Many Americans have grown up thinking of church as a place where Christian worship services are held on Sundays. Most churchgoers would say coming together to sing is the most important thing, and everything should center around that. How ironic then that the New Testament neither describes nor prescribes large group worship services!
In his letter to the Romans, Paul agrees “worship” should be the most important thing in a believer’s life, but he paints a very different picture of what it is. The apostle instructs, “I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Romans 12:1).
Paul teaches that New Testament worship includes a daily lifestyle of loving others, sharing the gospel with non-believers, practicing the means of growth, and seeking God’s will — not a Sunday morning service of music and singing. Certainly, there’s nothing wrong with believers singing praise to God; it’s just not a New Testament emphasis, especially not when Christians gather. In his book, Paul’s Idea of Community, Robert Banks puts it this way:
One of the most puzzling features of Paul’s understanding of ekklesia (church) for his contemporaries… must have been his failure to say that a person went to church primarily to “worship”… Not once in all his writings does he suggest this is the case. Indeed it could not be so, for he held a view of “worship” that prevented him from doing so.
Worship involves the whole of one’s life, every word and action, and knows no special place or time… Since all places and times have now become the venue for worship, Paul cannot speak of Christians assembling in church distinctively for this purpose… They are already worshipping God, acceptably or unacceptably, in whatever they are doing. (88-89)
What New Testament Worship Looks Like
After the cross, God launched a radical new plan for his people. The rituals, sacrifices, and corporate ceremonies of the Old Covenant had served their purpose, but God designed a new way for people worship him once Jesus had been crucified and raised again. To guide the church into this new era, the apostles highlighted new activities that had replaced the old forms of worship. They include:
- Ministry within the body of Christ to other Christians (Romans 12:3-8)
- Mission and outreach (Romans 15:16)
- Financial generosity (Hebrews 13:16)
- Individual (and corporate) praise to God (Hebrews 13:16)
- Countercultural lifestyle that resists conformity to the world’s value system (Romans 12:2)
At Dwell, we are committed to prioritizing the development of these biblical expressions of worship at the grassroots level within our home groups. As individuals cultivate a lifestyle of following Christ, they experience the vitality, joy and abundance Jesus promised to his disciples.
What "Worship" at Central Teaching Looks Like
We have purposefully shifted features of corporate worship such as intercessory prayer and communion from large meetings into home groups. We allocate most of the time at Central Teachings to teaching and preaching.
This approach best supports our home groups, since members and their guests hear trained and gifted Bible teachers and have opportunity to share comments and questions. Our goal is to make it as easy as possible for people in our culture to learn about the love of Jesus Christ and get involved in a home group.
We realize our approach will not attract those looking for a traditional church with a modern worship service. We hope those who are serious about following the Lord will give us a fair hearing, then join us in adopting lifestyles of worship detailed in the New Testament.