The following post is taken from a document that our worship staff worked on and prayed over during last year. We took time each week in our worship planning meetings to look into God's Word and find what it had to say about worship. We also read and gained insight from solid books on worship. We also scoured the internet to find churches who had published their beliefs and values on worship. Since the following was authored we have used it and continue to use it in these ways:
- Communicated the contents to our whole staff. We wanted them to know what we think about when planning services. We also believe that the same thought should go into any worship gathering whether that is for children, youth and any other gathered group.
- We continually refer to these statements in our worship planning and evaluate past services and plan future services against these values.
I welcome comments about the statements below and hope you will post them in the comment section.
Many of us have been asked over the years: “what is the worship like at ClearView?” And probably most of our answers have centered on the ‘style’ of music that dominates the particular service we attend. It is time for us to change our answers or the theme of our answers. They should center around our beliefs about worship, not style of our worship.
Mission and Core Values
“ClearView exists to make radical disciples who are focused on making God known to the ends of the earth.”
We support this mission by standing firm on five core values:
- God’s Word is the ultimate authority and source of wisdom. It is the book for all sermons and foundation for all other classes.
- Our lives, everyday, should be about Passionate Worship, a surrendered life. Then weekly we come together to corporately express our beliefs in worship services.
- Through Passionate Worship and study of God’s Word we expect to see Transformed Lives, individuals becoming more Christ-like.
- It is a command of Christ to go and make disciples, whether that is in our neighborhood or around the world…we call that Global Missions, and we are intentional about training and sending people to follow Christ’s command.
- The ultimate support for a church or any Christ-centered ministry is Prayer. We believe in prayer and unashamedly participate in prayer.
At the center of the stated mission and values is the belief that our main goal is to glorify God. This is done through how we live our lives and our emotional actions encourage others to do the same. From the beginning of time God has been revealing His glory to us and our response as His creation is to reflect that Glory, His character. Jesus, God’s Son, made it clear that His main purpose while on earth was to do the work of his Father, reveal who He is...reflect His glory.
Biblical Examples of Worship
If we were to read God’s Word as literature we could say that it is a great story filled with characters who are faced with choices. God’s Word is not literature, it is a glimpse into the very nature of God where man was invited to participate. In these encounters, as God reveals Himself, man is given the chance to respond to who God is. The ultimate revelation from God came with the presentation of His Son. In the life of Christ we find the glory of God revealed and we are faced with His grace. The correct or adequate responses to God’s revelation is worship...surrender to Him through His Son.
It must be stated, before we move to focus on corporate worship, that worship in itself is not about a gathering but about the heart as it reflects God’s glory. Simply put it is about ‘surrender,’ surrendering to the will of God for our lives, where our actions are in line with His teaching. (Romans 12:1) “Worship is the most important action of the human experience.” (Transformational Church p. 149) It is in worship/surrender that we find ourselves in tune with God.
Corporate Worship Principles
If worship is about living a life centered on Christ, then why do we even gather as groups to worship? The bible holds two great priorities that govern corporate worship gatherings: to glorify God (2 Cor. 1:20) and to edify His people (I Cor. 14:26; Col 3:16) God is glorified as we lift our songs, hymns and spiritual songs in worship and also when we respond to how He has been revealed through these and the reading and explanation of His word.
The research of God’s Word reveals that there is a history for corporate worship. In both the Old and New Testament writings we find examples of God’s people gathering, expecting to see God revealed through His presence and/or through the reading of His word and in turn see the people responding through adoration, confession, praise and petition.
The accounts of worship in God’s Word are both of the personal and corporate experience and each follow the pattern of revelation and response. In the Old Testament we find personal worship experiences explained, one example being from Isaiah 6. A corporate example of worship can be found at Solomon’s Dedication of the Temple in II Chronicles 5-7.
In the New Testament we find the writings of Paul that urge us to make worship a personal experience as seen in Romans 12:1. In other writings the apostolic writers list elements of corporate worship that had been passed down through their history and taken from Temple worship: prayer, reading and preaching of God’s Word, giving testimonies and others.
Our corporate worship today also takes from both the Old and New Testament examples and these examples give no guidelines for style. Corporate worship has taken on a variety of forms from its earliest beginnings, but the model passed down over the centuries centers on one theme, the re-presentation of the Gospel...the story of God.
Corporate worship, Christ-centered worship, is worship rendered to an audience of One in a gathering of many to glorify and learn of the One while also encouraging the many.
God’s people are edified by the witness of others engaging in the act of worship. Worship becomes an activity of encouragement as they recognize that they serve not alone but with others. Worship also edifies the body and challenges the unbeliever because a believer’s participation is an active testimony of their faith.
The understanding of worship is clear. It is a command of God and the privilege of man. There has been and will continue to be an active and passionate conversation about the content of a corporate worship service. Any conversation about content of worship must be viewed in context of the two great priorities of worship, ‘to glorify God’ and ‘to edify man,’ which are biblical principles. The teaching found in God’s Word centers around these principles and not around content, style or form.
All worshipers maintain personal preferences, desires and expectations and so unanimity concerning style and form in corporate worship is not a realistic goal. There has been and will continue to be a discussion between ‘freedom of expression’ and ‘reverence;’ and between those who define those in light of the preferred mediums of hymns, gospel songs, praise choruses or piano, organ and/or guitars.
Corporate worship today should be a model of that revelation and response because it is centered on a relationship where there is an active conversation. The relationship is initiated by God as He reveals His glory and invites us to participate through the revelation of His grace. In other words there is a re-presentation of the Gospel in the worship experience. Please note: there is a larger meaning of the word Gospel here than the ‘telling of the good news’ or ‘giving an invitation to accept Christ.’ Re-presentation of the Gospel is found when the worship service is designed with the intent of telling the story of God: how does He reveal Himself, why does He reveal Himself, what is His grace and how do we respond to all of this?
In planning worship services it is clear that we want to tell the story of God. We desire to give believers and non-believers a chance to respond to how God has been revealed. This revelation can and does take on many forms; from silence to enthusiastic singing, from corporate prayer to private thoughts, and from reading to exposition of scripture.
- We at ClearView want to use elements in all our services that reflect on, exult in and expound upon Christ’s atoning death on the cross which points us to and gives us instruction on being committed Christ followers.
- We at ClearView encourage all who enter any of our spaces dedicated to worship to participate with passion and spontaneity. We believe this active participation is an outward expression of a life that is actively and continually pursuing a relationship with God.
- We at ClearView believe that every element, no matter the style that is used in our worship services, should give people doctrinal fuel for their emotional fire.
- We at ClearView believe that everything we do in worship should be centered around God’s Word: we preach the word, we pray the word, we read the word, we sing the word and we fellowship around the word.
- Worship of God is our outward display of the relationship we have with Him through His Son and sustained through the Holy Spirit. We desire this display of worship in our daily actions and in our corporate worship.
(The bullet points above were adapted from research gathered from another church. At this time I cannot find that resource again. I apologize for not being able to do so.)
That's what we believe...
I hope you can see we take planning our services very seriously and do so with much intentionality.
Finally, look at this post to see some questions that I have been using in planning for many years. They support our core values.
Again, I welcome your comments.