We human beings are very skilled at not truly understanding why we do certain things. I remember hearing a story about a newlywed preparing her first Thanksgiving Dinner for her husband. Before putting the ham in the oven, she cut off the end of the ham and threw it out. He wondered why. “Well, that’s the way my mother always did it. It’s a family tradition,” she said. Later on, she asked her mother why she always cut the end of the ham off and her mother simply replied, “Well, Grandma always did it that way.” So mother and daughter continued their quest for the meaning behind this secret recipe and asked grandmother why she always cut off the end of the ham. “Simple,” she said. “That’s the only way I could get it to fit in the pan!”
Sometimes, we ourselves cannot explain our own family traditions, and we find out why we do what we do is just plain silly! But what about our “worship traditions”? Is it possible for us to do things in corporate worship just because “that’s the way we’ve always done it”? You bet it is! Be encouraged! The problem is not tradition, but traditionalism. Here’s the difference: “Tradition is the living faith of those now dead. Traditionalism is the dead faith of those still living" (Jaroslav Pelikan, The Vindication of Tradition, p. 65, emphasis added). We must constantly affirm and rediscover those traditions that are both biblically-grounded and Spiritually-transforming, while at the same time constantly guard against traditionalism that is both self-centered and spiritually-deadening.
During a sermon this past July, I laid out eight key terms that will help our church family understand why we do what we do on Sunday mornings. Over the months ahead, I will highlight one term, what it means, and how it could help us treasure Jesus Christ during our times of gathered worship. Because what we do here on Sundays is so vital for maintaining our lives-of-worship the rest of the week, I want to re-share with you what shapes our corporate worship.
- God-Centered: The entire service should direct our attention and affections to God, not self.
Psalm 148:13; Isaiah 42:8; 45:23; John 17:24; Romans 11:33-36; Revelation 21:23.
- Christ-Exalting: Our duty is the delight of reminding each other of the gospel: that we are sinners saved by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
John 1:14; Philippians 2:9-11; Colossians 1:15-20; 1 Timothy 1:15; Hebrews 1:3; 10:19-22; 1 Peter 2:5; Revelation 5:9-12.
- Bible-Saturated: The content of every part of our worship service must be Word-centered from beginning to end.
Psalm 19:7-11; 138:2; Jeremiah 15:16; Isaiah 66:2; Matthew 4:4; 1 Timothy 4:13; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Hebrews 4:12; 1 Peter 1:19-21; Revelation 1:3.
- Whole-Hearted: We must strive for a growing, supreme love for God, not just a feeling that says “worship was good today.”
Deuteronomy 6:4; Psalm 34:8; 51:12; 90:14; Matthew 15:8-9; Ephesians 1:18; Hebrews 11:6; 1 Peter 1:8.
- Always-reforming (particularly with music): We will sing a mingling of the God-centered, gospel-focused, and theologically-rich songs of the past and present, allowing for modern expressions of ancient truths.
Psalm 40:3; 96:1; 149:1; Isaiah 42:10; Ephesians 5:19-20; Colossians 3:16; Revelation 5:9.
- Mutually-Encouraging: It is the responsibility of every believer to encourage one another, especially in corporate worship.
1 Corinthians 12:4-7; 14:26; Ephesians 2:22; 5:19; Hebrews 10:24-25; 1Peter 2:9.
- Undistracting Excellence: Over-the-top excellence or shoddy mediocrity must never draw our attention away from God’s glory and our responsibility to one another.
1 Chronicles 15:22; 1 Corinthians 10:31; 14:40.
- Kingdom-Oriented: When we worship God together, we join into the worship of the church around the world, who also proclaims Jesus as Lord.
1 Corinthians 11:23-26; Philippians 3:20; Hebrews 12:20-24; Revelation 7:9-10.
Two important ministries hugely affected my ideas and phraseology. So I'm big-time in debt to both Bethlehem Baptist Church and Grace for Missouri. Check 'em out!