Guest Blogger: Roy Williams on Biblical Worship

Guest Blogger Roy Williams wrote this insightful article. If you’d like to chat with him or read more visit his website www.biblicalworship.org

All around us we hear: Place of Worship, Worship Team, Worship Pastor, Worship Service, Worship Songs, Attitude of Worship, Sanctuary for Worship, Dedicated to God for Worship, etc., etc.  I’m sorry (I really am) but, I can’t find any of these titles in Scripture.  They can be found in tradition, but not the Bible.             

(All Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard)

Some will counter, in John 2:16, Jesus referred to the Temple in Jerusalem as  “My Father’s house….” when he threw out the money changers. Immediately afterward, Jesus said in John 2:19, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” That got the religious leaders all riled up. “But he was speaking of the temple of His body.”  John 2:21.  By referring to His body as the temple, He was setting the stage for a major change in how His children were to Worship God the Father.

Jesus was speaking to the woman of Samaria.

John 4:21

     Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall you worship the Father.”

Both Jews and Samaritans had built temples where they went to Worship God.

John 4:23 & 24

     23“But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth: for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. 24“God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

The early Christians assembled primarily in homes. The local church was not in one spot  (Building) – it was in many homes.  We often think of the church at Ephesus, for instance, was one church building – like we are today – but rather it referred to all the home churches in that area.  Maybe they all came together for special instructions or action, but, apparently they didn’t build a church building – rather they continued to gather in small groups in homes.

Acts 5:42

     And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.

Acts 6:1, 5

     1Now at this time while the disciples were increasing in number… 5And the statement found approval with the whole congregation; and they chose Stephen…

The Hebrews built a house for God – but we are warned not to follow in their footsteps. God does not dwell in buildings. Buildings are not made holy or special because we call it God’s house. Throughout history, huge churches and/or cathedrals were often built for political or ego reasons.  They always pretended they were built to honor God, but they really honored their political or religious leaders.  We continue today to spend tens of millions of dollars to build or remodel bigger and bigger temples/cathedrals.  The builders / money raisers / always claim they are doing it ‘to honor God.’  But whom do you think of when you see the building.  It is generally not our God – who clearly states He does not dwell in buildings made with human hands. I don’t know what could be plainer. 

Acts 7:46 – 51

     46And David found favor in God’s sight, and asked that he might find a dwelling place for the God of Jacob. 47But it was Solomon who built a house for Him.

     48However, the Most High does not dwell in houses made by human hands; as the prophet says:

     49“Heaven is My throne, And earth is the footstool of My feet: What kind of house will you build for Me?’ Says the Lord; Or what place is there for My repose? 

    50Was it not My hand which made all these things?”

     51You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did.

Acts 17:24, 25, 29

     24The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; 25neither is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all life and breath and all things;

     29Being then the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man.

We are God’s house.  The Holy Spirit indwells each Christian.  We don’t need to go to God’s house to Worship Him.  God dwells within us. We are NOT little gods. But our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit and we are to use that temple, our body, to Glorify God – to Worship Him. 

1 Corinthians 6: 19 & 20

     19Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.

To Worship means to Serve. We aren’t limited to a building – a so-called church – to serve God – to worship Him.  God asks that we present our bodies as a living sacrifice to worship Him – as our spiritual service of Worship. Jesus said God must br worshiped in Spirit and Truth. 

There’s an extremely important message in this truth that impacts every Christians’ behavior.  God says our bodies are the Temple of the Holy Spirit.  That’s 24/7 we are connected to God. That means – there is no place nor time where we need to be doing only ‘spiritual things’ and other times and places where we are free to do ‘worldly things.’ We literally are ‘in church’ all the time.  If we are tempted to be involved in activities or thoughts that we would be ashamed to do ‘in church’ then we shouldn’t do them at all. It’s not that we would do them ‘in church’ but that we could do them ‘in church’ without embarrassment.  

(A concrete example – When I started producing films and videos, the criteria of what I would produce and what I wouldn’t is whether or not I could show it to my Sunday School class.  It’s not that I would – but I could.  For instance, “How to Play Golf with Billy Casper” could be shown – but I wouldn’t.  Or, more recently, “The Dangers of Falling off Roofs and Ladders.”  Actually, I did show that to a seniors group at church after I learned that some of them were still climbing around on their roofs and others had fallen off ladders.)

All days are ‘Holy Days.’  Every day belongs to God. We should worship every day. But, be careful not to exchange one set of rules for another.  God has set us free. We don’t NEED to go to a certain place at a certain time on a certain day to Worship Him.  But we may. As we sing our praises to God, some may be filled with His presence and Glorify God in Worship. The person sitting next to them may not. Others may Worship Him thru liturgy, I wouldn’t.  I am moved to Glorify God when I hear great music.  This most often happens sitting at home listening to my stereo – but it can happen in ‘church’ as well. 

The most important message I’m trying to convey is that we can and should Worship God – all day, everyday of the week. And not on just one day in one place. And true, Spiritual Worship can take many forms. It might be giving a thirsty person a glass of water.  It might be calling someone who is lonely to give them encouragement. It might be helping to build a home for a homeless family. Or, it might be just pouring our souls out to God in thankfulness.  It changes as well as we age. I’m far less able to physically use my body in a significant way to Worship God. But, I’m finding out that I think of Him more and want to Praise Him more the closer I get to meeting Him in glory.   

If we substitute hands, legs, mind, mouth, for the word ‘body’ in Romans 12:1, the message of the verse becomes abundantly clear. It is what we do with our hands, our feet, our mind, our mouth – all parts of the Temple of God – our body – that becomes Spiritual Worship.  

Romans 11:36 – 12:1

     36For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.  To Him be the glory forever. Amen. 1I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.

Jesus said in John 4:24, “God is spirit and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.In Romans 12:1, we are urged to “…present our bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is our spiritual service of worship.” God is a spirit, and God’s Holy Spirit dwells within us – within our bodies. That is why we can worship Him in spirit.  We are able to worship Him in truth because we are able to give Him our very being for service.  There is no place for ‘Big Talk No Walk’ There is no place for pretense.  How we use our bodies for service must be Real – our commitment must be acceptable to God – then truly we are Worshiping God in Spirit and Truth.

An example of True Worship is found in the actions of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37.  Remember Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan in response to a question, “what shall I do to inherit eternal life? After two religious leaders passed by the injured man without helping him, a Samaritan came and stopped.  Using his mind, his hands, his legs (in other words, his body) he treated the injured man with medicine, put him on his donkey and took him where he could be taken care of, paid for his treatment, and promised to return and check on the injured man.  The Samaritan didn’t preach – he didn’t say he’d have his pastor come by and talk to him – he didn’t hand him a tract and then move on. The Samaritan took care of the man’s needs.  He used his body – to minister to the man’s needs. Jesus concluded the lesson by saying Go and do the same.

Worship is not just an attitude – it is action – it is participatory.  It is “using our bodies … as our spiritual service of worship.”

How this manifests itself in the real world is in the message of Jesus about the future judgement.

Matthew 25:31 – 46. 

     40“…Truly, I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.”

Paul builds on the concept that our body is an illustration of how we are to work together as the Church to bring Glory to God.  

Romans 12:2 – 6

      2And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. 3For through the grace given to me I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself that he out to think, but to think so as to have sound judgement, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.

     4For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function,

     5so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

     6And since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let each exercise them accordingly:…

Paul uses the body with its many different parts and functions to illustrate the makeup of the church.  Each part of the body has a function. From that we can deduct that the church is a participatory activity.  One part of the body is not more important than another part.  All parts need to work in harmony for the body to function as it should. It is not something that part of the body goes to watch other parts of the body perform.

Unfortunately, that is exactly how some churches operate today.  In those churches it is easy to get the feeling the church staff and/or officers think they are the church and the laity’s (not a Scriptural concept) place is to pay to watch the staff play church.  Unfortunately, many congregations are happy with that arrangement. They give God one hour a week and are happy to pay for the privilege of watching others perform the ‘worship service.’  But even in that situation, true Christians can find the opportunity to Worship their God.

We have been taught from childhood that we go to church – God’s house – to worship.  As we have seen from Scripture, God doesn’t dwell in houses made with human hands – He dwells in His children – us.  We are the church and when we meet together in a building we can call that meeting – church.  And we can join in Worship there. But our Worship isn’t limited to ‘there.’

I am not saying that a large assembly of Born Again Believers can’t be a Church.  They can if they operate on the principles taught in Scripture – that is we are all part of the body and one part is not more important than another. All true believers have been given gifts and we all are to develop and use them to the Glory of God.  That can happen and does happen in many churches of all sizes.  But, if the total leadership consists of ‘paid employees’ then the chances are slim it is a true church and is operating by the guidance set down in Scripture.

What about existing buildings where groups of believers – the church – have traditionally met. I must confess that I grew up worshiping in a large and solidly Biblical Presbyterian church that was housed in a very beautiful and ornate building and now my family and I are members of a very large Presbyterian church that meets in another very beautiful church building.  Does that make us better or more Spiritual than those meeting in a home or warehouse? Not at all.  But we have the buildings.  They might as well be used.  But the big palaces that were built to honor man – you know the ones I’m talking about – maybe should be torn down because they literally are idols. A problem with the big beautiful ‘church buildings’ is if they are owned by the denomination – and the denomination goes bad – which some of them have – it is very hard to give up a building where millions of dollars have been spent – sometimes sacrificially – in order to stay true to what you believe.  

We must remember that God meets us where we are. Even though Scripture says God does not dwell in buildings made with human hands, He still can work in any kind of building through his people and that includes the traditional ‘church building.’ I recall a small men’s group I was a part of.  One morning one man talked about his daughter making the choice of where to go for college. The father said he wished his daughter would go to his alma mater – but, if she didn’t, the father would still be there for his daughter no matter where she went.  I believe that is exactly how God works with and through us.  No matter what our choices in life, God is there with us – and able to work through us.

 

MUSIC AND WORSHIP

On a slightly different, but related note. I have often joked that a church should first hire the best music director they can find who desires to truly honor God with music and then if it had any money left over, hire a preacher.  It always gets a laugh, but it’s not a bad idea.   

I read the following in an article from Christianity Today – the author asked if the reader could repeat even one sentence from a sermon they had heard recently.  No one could. But everyone knew the words from dozens of great hymns or praise choruses.  (I will credit the author of the article as soon as I can find it. I apologize to him.) Yet we continue to center our services around the sermon – probably because most churches have traditionally been led by the preacher, not the choir director. I heard a pastor on TV recently say the majority of the mail he receives says how much the music means to the viewers – no one mentioned the sermon! To be perfectly clear, not for one moment am I trying to say we don’t need Godly preachers.  

Paul said in 1 Timothy 2:7

     “…for this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle…as a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.”

Romans 10:14 – 15

     14…And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?   15And how shall they preach unless they are sent?…

Also: Luke 4:43; Acts 16:32: I Cor 1:17, 23: I Tim 6:2

I was blessed to grow up in a church where great preachers often visited.  I collected their autographs in my Bible, like some collect sports heros and movie stars. I treasure that Bible and the signatures of: Oswald J. Smith, Homer Rodeheaver, William Culbertson, Wilbur M. Smith, Bob Cook, John Mitchell, Toby Johnson, Mrs. Billy Sunday, Merv Rosell, Donald G. Barnhouse, Herbert Tovey, Harold Hockengay, William Orr, J. Sidlow Baxter, John F. Walvord, Billy Graham and many, many more.  Without question, the messages they delivered impacted my life.  I heard a great message this morning by Dr David Jeremiah.   I can’t remember the exact words, but I do know the message had an impact on my life.

These preachers do have a place in today’s church. And they are worthy of honor and support. But they are just ‘fellow body members.’ We don’t need to go through them to approach God. They need us as much as we need them for the body to perform as God wills.

On the other hand, I’ve talked to preachers who have made it perfectly clear, it was ‘their church.’ I was never to question their decisions. They were the ‘man of God’ around there. Period.  And I was to do what they said. They were in charge.  They wore the fancy robes (which Christ condemned.) They were worthy of extremely high wages and compensation because they were ‘men (or women) of the cloth.’  After all, they were ordained.  (Paul said the important fact was ‘if they were called.’)  If you haven’t run into preachers like that – you’re fortunate!   

So what would a modern church service look and sound like – given our experience and research into Worship plus the impact of Barna and Viola’s new book, Pagan Christianity

For us to really worship God, we must be involved in the service.  There must be opportunities for us to use our bodies – mind, voice, hands, feet, etc.  One of the places we can all join in Worship is singing. We don’t have to be great singers – “Make a Joyful Noise until the Lord.”  Viola suggests in Pagan Christianity that we can trust that there will be people in each group that can lead out in song. That may be true — once in a while – but, in my experience, music has to be planned or it generally will turn out to be a total disaster.  They’ve done such a great service to all of us by writing their book, I don’t want to accuse Barna & Viola of being ‘Tone Deaf’ but… (just joking.)

Again, may I caution that we never judge what or how much another person seems to be involved in Worship. As I get older I am becoming more and more aware of my physical limitations. I no longer can do even a fraction of what I once was involved in. My love of God is not diminished – but my actions are.   Even as I write that Worship is participatory – I’m aware that I sometimes can’t participate in a physical way – I can only pray and hum along at home. God knows my heart – and it is no one else’s business.  

I pray what I’ve just written adequately explains what I believe the Bible teaches about Worship. If you are like me, you just hate it when a written article grabs your attention – only to discover they are really trying to sell a product. I feel I’ve been had.  I hope you won’t feel that way about what follows – because I’m going to explore what we can do or provide to help others initiate a service of Worship in a small group setting. If that doesn’t interest you, please go to the end of this article and read the last paragraph written in bold type and underlined.

I’ve been producing films and videos professionally for 50 years and right now we’re as busy as we’ve ever been.  (Fortunately I have a son who does all the physical work.)  But, at the same time, after working on the study of Worship, after reading Pagan Christianity, and especially after our experience with a Sing-a-Long CD of favorite hymns, I wondered if there was a way we could help those wanting to establish Biblical Worship with the kind of programming we produce.     

For use on our bus tour business, my wife, son, and I produced a sing-a-long Hymn CD in the style of Mitch Miller.  It is being used all over the world and the number of requests we get for more of the same and the letters of testimony tells me a lot of people appreciate help in singing the great old hymns and praise songs.  It is used in small churches, on tours, by shut-ins, and by hospital/rest home chaplains with all kinds of patients.  One pastor had such a great response with a couple confined to their home, that he ordered enough for every shut-in in their church.   

Many Christians don’t need help in leading a service week after week.  But, for those that do, our experience with the sing-a-long CD and our meditative, Hymns to Dreamland CD has suggested a lot of saints would like help at leading a house church, small group or church, SS class, men or women’s groups, retirement homes, hospitals, remote locations of work, and the mission field.

Using the principles of Worship we’ve just talked about, we are designing a series of  DVDs to help support a person who wants to facilitate a small weekly service – in their home, or anywhere. Each week it would include 4 or 5 sing-a-long songs, most of them would be traditional hymns plus one singable praise song.  (For younger groups, it would be the opposite mix.) These would have the words on the screen, plus the lead line of music so that those who play an instrument would be able to play along (using their gifts/talents for the Lord.) The pitch of the music would be lowered (to make it easier to sing – and that’s why we need to include the notes.) The accompaniment would be simple and kept to the notes that were written for the singers. In other words, the songs would be presented in a way designed and easy for everyone to sing or hum along. 

Each weeks’ service could include a special musical  number and a time for quiet meditation or prayer with soft music.  During this time we would show just beautiful shots of God’s creation in High Definition.   Then a passage of Scripture would be read with the words on the screen.  It would be read slowly and with meaning by a professional narrator.  In the printed material that would be included with the DVD, we would include age graded and Christian maturity graded questions that those viewing could then discuss the meaning and application of the Biblical passages just read.  Our goal is to encourage everyone in the group to become involved to the greatest extent possible – while being minimally intrusive.  Since there will be no commentary on the DVD, this aid can be used by all Christians in any size group with all levels of Spiritual maturity.

Those attending would be given the passage for discussion the week prior so that they could  carefully read and study the passage and be prepared for discussion.  We think we can put on a month’s worth of services on each DVD so the price can be kept as low as possible. There would never be a picture of anyone or group.  The purpose is to Glorify God – not to promote any person or group or call attention to any person involved in the production.  We would either be showing the words to sing or read or long beautiful scenes of God’s creation.  In tests long scenes of God’s creation do not distract from the words or message.  They actually add to the comprehension of the audio.

If you are interested in being notified when the DVDs are ready to test to see if they help people participate in Worship, please let me know at:    

 

Roy@BiblicalWorship.org

 

THE MOST IMPORTANT POINT –

 

Please take what I have written above as an impetus for your own study of what the Bible teaches about Worship. I believe what I’ve written is what the Bible teaches.  But, it is a work in progress, and my interpretation of the Scriptures might be wrong – or, I may have missed an important truth or point. So, please, carefully search the Scriptures for yourself and let God speak to you. It is not what is the most popular, nor the  most successful, nor the most traditional – IT’S ONLY WHAT GOD SAYS THAT MATTERS. I would appreciate it if you would share your thoughts with me. Thank you.

 

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Guest Blogger: Roy Williams on Biblical Worship

  1. Jill

    The sequel to “Pagan Christianity?” is out now. It’s called “Reimagining Church”. It picks up where “Pagan Christianity” left off and continues the conversation. (“Pagan Christianity” was never meant to be a stand alone book; it’s part one of the conversation.) “Reimagining Church” is endorsed by Leonard Sweet, Shane Claiborne, Alan Hirsch, and many others. You can read a sample chapter at http://www.ReimaginingChurch.org. It’s also available on Amazon.com. Frank is also blogging now at http://frankviola.wordpress.com/

  2. i worship every day by doing what God tells me is right. I make mistakes and work very hard to never make them again. I have never been a bad person and am becoming a better person each day. There is hardly an hour of my life that goes by that I don’t contemplate God and my existence / purpose. But I also lead a very normal worldly life with a wife and children and friends, job with a company in a big city, etc. But here is my question to you…do you believe God has a requirement that every person must attend a formal organized Church with others? I hardly ever attend Church on Sundays. I do not scoff at those who do nor do I scoff at any religious organization. I am glad that people in America have many options to worship in ways that God speaks to them to worship. I think Churches and their leaders are primarily good.

  3. The writter of Hebrews says Chap 10:25 “Do not forsake the assemblying together as some are in the habit of doing.” It isn’t a matter of God having a requirement…its a matter of growing spiritually healthy. Human beings are meant to be around other humans. It is necessary for normal social development and for spiritual development also. Anything worth doing is worth doing together.

    Jesus taught his disciples in a group setting. We are meant to sharpen, strengthen, and encourage one another. If you are not actively seeking God and His Kingdom you will lose ground. There is no such thing as spiritually neutral. We are either growing or dying. Jesus said some really intense stuff…read the words in red and let them change your life forever!

  4. Pingback: Vridar » “God, Actually” by Roy Williams (1)

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