the same everywhere. The key to the worship service is that a suitable environment is created in which people can come into the presence of God in the context of the body of Christ. Worship is a meeting between God and his people.
In the last two decades, our denomination has made major changes in the way we conduct worship. Many of us remember when our worship services began with a song leader and a pianist. They would lead the congregation in two or three hymns as a prelude to the “main event.”
There is a serious problem with the way the worship: we don’t do it right. We try to be living sacrifices for God, but we don’t always do that right. As some have said, the problem with living sacrifices is that they keep crawling off of the altar. Like the people of ancient Israel, our lives are mixed with sin. We do not have the faith that we’d like to have. We do not have as much love as we’d like to have. We do not pray as well as we wish we could. Our songs do not express our emotions as well as we’d like.
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At least once a week, Christians meet together for worship. We gather at particular places, at particular times, and we worship in particular ways. But whatever our own place, time and way, the essence of Christian worship is always the same. It’s our response, as believers, to what God has done.
Trevor Hart received his PhD from the University of Aberdeen in 1989. He is Professor of Divinity at the University of St. Andrews in Edinburgh, Scotland. For a PDF of all three of our interviews with him, click here. Among his books are:
__Faith Thinking: The Dynamics of Christian Theology (SPCK/IVP, 1995)
__Regarding Karl Barth: Toward a Reading of His Theology (Paternoster, 1999/IVP, 2000)
Perhaps you know of someone who might like to watch this program. If so, go to the bottom of the page and click on "Email this page." Fill out the short form, and share the good news! There's also a way to share the page on Facebook, Twitter, and other websites.
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If you are interested in learning more about Trinitarian theology, check out Grace Communion Seminary. It's accredited, affordable, and 100 percent online.
Small group discussion guide
Discussion groups might wish to prepare their own topics, request topics from the group, use the following suggested topics, or mix and match all three.
1. In what ways has Christian art shaped some of your views, either positively or negatively?
2. Do you agree that “art forms engage us in ways that words alone can’t”? Why or why not?
3. How do you feel about the use of contemporary Christian music in church worship services?
4. Dr. Hart said that it is important for the lyrics of worship songs to be theologically sound. Why?
5. In what ways, if any, does “idolatry” concern you regarding the use of art forms in church?
6. How do you personally view the use of imagination in Christian thought and worship?
7. The use of story, poetry, and parable in the Bible was described as “imaginative.” Your comments?
8. Why is the church important for the reading of Scripture rather than as an individual exercise?
A few simple guidelines for leading a discussion: 1) Encourage open discussion. 2) Ask questions relevant to the topic. 3) Listen attentively. 4) Encourage divergent views. 5) Encourage everyone to participate. 6) Summarize and paraphrase. 7) Minimize teaching and preaching.
Introduction: St. Andrews, Scotland, is known as the birthplace of golf some 600 years ago. Here also stand the 850-year-old ruins of the Cathedral of St. Andrew, three of whose 100-feet-high towers rise majestically over the east end of the city. Nearby, the esteemed University of St. Andrews, founded in 1413, is the home of St. Mary’s College, the university’s renowned divinity school, which still uses its 16th century buildings.
The ancient Israelites recited their history as a reminder of who they were in the world, what their relationship with God was, and how they were supposed to respond to the God of their salvation. Their expressed who they were, and how they were to live. Deuteronomy tells us one of their confessions:
Jews and Samaritans simply didn’t get along. The trouble went way back, five centuries or so, to the days of the Jewish leader Zerubbabel. Some Samaritans offered to help the Jews rebuild their temple, and Zerubbabel rebuffed them. The Samaritans responded by complaining to the king of Persia, and the work stopped (Ezra 4).
The law given to ancient Israel was designed to last only until Christ came, and it should not be confused with the law of Christ given to the church. The Christian Sabbath is not a day of the week, but our eternal rest in Jesus Christ. In this article, we will look at aspects of the purpose and content of Christian worship.
Worship in the Old Testament
No human activity has greater relevance and meaning than that of the worship of God. There is much to learn about how we can worship more effectively today by looking at how the people of God have worshiped in the past.