Continuing from the last post, we look at four broad characteristics of biblical worship as identified by the curriculum published by BiFrost Arts. The curriculum asserts that Christian worship will be scriptural, triune, redemptive, and participatory.
"One distinctive of the Christian faith is that we believe in a triune God. We believe that the Scriptures describe God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, of one will, of one substance, unchanging, and glorious beyond all comprehension. This should be reflected in our worship.
"It is easy to emphasize one particular person of the Trinity. It is possible to emphasize the Holy Spirit, the baptism of the Holy Spirit, praying to the Holy Spirit, and being filled with the Holy Spirit, maybe even to the point of neglecting some of the other persons of the Trinity. Or we can boil down the whole of the Bible to having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. All the prayers are directed to Jesus.
"￼Look at or listen to the prayers we pray during our worship service. What would it look like to say prayers and sing songs that acknowledge each person of the one triune God?"
As we strive for greater and great balance in our approaches to worship, it is tempting to load our prayers and songs with trinitarian references without considering the relational dynamics at play.
One of the most concise and helpful definitions of Trinitarian worship is found in James Torrance's book Worship, Community, and the Triune God of Grace:
“Trinitarian Worship is the gift of participating through the Spirit in the incarnate Son’s communion with the Father.”
The Triune God, complete in relationship from all eternity, has created us for his glory and redeemed us from the fall so that we may participate in the mystery of the Trinity's continuous outpouring.
Torrance unpacks this definition even more, showing how our union with Christ is the core of all we do, individually and corporately:
(Trinitarian worship) means participating in union with Christ, in what he has done for us once and for all, in his self-offering to the Father, in his life and death on the cross. It also means participating in what he is continuing to do for us in the presence of the Father and in his mission from the Father to the world. When we see that ..... (and) that the unique center of the Bible is Jesus Christ, ‘the apostle and high priest whom we confess [Heb 3:1], then the doctrines of the Trinity, the incarnation, the atonement, the ministry of the Spirit, Church and sacraments, our understanding of the kingdom....all unfold from that center.
In the next few posts I will continue to recount some of the content from the Sunday School class I taught on Worship and Music at Trinity. Keep in mind that I used the curriculum published by BiFrost Arts to structure our discussions. Read more about the curriculum here.
The curriculum asserts that Christian worship will be scriptural, triune, redemptive, and participatory.
Worship should be governed by the language, themes, and story of the Bible. Commentaries, confessions, and Christian literature are all valuable. But for corporate worship, the Scriptures should shape and guide our choices of prayers and songs.
While we may all agree that Scripture is important, it is often the case that our worship services are shaped only by a limited number of passages of the Bible that resonate and feel familiar instead of all the Scriptures.
Without the guidance and governance of the Scriptures, we can easily choose the comfortable passages and shape for ourselves an image of a God who is like us and loves the things that we love. Instead, we need the Scriptures to show us who God is and what he loves, and to teach us to love those things as well.
Look at the songs we’ve sung recently at church. Can we find scripture references for the lyrics? Is this scripture a complete passage or thought, or just a series of emotive phrases?
God's word gives us a framework for our praise, but more importantly, it is where we see and learn the unending worth and praiseworthiness of our Triune God.
We do not praise in a vacuum.
The reason and content of our praise is a reaction to God’s revelation of Himself.
Anthony is the Director of Music and Worship at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Asheville, NC.
Recommended Music for Worship
Keith and Kristyn Getty
With One Voice
Look and Live
Rhythms of Grace
The Worship Architect
The Stories We Tell
Music Though the Eyes of Faith
Christ Centered Worship