Unity in Diversity and the Church Service

Featuring John Telman Posted on June 19, 2008


Is there a model that we can follow of the perfect corporate worship service? We are taught many things but a perfect model that we could design a service after does not exist. The reason for this is simple. God has uniquely designed us to worship in various ways. We should not expect worship to be identical in Zambia as it is in America or Malaysia. The instruments, format, and songs will be different to be sure. However, we should expect to have elements that are common.

The first will be what unites us and that is the Lordship of Jesus Christ. He is Lord of all ages, races, and genders. He is the redeemer, healer, provider and guide to all people who will accept him. No matter who worships God, the common theme will be the magnification of who he is. Secondly, a common element will be the recognition that we are to honor him with more than our song. True worship will challenge us to be more than people of the song.

Unity and differing application in worship is not contradictory. We may be different in how we worship in the corporate service but we should not exclude or divide. We will celebrate God in many ways, be quick to include, and quick to invite others to participate.

The songs chosen for the corporate service of believers will include songs that are an invitation to worship, songs of testimony, songs of doctrine that describe what we believe, songs of intent, prayer songs, and songs of intimate vertical worship. There will be a flow that naturally parallels the Old Testament picture of entering the outer courts with thanksgiving and praise followed by entering into the holy place with humility and penitence and concluding by entering into the holy of holies by focusing all attention on the greatness and grandeur of the one true living God.

Some have defined praise songs as up-tempo songs. They have also defined worship songs as the slower more reverent songs. Both of these are inaccurate ways to describe praise and worship songs. Tempo does not define the intent of a song. The lyrics themselves give definition to the use of a song.

There are some who rebel against form and proudly proclaim that they do not want a liturgical worship service. Most of the time, the reason they give is based on the fear that form will make the corporate worship service stale, dry, and uninviting. While there is a point to this view, the fact is that it is overstated. We, by nature, gravitate to what we know. Every church and every meeting has a liturgy, “a way of doing things”.

The Bible purposely does not give instruction on how many songs to sing and when to sing them. What it does is speak to the purpose surrounding each activity. Paul goes into detail regarding the orderliness and heart that is a part of the service. “Let all things be done for edification.” (I Corinthians 14:26). He goes on to say, “God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints”. The common element in all services is activities that bring us together in close relation to God the father, whether it is with three songs or eight, with guitars and drums, or with pianos and organs.

There will be a beautiful fragrance of God's presence when the church will worship in unity.  Conversely, there will be a stench when division, pride, and fleshly tendencies are present. Freedom to rest in the presence of the Lord will mark a service of worship. “Doing a set” is far from what worship is. God is sovereign and can rightly direct the service to his desired result. Those who are “stuck” in a program will miss the beauty of the Holy Spirit's creative design.

This world’s view is all about getting! The motivation is to live for self. Of course, this is not a part of the character of a disciple of Jesus. (I John 3:16).This would be difficult to do if we do not honour each one in the body.

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