Worship Values

No sense reinventing the wheel. We’re borrowing heavily from Redeemer Church in Newport, CA (“Deep Worship at Redeemer Church,” in Deep Church, pp 137-140), which borrowed from a church by the same name in NY. The question we’re all aiming to answer is practical: What guides us as we plan worship events? It all starts with how we frame it. At RTC we attempt to hold the Bible, the tradition of Christian worship, and our cultural context in tension, allowing them to inform every part of our worship. Since the Bible does not give us enough information to construct a worship service, we must fill in the blanks. We are told in the Bible to sing songs, but we are not given the tunes or told what kind of lyrics the songs should have or how emotionally intense the experience should be. When we are commanded to pray we are not told whether to use written prayers or extemporaneous prayers. 

To be faithful we must draw on not only on Scripture and tradition, but also our cultural sensitivities. Since we “worship before the nations,” we must make sure our worship is accessible to an outsider. Keeping all three–Bible, tradition, and culture—in mind, we aim to craft a worship gathering that is neither irrelevant nor syncretistic. If any one of the triad is missing, we risk falling into one of these two extremes. Keeping them in tension we aim for a powerful worship service that is simultaneously countercultural and culturally relevant. As Tim Keller said so well, “I believe the solution to the problem of the ‘worship wars’ is neither to reject nor to enshrine historic tradition but to forge new forms of corporate worship that take seriously both our histories and contemporary realities, all within a framework of biblical theology.”

The following points describe how we attempt to craft our worship.

Ancient and new

Our worship is rooted in two thousand years of the church and the historic flow of worship. The order of the service, the liturgy, should be both old and new. The goal is to take the best of the tradition and breathe new life into it for the twenty-first century. Some of the hymns and songs are old and others recently written. 0Ider hymns with profound depth that have fallen out of use can be revived with updated tunes. We use set prayers from the history of the church, prayers newly written, and extemporaneous prayers. We aim to combine the best of the free church–moving extemporaneous prayers, longer sermons, and room for the Spirit–with creeds and confessions and set prayers that have emerged over centuries, and a liturgy that regularly includes the Lord’s Supper. The combination of ancient and contemporary speaks deeply to the postmodern desire for ancient roots and a common history.

Biblical drama

Quote: “We in the Reformed tradition talk about the drama of salvation a lot. And we know a lot about salvation. The problem is that we know nothing of the drama of it. There is no drama.” An exaggeration? We aim to make the drama come alive. We group our worship into five or six acts, thematically linked to the day’s sermon text: Gathering, confession/assurance, thanks, God’s Word, communion (monthly), and sending. God gathers us, we recognize our need for God’s forgiveness, we hear him speak in his Word and sacrament, and then we are sent out to love God and serve others. This should be a drama that rivals the best storytelling in Hollywood.

Joy and reverence

Each week we want our worship to exhibit reverence and joy. Churches tend to be one or the other: pep rally or funeral. But we are called to both joy and reverence. As we focus on God in all his holiness we are solemn; no flippancy allowed. Music should be at times reverent, majestic and awe-inspiring. But God is also the source of joy, laughter and happiness. He is the God of the resurrection and new life. How can we not be excited, filled with joy, ready to praise him? For this we need songs and prayers with energy. A given worship service may tilt toward either reverence or joy, as do many Psalms. But each worship should include the gamut of emotions—both reverence and joy that embody the drama salvation.

Engagement by all

Worship is interactive because God calls everyone, not just those up front, to participate in worship. “Interactive” means the liturgy (the worship order) should help us engage with God together. For example, God speaks to us through his Word and we respond in prayer and song. “Everyone” means just that, young to old. We especially aim to help our children and teens engage with God by helping them use their gifts to participate in worship leadership, and by purposefully including songs and using language that is meaningful to them. We also aim to encourage each other’s walk with God by creating room for individuals to convey something of God’s work in their lives.

Thoughtful but accessible sermons

Our pastors preach sermons rooted in the Bible–both the drama of salvation from each of the Testaments and the wonderful doctrines of Christianity. Whatever part of the Scriptures the church finds itself in at the time, the goal is to preach Christ in a way that is both edifying for the long-time believer and yet accessible to the newcomer or nonbeliever.

Monthly Communion

God’s grace comes to us through the Lord’s Supper as well as through his Word. We have stepped closer to the ancient church’s weekly practice with monthly celebrations. “Celebration” is a word we purposefully use. In the Lord’s Supper God feeds our faith by linking us to Christ’s sacrifice and presence with us through the bread and cup, renewing our hope for his return. Even when we come forward as individuals, we celebrate as a community–a covenant-family meal. As family members, children of believers whose parents so choose are welcome to participate. Communion is about unity; even though it speaks of individually being united to Christ, by taking it together we are saying that we together are God’s family, unified in Christ.

Guest-friendly and warm

Though the service is primarily for the family of God, nonbelievers should find our worship understandable ( Acts 2:11 ; 1 Corinthians 14:23-24), and all should sense the love and acceptance of Christ among us. So, we aim to make our worship environment and interactions feel more like being in a family room than in a living room. And we lead worship with the assumption that nonbelievers are present. We address our guests and nonbelievers at several points during the service, explaining terms and actions that may not be familiar, and showing how the gospel is related to fears, concerns, and hopes we all share. The goal is for all to feel the love of Christ through his people, and for nonbelievers to be drawn to Christ through our love, respect, and thoughtful acknowledgement of their presence.

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