Should We Have “Praise Worship”?
How do you address this new “praise worship” in the church where groups lead in singing during the song service, clap hands, and shout? The reason stated for all of this is for increasing numbers, and meeting the needs of the people in the new millennium, because our traditional worship is boring and not working.
First, to change the way we worship because “our traditional worship is boring and not working” is not a proper attitude to have toward the worship of God. God has defined for us the different avenues of worship within the scriptures. We must worship in action as God has told us to worship (else we are creating a righteousness of our own; Romans 10:1-3) and we must worship in attitude the way God told us to worship: in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). Worship must be based upon knowledge of God’s word and it must be done with the right attitude. So for us to add anything new to the worship of God, and call it worship is to create our own righteousness. Such will not place us in a favorable position with God. Additionally, for us to place things in worship because the “old” way is not meeting needs, is boring or is “not working” is to have the wrong attitude in worship. When we worship, it is all about God, not about self. We worship God because He is worthy of our worship (period) (Psalm 18:3).
Clapping, humming, shouting, and other distracting things are not worshipping God decently and in order. Neither are they authorized in worship to God. We have already noted that we don’t have the right to add to or take away from God’s word. So to add these things would be changing the worship to conform to our own standards of righteousness. The Bible says that when we make music in worship to God it is to be through singing (Eph.5:19; Col.3:16). To sing, one needs to have words or lyrics. Whistling is not singing; humming is not singing; clapping is not singing. Those are all ways that man tries to add his own righteousness to the worship of God. If we do those things, then we are not worshipping according to knowledge and are going about to establish a righteousness of our own (Rom.10:1-3).
Second, there are different styles of worship provided that these styles do not conflict with God’s word. For example, we could have one long 30 minute sermon. Or, we could have three short ten minute lessons broken up with songs and prayers. Those are all decisions that men must make about how we are going to fulfill our obligations to worship. We could have short songs or long songs. We could have sad songs or happy songs. We could have slow songs or fast songs. We can put the Lord’s Supper at the beginning of the service or at the end. We could put it in the middle. The only governing principle that we have for the order of our worship is found in 1 Corinthians 14:40 “Let all things be done decently and in order.” So as long as we are doing these things in a decent and orderly fashion, we have authority to carry out the Lord’s instructions regarding our worship in whatever order we please. These are ways that fulfill the instructions that God has given us to worship.
So here are my concluding thoughts: 1) we first need to make sure that our worship is pleasing to God and not pleasing to self. 2) We must worship in the way that God has taught us to worship. 3) God has taught us to worship him with singing that teaches and admonishes. 4) Clapping, humming, whistling, and instrumental music is not singing and those items don’t teach and admonish. 5) Singing new hymns with different lyrics and rhythms is still singing. 6) Changing the order of worship is also not changing the worship itself. 7) Everything must be done decently and in order.
One last thought. We ought to seek things that will promote unity within the church, not division. There are those who are seeking to impose their own order of things upon the church. Some do this in disregard to what is taught in the scriptures. Such is wrong and sinful. Others, however, do this not necessarily disregarding what the scriptures teach, but in a divisive manner. This is sinful as well. To cause needless division within the church is a sin, whether the things that are suggested are scriptural or not. We must maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:1-5). Here is the final principle to determine whether we are to make scriptural changes in our manner of worshiping God. Are the changes going to promote unity within the body of Christ?
Some in the religious world today seek to justify their religious practices based upon the way things were done in the Old Testament. They may use passages such as Psalm 47:1 and Psalm 5:11 to justify such worship practices as clapping. We must also realize that David offered sacrifices of animals in worship to God as well as burnt incense. The fact of the matter is that the things under the Old Testament done in worship to God were shadows (Hebrews 10:1). Such things were abolished according to Ephesians 2:15. Thus, to appeal to the Old Testament as our authority for worship today simply isn’t going to do. We have a better system of worship, a spiritual system which was paid for by the blood of Christ. Others may call upon the Old Testament to justify their religious practices, but such are only going to fall from God’s grace according to Galatians 5:4. Let us do all things as authorized by the New Covenant, the covenant for which Jesus died and shed His blood.