What is the Worship Like?
When someone asks "What is your worship like?", more often than not, they are interested in knowing what kind of songs are sung or what kind of instruments are incorporated in the service. This is because "worship" is often distinguished from the other parts of the service like the preaching or the Lord's Supper. At Redemption OPC we don't distinguish between the parts of the service in this way. When we think of worship, we think of the entire service as a service of worship. Every Sunday the living and true God calls his people to assemble together to worship him and to hear him speak to them in return. So everything we do when we gather together, whether we are raising our voices in prayer or praise, or whether we are humbly listening to the word of God read and preached, we consider all of this our service of worship to the living God.
The Purpose of Our Worship
At Redemption OPC we have a threefold purpose in worship. Our purpose is first and foremost to glorify God in the worship that we bring to Him. We believe that worship is above all things God-centered. When we worship, we are not about the business of entertaining or being entertained. Our goal when we gather together corporately on the Lord ’s Day, above everything else, is to “offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe.” (Heb. 12:28) We desire to worship the living God on the Lord’s Day in a manner that demonstrates that worship is the most important and central activity that we do as a church.
The second purpose of our worship is the edification (“building up”) of the Saints. Worship is the primary means by which our Lord grows his children up to maturity. As we come to meet with our Savior, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, we have his promise that he will fill us. In worship, our Savior satisfies our spiritual hunger as he feeds us with the bread of his word and quenches our thirst with the living water of his Spirit. As we participate in the Lord’s Supper, we are nourished and sustained by the gospel and enabled to persevere in our pilgrim journey. In worship we meet with the living God of heaven and earth, and discover that refreshment of heart and soul and the fullness of joy that can only be found in His presence.
The third purpose of our worship is to proclaim the good news of the redemption accomplished by Christ. We desire that those who come into our worship service might, as the Scriptures say, “be cut to the heart” (Acts 2:37) by the preaching of the gospel, that “falling on their face, they will worship God and declare that God is really among you.” (1 Cor. 14:25) At Redemption OPC we believe that God uses the foolishness of preaching to save sinners, and we would willingly be fools for Christ’s sake in order that the gospel might be both the wisdom and power of God unto salvation.
The Pattern of Our Worship
At Redemption OPC there are three guiding principles which have shaped our approach to Lord’s Day worship.
The first of these principles we refer to as the regulative principle of worship. This simply means that God “regulates” what we do in worship. The church must never forget that worship is for God and so it is his to decide what we do in worship. We do in worship only those things that the Scriptures explicitly command or implicitly approve. Rather than limiting our expression in worship, we believe that the regulative principle gives us great confidence and freedom to worship God in the way that we know is pleasing to him. It is for this reason that our worship is centered on the means of grace (preaching, sacraments, and prayer). These are the primary means that God has given for our growth as Christians.
- Preaching: Scripture teaches that preaching should reflect upon who God is and what God has done for us. This is the way preaching begins in the Old Testament and in the New. The gospel (God becoming man to die and rise from the dead on our behalf) is the most glorious expression of this. In response, we are to believe and obey God’s word. Preaching that only emphasizes part of this is less than biblical preaching.
- Sacraments: The sacraments of the New Covenant are baptism and the Lord's supper. Scripture teaches that the sacraments are God-given signs and seals of the covenant, intended to remind us of the promises of God and of our communion with him and with one another. These are often downplayed in the church as being mere traditions. A faithful church should seek to administer the sacraments faithfully and regularly.
- Prayer: Scripture teaches that prayer is one of those ways in which God humbles us and conforms our will to his. It is a beautiful way of expressing our dependence upon God and our trust in him. Scripture also commands prayer and gives guidelines concerning how it should be employed corporately. A faithful church should be a praying church.
The second principle is called the dialogical principle of worship. This simply means that worship is a dialogue between God and his people. We believe that in worship God speaks to us and we respond to Him. He speaks to us through the reading and preaching of the word, and through the sacraments, and we respond to him in our prayers and praises. Throughout the Scriptures God speaks and acts on behalf of his people and then calls them to respond in worship. This “back and forth” movement is reflected in our worship as God speaks and we listen and respond.
The third guiding principle is the corporate or covenantal principle of worship, which means that families should worship together. We believe that the Lord welcomes little children to Himself, even in worship. Therefore, we believe that little children should be welcomed and included in our worship services. Children learn by watching and imitating their parents, and the most important thing that parents can teach and model for their children is the regular and weekly act of worshipping the Lord with reverence, joy, and sincerity.
The Character of Our Worship
At Redemption OPC it is our desire that the worship we bring conform to the true character of worship set forth in God’s word. For “the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.” (John 4:23) We believe that to worship in Spirit and truth means much more than being sincere. God certainly desires sincerity in worship (Matt. 15:9; 2 Cor. 11:3), but the character of worship as in Spirit and truth goes far beyond sincerity. It relates instead to worship that is no longer bound by the shadowy forms of the Old Covenant with time and place and ceremony. Instead, the hour has come when God’s people worship in the reality to which the shadows ever pointed, and our worship corresponds to the heavenly original of God who is Spirit (John 4:1-26; Heb. 9:23-28). At Redemption OPC we believe that when we gather together on the Lord’s Day, we have come by faith to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and that our praises mingle with those of the Saints gone before us and myriads of angels (Hebrews 12:22-24).
Consequently, we believe that worship is not to be taken lightly. The writer to the Hebrews tells us that “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31) and because “our God is a consuming fire,” we should “offer unto God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe.” (Heb. 12:28-29) Reverence and awe should therefore be characteristic of our worship. At the same time, while we believe that our worship should be characterized by reverence and awe, we do not think that this means our worship should be sad and somber. The author of Hebrews also tells us that our worship should be characterized by the joyful confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus. He calls us to “draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” (Heb 10:22) At Redemption OPC we desire only to worship the Father in Spirit and truth with reverence and awe, offering this reverent worship with the joyful confidence that we may enter into the heavenly holy place by the blood of Jesus Christ.