It is clear that the Protestant order of worship did not originate with the Lord Jesus, the apostles, or the New Testament Scriptures.'" This in itself does not make the order of worship misguided. It just means it has no biblical basis.
Nichols, Corporate Worship in the Reformed Tradition, 13.
Ibid., 13. "Much of traditional [i.e., Catholic) theological terminology and concepts are truly part of the Lutheran approach as well as they were part of the Roman Catholic approach." Kenan B. Osborne, Priesthood: A History of the Ordained Ministry in the Roman Catholic Church (New York: Paulist Press, 1988), 223. tSE Banks, Paul's Idea of Community, 108; Hatch. Influence of Greek Ideas and Usages, 308-309.
Chapter 2 discusses the influence of fourth-century church architecture on the active clergy and the passive congregation. In this vein, Horton Davies writes, "The passing of three or four centuries shows a great alteration in the character of Christian worship In the fourth century, worship is not celebrated in private houses, but in stately cathedrals and magnificent churches; not in free and simple forms of service, but in fixed and ordered worship" (Christian Worship: History and Meaning, 26). Nichols, Corporate Worship, 155.
Some liturgical scholars, like Anglican Gregory Dix, have tried to argue that the New Testament contains a primitive model of the Mass. However, a careful examination of their arguments shows that they are merely reading their present tradition back into the biblical text (Bradshaw, Origins of Christian Worship, ch. 2).
The use of chairs and pile carpets in Christian gatherings has no biblical support either. And both were invented by pagans.'" Nonetheless, who would claim that sitting in chairs or using carpets is "wrong" simply because they are postbiblical inventions authored by pagans?
The fact is that we do many things in our culture that have pagan roots. Consider our accepted calendar. The days of our week and the months of our year are named after pagan gods. 161 But using the accepted calendar does not make us pagans.'"
So why is the Sunday morning order of worship a different matter than the type of chairs and carpeting we use in the place we worship? Not only is the traditional order of service unscriptural and heavily influenced by paganism (which runs contrary to what is often preached from the pulpit), it does not lead to the spiritual growth God intended.'" Consider the following.
First, the Protestant order of worship represses mutual participation and the growth of Christian community. It puts a choke hold on the functioning of the body of Christ by silencing its members. There is absolutely no room for anyone to give a word of exhortation, share an insight, start or introduce a song, or spontaneously lead a prayer. You are forced to be a muted, staid pewholder! You are prevented from being enriched by the other members of the body as well as being able to enrich them yourself.
Like every other "lay person," you may open your mouth only during the congregational singing or prayer. (If you happen to be part
The earliest known chairs were made in Egypt. For thousands of years, they were used only by royalty, nobility, priests, and the wealthy. Chairs did not come into common use among the general populace until the sixteenth century. Encarta Encyclopedia, 1999 ed., S.V. "Chairs." Pile carpets were developed in India in the eleventh century and spread throughout the rest of the Eastern world. Encarta Encyclopedia, 1998 ed., s.v. "Floor and Floor Coverings."
The seven-day week originated in ancient Mesopotamia and became part of the Roman calendar in AD 321. January is named after the Roman god Janus; March is named after the Roman god Mars; April comes from Aprilis, the sacred month of Venus; May is named for the goddess Maia; and June is named for the goddess Juno. Sunday celebrates the sun god; Monday is the day of the moon goddess; Tuesday is named after the warrior god lip Wednesday is named after the Teutonic god Wotan; Thursday is named after the Scandinavian god Thor; Friday is named after the Scandinavian goddess Frigg; and Saturday is named after Saturn, the Roman god of agriculture (see Months of the Year at www.ernie.cummings.net/calendar.htm).
To those of you who are wondering why Christmas, Easter, and Christians gathering on Sunday are not addressed in this book, please see Frank's full comments at http://www.ptmin.org/answers.htm.
David Norrington makes the point that although there is nothing intrinsically wrong with the church embracing ideas from the surrounding culture, because they are pagan they are often contrary to biblical faith. Thus syncretism and acculturation are frequently harmful to the church (To Preach or Not, 23).
of a typical Pentecostal/charismatic church, you may be permitted to give a one-minute ecstatic utterance. But then you must sit down and be quiet.)
Even though open sharing in a church meeting is completely scriptural,'" you would be breaking the liturgy if you dared try something so outrageous! You would be considered "out of order" and asked to behave yourself or leave.
Second, the Protestant order of worship strangles the headship of Jesus Christ.'" The entire service is directed by one person. You are limited to the knowledge, gifting, and experience of one member of the body—the pastor. Where is the freedom for our Lord Jesus to speak through His body at will? Where in the liturgy may God give a brother or a sister a word to share with the whole congregation? The order of worship allows for no such thing. Jesus Christ has no freedom to express Himself through His body at His discretion. He too is rendered a passive spectator.
Granted, Christ may be able to express Himself through one or two members of the church—usually the pastor and the music leader. But this is a very limited expression. The Lord is stifled from manifesting Himself through the other members of the body. Consequently, the Protestant liturgy cripples the body of Christ. It turns it into one huge tongue (the pastor) and many little ears (the congregation). This does violence to Paul's vision of the body of Christ, where every member functions in the church meeting for the common good (see 1 Corinthians 12).
Third, for many Christians, the Sunday morning service is shamefully boring. It is without variety or spontaneity. It is highly predictable, highly perfunctory, and highly mechanical. There is little in the way of freshness or innovation. It has remained frozen for five centuries. Put bluntly, the order of worship embodies the ambiguous
1 Corinthians 14:26. The New Testament beaches that all Christians are bo use their gifts as functioning priests to edify one another when they gather together (Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12:7; Ephesians 4:7; Hebrews 10:24-25, 13:15-16; 1 Peter 2:5, 9). !€; In the words of Arthur Wallis, "Liturgies, whether ancient or modern, written or unwritten, are a human device to keep the religious wheels turning by doing what is customary, rather than exercising faith in the immediate presence and operation of the Spirit."
power of the rote. And the rote very quickly decays into the routine, which in turn becomes tired, meaningless, and ultimately invisible.
Seeker-sensitive churches have recognized the sterile nature of the contemporary church service. In response, they have incorporated a vast array of media and theatrical modernizations into the liturgy. This is done to market worship to the unchurched. Employing the latest electronic technology, seeker-sensitive churches have been successful at swelling their ranks. As a result, they have garnered a large portion of the American Protestant market share.'"
But despite the added entertainment it affords, the market-driven seeker-sensitive service is still held captive by the pastor, the threefold "hymn sandwich" remains intact, and the congregants continue to be muted spectators (only they are more entertained in their spectating).'
Fourth, the Protestant liturgy that you quietly sit through every Sunday, year after year, actually hinders spiritual transformation. It does so because (1) it encourages passivity, (2) it limits functioning, and (3) it implies that putting in one hour per week is the key to the victorious Christian life.
Every Sunday you attend the service to be bandaged and recharged, like all other wounded soldiers. Far too often, however, the bandaging and the recharging never takes place. The reason is quite simple. The New Testament never links sitting through an ossified ritual that we mislabel "church" as having anything to do with spiritual transformation. We grow by functioning, not by passively watching and listening.
Let's face it. The Protestant order of worship is largely unscrip-tural, impractical, and unspiritual. It has no analog in the New Testament. Rather, it finds its roots in the culture of fallen man.'" It rips at the heart of primitive Christianity, which was informal and free of ritual. Five centuries after the Reformation, the Protestant order of
"iE For details, see Gary Gilley. This Little Church Went to Market The Church in the Age of Entertainment (Webster, NY Evangelical Press, 2005).
See my (Frank's) book Reimagining Church for more on this topic. ■;si The purpose of the first-century church meeting was not for evangelism, sermonizing, worship, or fellowship. It was rather for mutual edification through manifesting Christ corporately (Viola, Rethinking the Wineskin. ch. IL
worship still varies little from the Catholic Mass—a religious ritual that is a fusion of pagan and Judaistic elements.
As one liturgical scholar put it, "The history of Christian worship is the story of the give and take between cult and culture. As the gospel was preached in different times and places, missionaries brought with them the forms and styles of worship with which they were familiar."'"
I (Frank) am no armchair liturgist. What I have written about open meetings under the headship of Christ is not fanciful theory. I have participated in such meetings for the last nineteen years.
Such meetings are marked by incredible variety. They are not bound to a one-man, pulpit-dominated pattern of worship. There is a great deal of spontaneity, creativity, and freshness. The overarching hallmark of these meetings is the visible headship of Christ and the free yet orderly functioning of the body of Christ. I was in such a meeting not too long ago. Let me describe it to you.
About thirty of us gathered together in a home and greeted one another. Some of us stepped into the center of the living room and began singing a capella. Quickly, the entire church was singing in unison, arms around one another. Someone else began another song, and we all joined in. Between each song, prayers were uttered by different people. Some of the songs had been written by the members themselves. We sang several of the songs several times. Some people turned the words of the songs into prayers. On several occasions, a few of the members exhorted the church in relation to what we had just sung.
After we sang, rejoiced, spontaneously prayed, and exhorted one another, we sat down. Then, very quickly, a woman stood and began explaining what the Lord had showed her during the week. She spoke for about three minutes. After she sat down, a man stood up and shared a portion of Scripture and exalted the Lord Jesus through it. Next another gentleman stood up to add a few very edifying words
Senn, Christian Worship and Its Cultural Setting, 38, 40.
to what he said. A woman then broke into a new song that went right along with what the two men had just shared. The whole church sang with her. Another woman stood and read a poem that the Lord had given her during the week . . . and it meshed perfectly with what the others had shared up to that point.
One by one, brothers and sisters in Christ stood up to tell us what they had experienced in their relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ that week. Exhortations, teaching, encouragements, poems, songs, and testimonies all followed one right after the other. And a common theme, one that revealed the glories of Jesus Christ, emerged. Some of those gathered wept.
None of this was rehearsed, prescribed, or planned. Yet the meeting was electric. It was so rich, so glorious, and so edifying that it became evident to everyone that someone was indeed leading the meeting. But He was not visible. It was the Lord Jesus Christ! His headship was being made manifest among His people. We were reminded again that He in fact is alive . . . alive enough to direct His church.
The New Testament is not silent with respect to how we Christians are to meet. Shall we, therefore, opt for man's tradition when it clearly runs contrary to God's thought for His church? Shall we continue to undermine the functioning headship of Christ for the sake of our sacrosanct liturgy? Is the church of Jesus Christ the pillar and ground of truth or the defender of man's tradition (1 Timothy 3:15)?
Perhaps the only sure way to thaw out God's frozen people is to make a dramatic break with the Sunday morning ritual. May we not be found guilty of our Lord's bone-rattling words: "Full well do you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition."'"
1,11 Mark 7:9, web. See also Matthew 15:2-6; Mark 7:9-13; Colossians 2:8.
>delving deeper l.Isn't it true that the Bible's description of church gatherings seems to allow for a lot of latitude in how our worship is structured? My church's order of worship contains almost all the practices mentioned in 1 Corinthians 14. What, then, is so wrong with a standard order of worship?
Most gatherings in institutional churches do include singing and teaching; however, they're done in an atmosphere far different from the one prescribed in 1 Corinthians 14. This passage describes a gathering with open participation by every member to bring a teaching, a revelation, a song, an exhortation, etc. (verse 26); interjections by the members while others are speaking (verse 30); and spontaneous prophesying by everyone (verses 24, 31).
If your church gathering possesses all of these elements, that is wonderful. We just would not describe it as a "standard order of worship" since it is not the standard practice today.
2.In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul admonishes the believers to do things in an orderly way. Now does an organic church keep their worship time from becoming a free-for-all—or dominated by one or two individuals? Doesn't an organic church's style lend itself to disorder?
This is an excellent question. The fact that Paul admonishes the believers to meet in an orderly fashion clearly demonstrates that an open meeting does not have to be a tumultuous free-for-all. To Paul's mind, there is a wonderful synergy between an open meeting and an orderly one. If God's people are properly equipped on how to function under Christ's headship, an open-participatory meeting can be a glorious event with harmony and order.
Let's ask ourselves: What happened when Paul faced the frenzied morass in Corinth? The apostle did not shut down the meetings and hand out a liturgy. Nor did he introduce human officiation. Instead, he supplied the church with a number of broad guidelines to facilitate order and edification in the gatherings (see 1 Corinthians 14).
What is more, Paul was confident the church would adhere to those guidelines. This sets forth an important principle. Every church in the first century had at its disposal an itinerant apostolic worker who helped it navigate through common problems. Sometimes the worker's help came in the form of letters. At other times, it came during personal visits from the worker himself. Such outside help can be highly beneficial in keeping an organic church centered on Christ and focused in its meetings.
3. You question the church's focus on bringing lost souls to Christ. Yet until people come to Christ, they cannot partake in God's great, eternal purpose, which Paul discusses in Ephesians 1. Therefore, isn't it critical that churches make the gospel's proclamation a priority?
Yes, it is. In fact, we believe that embodying the gospel in life and proclaiming it in word is a natural outgrowth of the life of a healthy organic church. If God's people are learning to love their Lord and one another with greater intensity, they will naturally want to share Him with others in both word and deed.
4. You imply that Finney and other Revivalists began using such things as the altar call strictly because they were pragmatists who invented certain practices to win converts. But how can we say for sure that these men weren't led by the Holy Spirit to employ new methods that would help people recognize their need for Christ?
Our point about Finney was simply that the Revivalists made salvation God's governing purpose. Salvation was turned into something that took on a life of its own, often isolated from a holistic Christian experience, and thus many innovations were created to facilitate a conversion experience but not a full Christian experience. God's eternal purpose was not in view at all.
As far as modern pragmatism goes, Christians should decide for themselves whether a particular practice is of the Holy Spirit or if it is mere human ingenuity at work. We leave such judgments to the individual reader.
5. You seem very critical that Moody was so concerned about bringing lost souls to Christ. Yet as an evangelist, wasn't it natural that that was his focus?
We certainly commend Moody for bringing souls to Christ. However, we believe that by viewing redemption as God's ultimate purpose, he failed to communicate the scope of God's complete plan.
No evangelist or apostle in the New Testament brought souls to Christ simply to save them from hell. Such a thought was unknown to the early Christians. The early Christians won people to the Lord to bring them into God's community, the church.
In the first century, people were saved with to the idea of adding them to the ekklesia. Conversion and community were not separate; they were inextricably intertwined. In the words of Gilbert Bilezikian: "Christ did not die just to save us from sins, but to bring us together into community. After coining to Christ, our next step is to be involved in community. A church that does not experience community is a parody, a sham."171
ln John McNeil, "'Denatured' Church Facing Extinction," ASSIST News Service, February 19, 2006. 81
In this regard, mainstream evangelicalism has made the profound error of divorcing soteriology (salvation) from ecclesiology (church practice). The message conveyed is that soteriology is a required course, while ecclesiology is an elective. So church practice does not really matter. But this thinking does not reflect God's curriculum. The church is not a footnote in the gospel. It stands at the center of God's beating heart.
In fact, when the church functions as she should, she is the greatest evangelism known to humankind. When God's people are living in authentic community, their lives together are a sign to the world of God's coming reign. 172
You say that "neither Catholics nor Protestants were successful in allowing Jesus Christ to be the center and head of their gatherings." I must disagree. In my church, the songs we sing, the Scripture we read, the message that is proclaimed all center on Jesus. Furthermore, we are given practical instruction on how to make Christ our Lord every day of the week.
The central issue we were addressing is not, "Is Jesus talked about and given honor in the service?" We agree that in many institutional churches, He is. The issue we were addressing is, "Is Jesus Christ the functional head of the gathering?" There is a significant difference between making Jesus the invisible guest of honor and allowing Him to be the practical leader of the gathering.
Let's suppose the authors of this book attend your church service. And let's suppose that the Lord Jesus Christ puts something on our hearts to share with the rest of His body. Would we have the freedom to do so spontaneously? Would everyone else have the freedom to do it? If not, then we would question whether your church service is under Christ's headship.
You see, a meeting that is under the headship of Christ means that He may speak through every member of the body in the gathering. This is the very argument of 1 Corinthians 12-14. Paul begins this section by saying that Jesus Christ is not speechless like the idols the Corinthians once worshipped. And through whom does Christ speak? He speaks through His body using the various gifts and ministries granted by the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12). In the next chapter, Paul says that believers' gifts and ministries are to be used in love, as love seeks to edify everyone else (rather than to take for itself). Paul then moves on to the specifics of the church meeting where "every one of you hath" something to bring and "ye may all prophesy one by one" (1 Corinthians 14).
In this connection, if you were to attend an organic church gathering that met
See also Stanley Grenz, Created for Community (Gra nd Rapids: Baker Books, 1998)i first-century style, you would have both the right and the privilege to share whatever the Lord laid on your heart in the manner in which the Spirit led you. Not only that, but you would be expected to. In other words, Jesus Christ would be the functional head of that gathering.
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