Is Worship Listening or Participating?

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Apparently, there was some interesting discussions after the first day of the Worship Wars workshop I led at Campus Challenge 2007 where we discussed the Regulative Principle. Nobody in the room had ever heard of the Regulative Principle, and yet some were able to zealously push for a normative view against my regulated view that dance presentations should not / are not permitted in congregations that adhere to the Regulative Principle. It was an eye-opening experience to hear and discuss the viewpoints of other Christians & worship leaders, and somewhat expected as a conservative evangelical (with Charismatic tendancies).Let’s be clear: I am as much a Reformed Charismatic as I am Southern Baptist. I am all for dancing as a personal, outward expression of our inward love and praise towards God! (If you actually paid attention to the roots of this blog in 2 Samuel 6, then you should know that I, like David, do strive to worship God as freely as Scripture would permit!) Dance presenations, on the other hand, I am currently very much not for it. Here, I will stand beside my Presbyterian, Baptist (and Reformed Charismatic) friends and agree with them that such “dance” is not commanded by God’s Word and thus such an element should not be allowed in corporate worship.Sola Scriptura. That’s all there is to it. I feel the safest and most God-honoring when I stick to how God wants Himself to be worshipped (and not how I think He should be willy-nilly).However, in as much as I am Reformed, stubborn and do my theology in a very “molded” manner, I still humbly submit to you that I am open to have my theology continually reforming. (Insert “gasp” if you always thought me to be very conservative and think I’m going emerging just by saying that!) Provide me with some good exegetical grounds that I’ll be worshipping God by sitting & just looking at a group of people ‘dance’, then I’ll be sure to highly consider your arguments. (Beware, if you give me a historical narrative example without properly exegeting it to prove its normative and didactic command in the whole counsel of God, I won’t pay as much attention to it.)Recently, my dear Reformed Charismatic worship pastor, Bob Kauflin (of Sovereign Grace Ministries / Covenant Life Church), wrote about the issue of passive listening to a song vs actively partcipating in singing. It’s very much related to how we should undertand dance, as an active means of worship on our part vs a passive means of watching dance. If in a dance presentation the dancers are dancing along to the tunes and words of a Christian praise song, then the entire scenery changes — for the words of the song have thus given substance to what is being expressed in dance.Here, Bob gives a good biblical basis for worshippers to sing as the more important means of worship than listening to somebody else sing:

1. There are examples in Scripture of people listening to others singing God’s praise. The Levites at the temple were responsible for ministering to the Lord with sung and instrumental praise (1 Chron. 16:4). Singers, choirs, and instrumentalists were appointed to praise God while others listened (Neh. 12:46).2. The purpose of gathering together is not simply to fulfill external actions like singing, but to see God’s glory in Christ (2 Cor. 4:6), to build one another up (1 Cor. 14:12), and to spur one another on to good deeds (Heb. 10:24-25). 3. Congregational singing seems to be the norm in Scripture, especially in the New Testament. We’re commanded numerous times in the Psalms to sing to the Lord. Ephesians 5 and Colossians 3, the two passages that directly address singing in the New Testament, say we’re to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to one another. In Revelation, all of creation joins in to worship God in song.4. Col. 3 and Eph. 5 don’t specify that everyone has to sing at the same time. Singing to one another could mean taking turns, a solo or group singing to everyone else, or singing antiphonally.5. We live in the American Idol, iPod, downloaded MP3 culture, where music is everywhere and its primary purpose is to keep us entertained.6. Our own sinful hearts tend to like it when others notice us, think we have a great voice, or comment on how much they loved our contribution.7. A large part of a how a song is perceived is the way it’s done. When I see a musician move erratically or excessively, I’m more aware of them. If instrumentalists never sing the words, I’m more aware of the music. But if musicians move naturally and seem engaged with the words, I tend to think about what they’re singing.All that to say, in congregational settings I’d lean towards mostly congregational singing. We meet as God’s people to proclaim his praise, not only listen to it being proclaimed (Ps. 40:5).

Continue reading Bob Kauflin’s article here.

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