For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. [O LORD of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you!]
Bethlehem is a multi-campus church with thousands of weekly worshippers attending one of nine weekend services across our three campuses. If you are new here, you might ask, “What unites this church in worship?”
We’re glad you asked! It is not primarily one unifying form (e.g., not rock, not rave, not classics nor country, not traditional nor contemporary) nor is it the presence of one “cross-campus” worship leader providing coherent unity amidst the diversity of nine services in three locations. Rather, there are shared, underlying values that have been established by our elders that effectively serve our worship staff as guidelines to inform the process of planning. In this, and in an upcoming article, we aim to review the elder-approved philosophy of worship that unites our church in corporate worship—and invite you to join us as we worship God together with an eager expectation that he would “draw near to us in reviving and renewing power.”
Much of what defines us as a church has been summarized by Pastor John in his seminar entitled “Gravity and Gladness on Sunday Morning: The Pursuit of God in Corporate Worship” (pdf). He suggests that worship services are normative to the Christian life, and in the second of three theses on worship, he states the following:
God’s aim in the universe is to be known and enjoyed by his creatures and thus to be shown more glorious than any other reality. Corporate worship is one essential way that God designs for this display of his glory to be expressed in the world and in anticipation of the final perfect worship of the age to come.
When we worship together as members of the blood-bought people of God, we delight in and display to the watching world God’s glory in expressive, mutually encouraging ways. Pastor John continues:
Corporate unified supplication, thanks, and praise displays more of the glory of God than individual acts of supplication, thanks, and praise because harmony in diversity is intrinsically more beautiful than mere unison; harmony in diversity requires more grace from God to bring it about among sinful people who by nature are selfish and want their own way rather than deferring to others in love.
So then, what are the values that continue to unite Bethlehem in corporate worship?
- God-Centeredness. Because we value a public worship form that communicates the supremacy of God in all of life, it will focus on God. We aim to be God-centered in planning and leading—from words of welcome to songs and sermons—God and his glory remain our central focus and chief end. The ultimate aim is to so experience God that he is glorified in our affections.
- Going Hard After God. Because we value going hard after God as an all-satisfying end in himself, we will pursue and express our deep satisfaction in all that God is for us in Jesus Christ. He is the treasure, the pearl of great price, and we will come with an earnestness and wholeheartedness on our part that desires him more than anything.
- Expecting the Powerful Presence of God. We do not just direct ourselves toward him, we earnestly seek his drawing near according to the promise of James 4:8:“Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.” We believe that in worship God draws near to us in power and makes himself known and felt for our good and for the salvation of unbelievers in our midst. Pray with us in trembling confidence that the Spirit of God would move among us in power for his glory and for our good!
- Bible-based and Bible-saturated. The content of our songs, our prayers, our preaching must conform to the truth of Scripture, for we make it our aim that the Word of God will be woven through all we do in worship. Preaching (expository exultation) will be central since we are gripped by the truth that God is honored when his Word is prominent and pervasive.
- Head and Heart. True worship aims at kindling and carrying deep, strong, real emotions toward God, but does not manipulate people’s emotions by failing to appeal to clear thinking about spiritual things based on shareable evidences outside ourselves. We will continue to fill our minds with biblical thinking about God, others, ourselves, and life, while at the same time giving expression to our heart’s affections for God during worship. God is more glorified when known and enjoyed than either alone. We must confidently hold that thinking and feeling are not at odds with one another.
Next week, we will look at six additional values that unite us, and ways in which you might become actively involved in partnering in praise through music and worship leadership.
Delighting in Christ together,
Pastor Dan Holst, on behalf of the Worship Department:
Chuck Steddom, Pastor for Worship & Music, Downtown
Marc Heinrich, Director for Worship & Music, South
Jason French, Pastoral Resident for Worship, North
Dan Holst, Pastor for Worship & Vision, North