Show me how a church worships and I can tell you a lot about what they believe about God, His Word, there salvation in Christ, prayer, and a whole host of other matters. If worship is a response to God, then our theology will show itself through our worship. To put it another way, what we believe about God shapes our worship.
Let’s think this through by examining First Hypothetical Fellowship Church (FHFC) worshiping together. After attending several weeks, we have made many observations about how they worship, but for the sake of expediency, let us note just a few. Let us consider the place of Scripture, the place of prayer, and the role of music.
Here is what we have seen: At FHFC only one passage of Scripture is usually read. This passage is read by the pastor at the start of his sermon. At FHFC, there are a few prayers during the worship service, most of which are used as a means of stage transition and all of which are given in the spur of the moment. At FHFC they sing all the latest hit Christian tunes on the radio (or all the feel-good traditional hymns, the same problem will arise with both, as we will see). The songs are fun to sing, but seem to lack much theological depth. Much else could be observed at FHFC, but this will get us started.
So what does First Hypothetical Fellowship Church believe about the things of God? We might be inclined to run to their website to pull up their doctrinal statement, but we can know a lot more about what they believe by simply observing their worship. Remember, how a church worships reveals what a church truly believes. What is revealed to us by how FHFC worships?
In this post, let’s explore what FHFC believes about Scripture. By our simple observation, we find that, in general, they do not believe God’s Word has power, authority, or is sufficient. But wait, you might say, their doctrinal statement is very clear and very strong on each of those. If asked, members of the church would affirm these truths. So why do I make such a claim?
I make this claim because a church’s worship reveals what they truly believe. At very least, a church’s worship reveals what the people are being taught to believe. At FHFC, the people are being taught that the Bible is less than essential for worship and, by extension, less than essential for life.
Let me show you this by asking a couple of questions. If Scripture plays a small part when God’s people gather to worship, how big of a role do you suppose it plays when God’s people scatter during the week? If the people hear little of God’s word in Sunday Worship, do you suppose they feel a need to hear much of it Monday through Saturday? If the reading of Scripture only happens to start a sermon, do you suppose the people will find Scripture necessary to start their day, guide their decisions, humble their hears, or correct their sin? Will fathers feel they can read Scripture to their children and not have to give a mini-sermon attached to it?
If it is true that First Hypothetical Fellowship Church hold that Scripture is powerful, then let them be sure it’s power is let loose in their gathered worship. If FHFC affirms the authority of Scripture, let the God’s Word be given a place of prominence and have authority over them. If the leadership of FHFC would claim that the Bible is sufficient for faith and life, then let them show it by letting it be sufficient to lead God’s people to worship. (We should note that these issues are greatly exacerbated if the sermon preached has little or no connection to the Scripture read, that is, if the sermon is not an expounding of what this text means.)
How we worship reveals what we believe about Scripture. Is it essential or a nice garnishment? Is it prominent or an afterthought? Is it for the pastor or also for the people? Is it a lauchpad for a sermon, or the very foundation and substance of the people’s worship? How we treat Scripture when we worship and the place that we give it in our worship service will shape how we treat Scripture and the place we give Scripture in our private lives.
I suppose we could test this in our own churches. If next Sunday, no Scripture was read throughout the gathered time of worship, except for perhaps one verse to start the sermon would people notice? Would they leave claiming they had heard from God? Would they feel as though they responded in worship? (And here is a scary thought: if this were to take place, whose word would the people be responding to?)
We have other observations to consider from the worship of FHFC. We will turn to them in a future post.