“We do everything by the Book.”
How many times have I heard people say that, especially preachers. It seems that they are referring to mostly moral values, or social/religious norms according to the way that they want to interpret the scriptures. This has been the pretext for legalism, erroneous church government, stifling of spiritual gifts, and the rejection of people in need of God’s love.
The Church has let tradition rise above the authority of God’s Word. Some claim that times have changed and that the first-century believers’ ways are no longer valid. Others simply apply current traditions and definitions back onto the Biblical accounts of church life. Both approaches are damaging to our growth as a community of believers.
I began thinking about this the other day when I had just led worship in a church meeting. (Actually, I was leading the songs, hopefully the Spirit of God was leading people’s worship.) I noticed quite a while back that “worship leading” is not in the Bible, not as we generally see it done. And that a whole lot of things that we do in our meetings have no Biblical example.
But does that automatically make them wrong? Just because a practice is not mentioned in the Bible does not necessarily make it wrong. Modern inventions, such as cars, phones, sound systems, or computers are not “scriptural” in that they are not mentioned in scripture. But rather than use the term unscriptural, I would like to suggest that we think of such things as either anti-scriptural or extra-scriptural. Obviously, anti-scriptural would apply to things that are opposed to scriptural principles. Extra-scriptural could apply to practices that are not mentioned in the Bible but are not detrimental to Biblical purposes. Like driving your car to a church meeting, or playing your guitar while you are there.
If we really examined each element of our meeting together as believers, we might be shocked to realize that many, or perhaps most of our practices are actually detrimental to the scriptural purposes for the meeting. Few traditional patterns foster a participatory meeting – all of the “one anothers” that we read in Acts and the epistles – whether these traditions have to do with buildings, seating arrangements, leadership, or the program. However, the solution is not necessarily to imitate the exact practices of the early church. Rather, we should make sure that everything we do fulfills the same purpose: edifying and encouraging one another, provoking each other to love and good works.
So the next time that I am invited to “lead worship”, what will I do? I will pray that the Spirit will move through me to be a catalyst for participatory ministry.
What other steps can we take to return to scriptural principles in our worship?