Corporate Worship As We Know It Today Was Not an Emphasis in the Early Church

There is little reference in the New Testament on large corporate worship with a team of gifted musicians and singers. While such corporate worship is not a bad thing and there are some references to it in the Old Testament, and while it doesn’t mean just because it is not commonly found in the New Testament that we can’t do it, what it does mean is such corporate worship is not a priority with the early church, thus it should not be our priority today too. And when we try to look for teaching on how to lead worship better, we find nothing much on it in the New Testament too. There are teachings on the attitude and the posture of a true worshipper and those are references not about how to sing better but how to live better as a 24/7 worshipper. What we do find in the New Testament are believers boldly and courageously proclaiming the gospel from Jerusalem outwards into other cities. What we do find are teachings, commands and instructions on how to live as true believers – how to have true Christian fellowship with fellow believers, how to live holy lives, how to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ and how to make disciples. Singing is really a small thing. Read the Bible for yourself and you’ll see. Young people, some 15-20 years ago, had asked me, “Pastor, can we have an extended worship event with no prepared sermon?” My reply was, “We should always have the Word preached, it’s part of our worship.” Since then, I’ve seen many other people organizing extended worship events and the main focus is always the singing or worship as they would call it. On further reflection, I’m thinking hey, I haven’t come across many people who would approach their pastors about having an extended preaching or teaching the Word event, nor an extended prayer event (that gives high emphasis on prayer and intercession instead of singing, not that singing cannot be part of prayer – I’m thinking about the emphasis), or an extended evangelism or missions night in church (maybe 3 or 4 times a year). I believe that most of the resources in church should be directed towards proclamation of the gospel and making disciples who will go on to make other disciples. If we do not intentionally check ourselves and we end up unwittingly making worship (singing) a big deal in church, all we will have is a congregation (small or big) of people who enjoy the singing experience, and the church will not be effective in winning souls and making disciples because something else has taken priority, and there will only be mediocre church growth in the long run. I’m not suggesting that we scrap the kind of worship we have in church today. But we really need to make what is main and plain in the early church main and plain in the church today as well.

(Note: I’m speaking as one who had been involved in worship leading and in the worship ministry for more than 30 years, and the kind of worship I am more inclined towards, to this day, is Spirit-led, spontaneous and prophetic worship. I’ve been a worship director and also a worship pastor before and I value the corporate worship experience as one that can be truly God-encountering and revelatory. Yet, I believe with all my heart that worship as we know it today is not an emphasis with the early church and I believe it shouldn’t be for us too.)

2Tim.2:1 You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, 2 and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

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