At The Bible Church of Little Rock we are committed to pursuing worship that pleases God both in our corporate worship services as well as our private times of adoration. Jesus offers one of the most concise and explicit statements in all of Scripture about the kind of worship that God requires:
“True worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth for such persons the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:23-24, emphasis added.)
The phrase “such persons the Father seeks to be his worshipers” could be translated “such persons the Father requires, demands, or expects.” Thus, worship in spirit and truth is required by God as the only worship that He will receive. As individuals and as a church, we must carefully evaluate every aspect of our private and corporate worship in the light of such clear teaching in order to be certain that we are “true worshipers.”
Worship in spirit is worship that engages the spirit or the heart of a person. True worship flows from the inner dimension of a man and involves the intellect, the emotions, and the volition as illustrated in the following texts:
Psalm 45:1 My heart overflows with a good theme.
Psalm 103:1 Bless the Lord oh my soul and all that is within me bless His holy name.
Psalm 51:17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise.
Romans 1:9 God whom I serve (worship) in my spirit.
Worship “in spirit” stands in stark contrast to worship that is mere outward ritual. Such worship is rejected and strongly condemned by God throughout Scripture (Isaiah 1:13,15; 29:13, Jeremiah 7:9-10, Matthew 15:7-9). The corporate worship of our church must be devoid of all such hypocrisy, deceit, or pretense. Worship “in spirit” will be characterized by earnest, sincere, authentic, and passionate expressions of love and adoration for our God.
Worship in Truth is worship that occurs in response to God’s gracious revelation of Himself in both creation (general revelation) and the Word of God (special revelation). True worship cannot occur apart from an understanding of who God is (Acts 17:23), and thus every aspect of worship must conform to the truth of God’s Word. Each facet of our corporate worship must be carefully evaluated in the light of scriptural truth in order to protect and enable “worship in truth.” Worship that is saturated in Scripture will be protected from unworthy or errant thoughts about the object our worship, God Himself. Biblically based worship will retain God and His glory as its central focus thus avoiding man-centeredness. When scrutinized in the light of God’s Word, worship will emphasize both the transcendence and immanence of God (Isaiah 57:15, Psalm 113). Worship submitted to the authority of God’s word will insure that songs can accurately teach and admonish as commanded in Colossians 3:16 and Ephesians 5:19. Scriptural worship will balance the subjective expression of our thoughts to God (Psalm 18:1,2) with the objective impression of God’s thoughts to us (Deuteronomy 6:3; Isaiah 1:18-20) .
Hebrew 13:15-16 teaches that “worship in truth” will bring glory to God not only through songs of the worshiper but also through the life of the worshiper:
Through Him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. And do not neglect doing good and sharing for with such sacrifices God is pleased. (emphasis added)
This passage defines worship both in terms of praise on the lips and good works in the life (see also Matthew 5:16). In the New Testament, worship is expressed not only in terms of the singing of praise but good works such as personal evangelism (Romans 15:16), financial giving (Phil. 4:18), and any faithful act of obedience in the life of a believer (Romans 12:1-2, 14:13,18 Psalm 95 I Corinthians 10:31).
Created for His Glory
Like the rest of creation, music is designed by God for His own glory (Isaiah 48:11, Romans 11:36). Music should be used as a tool to facilitate worship, not as an end in itself. Music enhances our expression of adoration of God beyond that of the spoken word alone (Psalm 147:1.)
The Place of Excellence
Music in worship should be offered in such a way that the message of a song is enhanced. Worship can be distracted by music that is unprepared or done poorly, thus the biblical imperative to “play skillfully” implies acquired abilities, training as well as rehearsal for worship (Psalm 33:3). Distraction from the text can also be caused by pretentious performances that are calculated to engender men’s praise. Just as Paul in his preaching chose to divest himself of “cleverness of speech” (I Corinthians 1:17b) which he had acquired through his training, so musicians involved in worship leadership have a unique responsibility to reject the performance mindset often acquired in their training. Natural, undistracting excellence that draws the listeners’ attention to the text must always be the goal of the musicians involved in worship.
When rehearsing for public worship, it is critical to pursue not only artistic excellence, but spiritual maturity as well. The teaching of the Word of God should have a prominent place in all rehearsals. While there is great value in developing musicians and singers within the church, the active, whole-hearted participation of the entire congregation is a greater priority than “running a music program”.