Five principles of Christian worship

Yesterday’s post about worship and my recent appointment to a second congregation has me thinking about the elements of authentic Christian worship on the Lord’s Day.

Hoyt Hickman’s Worshiping with United Methodists has an early chapter that attempts to answer the basic question: What is Christian worship?

His answer includes five basic principles of worship:

God’s word is primary: Scripture is the primary way we discern who God is. Reading, proclaiming, and responding to Scripture are at the heart of worship. Using the words of Scripture deepens worship.

Active congregational participation is crucial: As the Word of God is heard in the congregation, the congregation is called to response. People need to be able to share of themselves and their gifts in worship.

Spontaneity and order are both important: Rigidity and chaos are both harmful.

Worship should be relevant and inclusive: All are called to worship, so all should find points of connection to the service.

Worship is communion: It brings together what was separate into one. It unites God with humans. It ties humans to each other. (Here he stresses Communion as a regular centerpiece of worship.)

These principles do provide food for thought, but they are a long way from an actual order of worship. Our United Methodist Book of Worship, of course, provides a pattern for worship with ample discussion of its parts. But in order to discern whether the worship services I lead are serving their purpose, I am trying to get beyond liturgical legalism and understand what it is worship is meant to do and be.

What are your thoughts?

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