Corporate Worship: Method vs. Motive

Recently, I have been affronted by several articles lashing out against modern, corporate worship, many of which ask the question, "Why would anyone sing in church these days?"

Primarily, this question implies "church" is generally a gathering place or congregational service rather than the worldwide body of Christ. Beyond that, every article I have read concerning the subject has systematically attacked certain methods of modern, corporate worship, insinuating that former methods would encourage greater participation from congregants.

As a worship pastor, I come away from these allegations scratching my head. Why are so many supposed-followers-of-Jesus bound and determined to scrutinize the manner in which the church does or does not worship? I believe there is a greater, underlying issue that deserves our attention. So, instead of pitting one method against the other, I would like to suggest an entirely different paradigm . . . Corporate Worship: Method vs. Motive.

The blueprint is simple (as is the Gospel):

All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.

A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity — all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.

Acts 2:42-47

First, let's address method.

Is the model of a typical Protestant Sunday service emulating that of the believers in the first century church? Is the pastor-congregation formula to which we are so accustom even biblical? What is the purpose of believers congregating in the first place? Throughout the history of humanity, individually, we have worshiped in various methods including (but not limited to) - prayer, songs, gifts, sacrifices, dances, poems, tears, laughter, the lifting of hands, ceremonial traditions, and sheer adoration. Corporately, however, we have but a handful of examples. What does it look like for a group of individuals to worship? From dogma to desertion, religious institutions have invented various "acts of corporate worship." Political agendas have established strongholds. Cultural influences have sabotaged singularity. And a myriad of man's ideas have molded the modern church into the monstrous model it is today. Over the past twenty centuries, the church has slowly diminished into lists of brutal bylaws, rigid ritual, fanatical frivolity, and dismembering denominations. Whether these methods please God or not have less to do with performance and more to do with provenance.

That brings us to motive.

Paul writes to Timothy and discloses his motive:

The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith.

1 Timothy 1:5

The simple blueprint reveals the simple Gospel. What we do should demonstrate who and Whose we are. We worship together to promote His glory, proclaim His goodness, profess our agreement, and present ourselves godly in the image of Christ. Corporate worship (however it manifests) is to weave us together, not tear us apart. It is a singular declaration of conviction that we belong to one another, members of the same body, united in Jesus. Let us cast off those things that easily vex us: differed opinions, personal preference, and the like, and let us turn our attention toward Heaven which is governed by the very nature of God. Let His nature be realized in us, His children, the body of Christ!