Beyond the Practical: Theology as the Basis for Worship
In many discussions on worship in the Church, there is tendency to begin the discussion in the wrong place. What I mean by this is that many articles, websites and books look at corporate worship from the perspective of methods: what songs to sing, how to manage worship teams, how to create the flow of the service (or liturgy), what instrumentation to use, how to incorporate technology, and any number of methodological issues that are pertinent to the corporate worship of the church.
Although many of these discussions on methods are important, and must be the concern of pastors and leaders, there is very little evidence that these discussions are based on a solid foundation of theological and biblical thinking. Often, due to little theological reflection in regards to the various methods being employed, the solutions end up being no more than pragmatic Band-Aids to prevent failure in “pulling off” a worship service.
I recall an opportunity I have had to be part of an online forum centering on worship. Primarily, this forum was a place for younger worship leaders to gather, share ideas, and especially post threads regarding the methods I listed earlier. Not unexpectedly with the younger generation, much of the focus was on technology and how to utilize it in corporate worship.
With this in mind, I once posted a thread that suggested a discussion of the biblical and theological justification for the use of modern technology in the worship of the church. The response was overwhelming and many readers posted comments regarding the topic. But, the response was also disappointing because many of the posters failed to see the connection and need for solid thinking to back up their practice and method. They simplistically thought that we could use it because it was there. Thankfully, there was one technology leader that had spent some time thinking and posted a thoughtful response that touched many good, foundational ideas on why it was important for us to engage our modern culture with modern technology.
Scripture is clear that our practical, outward lifestyle expressions begin with our inward thinking regarding life itself (1 Peter 1:13-16; Romans 12:1-2). It is only when our inner thinking is grounded in a solid, biblical, theological understanding that our outer lifestyle will reflect a biblical, Christian life. This is also true in the worship of the church. The outer expression of the congregation in worship (their method) is only as solid as their inner understanding of WHO they worship and why (their theology).
So my point, if it is not yet clear, is that theology must be the basis and foundation for corporate worship. We must have a proper view of God in order to worship Him with wisdom and understanding. We must understand the biblical view of man to see ourselves, and those around us, in the proper perspective in the worship of God. We must view worship as proclaiming the biblical drama of creation, fall and redemption to holistically represent the gospel so our congregations can be transformed by Christ in the inner man, that their lives can be changed in the daily outward expression of living life.
This is no easy task. Because much of corporate worship has degenerated into a form of entertainment, asking the congregation to think more clearly about worship itself is difficult. We often run into the argument from preference (“I like that song”), which for many is the end of the discussion. Asking them to think, and then making changes to the methods based upon a new set of foundational principles from good thinking is a process that will take time.
But, it is worth the investment of time and energy. A renewal of corporate worship will only come from a renewal and transformation of the minds of people – beginning with self. Right actions (practices of worship) will proceed from good thinking (a solid, biblical foundation of worship), and so our primary need is for clear, biblical thinking!
(Original Post on April 7, 2012 at the Worldview Church: http://www.worldviewchurch.org/worshiparts/articles/19322-beyond-the-practical-theology-as-the-basis-for-worship)