What Unites Us in Worship at Free Grace Church
For my first blog post, I decided to write the most important things you should know about the worship at Free Grace Church. When Matt and I were first meeting to discuss the future of the worship at FGC, Matt wisely suggested we put something on paper that defines what we do. After looking around, Matt found a document by David Goodwin of Heritage Baptist Church Owensboro, Kentucky. Matt revised them and I added the 13th section based on a blog post a friend of mine wrote.
Some of these speak for themselves, and some of them I will spend future blog posts expanding on.
What Unites Us in Worship at Free Grace Church
This list of marks that describe public worship at Free Grace Church reflect the work of other churches and our own in seeking to live out together the fundamental principle of John 4:23-24: “The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” These convictions, deeper than issues of style and form, inform every part of our corporate worship. As one pastor has said:
“Worship is both a purposeful and reflexive response of the soul and body of a person who has savingly experienced the grace of God, and is increasingly seeing the glory of God. The worshiper is spontaneously compelled from his very heart to render back to God love, praise, adoration, honor, glory, gratitude, submission, obedience and service. Included in this soul and body reflex is an insatiable longing to know him better and better, to become more and more like him, and never to be satisfied until we are with him in his immediate, glorious presence.”
1. We focus on the triune God.
We put a high priority on God-centeredness in all our meetings. We aim ultimately to enter the Father’s presence, through Christ, by faith, in conscious dependence on the Holy Spirit in such a way that the Lord is glorified in our affections.
2. We expect the awesome and gracious presence of God.
We do not just direct ourselves toward Him. We earnestly seek for him to draw near to us according to the promise of James 4:8 (“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded”). We believe that in worship God draws near to us in power, and makes Himself known and felt for His glory, our good, and for the salvation of unbelievers in the midst.
3. God’s Word informs, directs and permeates all we do.
We will be careful to engage God (worship Him) by the ways and means he has provided in His word. This means that the content of God's Word should be woven through all we do in worship and will be the ground of all our appeal to authority. Accordingly, the content of our singing, praying, preaching and all else we do should always conform to the truth of Scripture. Additionally, we want to avoid ambiguity in our songs and speech. Our words must be clear and faithful to the words of scripture.
4. We boast in nothing but the cross of Christ.
We seek to be redemptive in our approach, longing for sightings of the cross throughout our singing and preaching, eager to have the gospel of Christ and the doctrines of grace -- atonement, redemption, and forgiveness -- effectually and graciously applied to the lives of sinners and saints.
5. We seek a whole person (head and heart) response to God’s Word and work.
All response in worship is based on God’s self-revelation in the Lord Jesus Christ. As God reveals His power, we respond in wonder. As God reveals His holiness, we respond in confession and contrition. As God reveals His grace, we respond in humility. As God reveals His purpose, we respond in surrender and commitment. As God reveals His plans for our lives, we respond in prayer. As God reveals His goodness, we respond in joy, thankfulness, praise and celebration (Is. 6:1-12; Ps. 100:4-5).
6. Earnestness and intensity will mark our meetings.
We will try to avoid being trite, flippant, superficial, or frivolous, but instead will aim to set an example of reverence, passion, broken-hearted wonder, and deep joy.
7. We insist on sincere authenticity.
We reject all forms of sham, deceit, hypocrisy, pretense, and showmanship. We do not pursue the atmosphere of artistic or oratorical performance, but the atmosphere of a radically sincere encounter with God, His people, and His truth.
8. We desire each other’s good.
We expect and hope and pray (according to 1 Cor. 12:7) that our dependence and response to God’s Spirit is good for each other – to build up (edify) the saints and seek the salvation of the lost. A spirit of love for each other is necessary to authentic worship.
9. We strive for undistracting excellence.
We will try to sing, play, pray, and preach in such a way that people’s attention will neither be diverted from the substance by sloppy ministry nor by excessive finesse, elegance, or refinement. Our goal is to attract attention to the truth’s of scripture, not ourselves. Having God as our primary audience will help to guard us from attempts to win the applause of people, or being frightened by their opinions of our heartfelt expressions of love and devotion to Christ.
10. The congregation’s voice drives our music.
While we seek greater and more varied instrumental accompaniment, it should always take the servant’s place to help our singing. We believe the real offering in worship is the singing of songs that praise God and encourage one another.
11. We will fuse historic and contemporary styles.
No church or service can be all things to all people – but we do not value stylistic narrowness. We believe that we owe God worship that includes our affections and emotions, and that different tunes, texts, and genres may awaken these better than others. We will strive to be who we are without exalting our own tastes as the standard of excellence or spirituality. We will seek God's guidance in each worship setting to be both indigenous and stretching. We will attempt to use musical forms that are faithful to our present cultural context and yet show respect for our history.
12. We will always depend on, expect, and respond to the Holy Spirit’s working in our midst.
Our services should manifest planning and spontaneity, form and freedom. By this we shall continue to reform, continue to grow and continue to seek after God for fresh mercies every time we gather. (Ps. 40:3; 98:1; 149:1)
13. We will carefully communicate what a worshipful life looks like outside of our church service.
“Worship” is not merely gathering, nor the musical portion of a church service, nor a musical genre. Singing praises to God to musical accompaniment may be a small though important part of worship. However, worship is continual response of faith, surrender, and delight in the grace and greatness of God. We will not only encourage a “worship” experience where our souls are moved by the truth on Sunday, but lives full of worship.
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