Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Worship in unity?

I always wish that Christians from different persuasions could worship together—in unity with harmony. This entails, however, a certain degree of toleration for one another to allow others to worship God in a way that is meaningful to them. Sadly, that acceptance does not exist among Christians. Those who worship in structured and orderly manners could not worship meaningfully with those who worship spontaneously with loud music accompanied by the manifestations of the tongue speaking and vice versa.

In the mission field, Christian workers tried so hard to worship together for the sake of the gospel, but in spite of the effort this seemingly division among us would always haunt us and it would definitely affect the endeavor to reach the lost people to Christ. Unbelievers just could not conceive the idea that we believe the same God but could not worship Him in one place together.

My friend, a Baptist Pastor while we were discussing about this issue told me that the problem with these current fads in worship—praise & worship, drama and seeker sensitive among others is that they are not biblical with the thought that the Baptist traditional way of worship is the only pure biblical form of worship. Conversely, I asked him that what makes him sure that what we were doing in worship is biblical. With this question came the realization that strictly speaking, it may not be biblical at all.

So my suggestion is this: if we want to have unity in the form of worship, let us look how the biblical Christians do their worship and start from there. Forget about our biases and preferences; let us be biblical in the strict sense of the word.

The first Christians’ worship is an outgrowth of the Jewish synagogue. The disciples were Jews and needless to say, Jesus himself worshiped as a Jew. Looking at the way they worshiped gives us the concept of what “biblical” worship is. The biblical Christian following the lead of the synagogue gave emphasis on reading the Scripture, the Old Testament and some of Paul’s writing and perhaps the recitation of the oral traditions of the gospel story. This liturgical reading will be separated by a psalm and ended with a sermon. The sermon was always the explanation of the reading. And since Jesus Christ initiated the Lord Supper, the early Christians observed this every first day of the week. A prayer of consecration was uttered in the Eucharist and before that there was a prayer of intercession. As I can tell it, this is how the “biblical” Christians worship. If we claim that we are faithful to the Scripture in our worship, it entails that we should follow this structure. However, I doubt if we could do this. If that is the case this post is totally irrelevant.

Here are some interesting facts about Christian worship:

It was in the fourth century that the sacraments of baptism, the use of candles, the use of white garments, the use of the blessed oil, and the importance of sacred formula were introduced in worship. It happened when the influenced of the Hellenestic world and the mystery religion crept into the church. Baptism as sacraments corresponded to the mysterious cults’ practice of initiatory washing. The mysterious way that the Eucharist was done, with the priest secretly whispered to the elements because the words was too sacred for the regular worshipers to hear and only the chosen few had the privilege of actually knowing it. This leads to the practice of excluding unbaptized members to participate in the communion. In this time also that words such as Eucharist, mystery, epiphany, advent, doxology, hymn and liturgy came to be used in Christian worship. More and more practices in mystery religions were accommodated and were given Christian meanings.

It was only during the second half of the fourth century that music had been accepted in the church with much reservation. Church leaders couldn’t agree about this (sound familiar). Prior to this, music in the church were ordinarily were chant by the cantor using Psalms and the New Testament songs such as those of Mary, Simeon and Zacharias. The church condemned the chanting of texts not taken directly from the Bible.

It was until the 13th century that the cross was introduced as focal point in Christian churches. This was perhaps because of the increasing emphasis on the doctrine of Christ as the victim.

And I could go on and on… wait my wife is calling me.


GrayDawn said...

And it wasn't until the 1800's that (I believe) Charles Finney invented the "call-forward".

Of course, during the time of Jesus, the temple was still in existence. How would the early church have fit in with that? Since, they were all initially Jewish.

As I read, there does not seem to be a lot of instruction concerning the format of worship in scripture. Except, maybe 1 Cor. 14. Could that have been God's intention? Not to give specific instruction, so he could be glorified in multiple forms? Thais worshipping like Thais. Navajos like Navajos. Maasi like Maasi. Rev 7:9,10 -- all cultures worshipping together.

Maybe we need to re-think what unity is?

Joey said...

Yes, I couldn't agree more. Perhaps specifics were not given to make it possible that all people from every tribe and tongue can worship the Lamb of God together. I know that Rev. 7:9,10 is not only a vision of the future but a reality that can be accomplished anytime if we set aside our differences.

BTW, thanks for the visit.