Alert observers have noticed that worship practices are changing. Is this a sign of renewal or a compromise with the world?
If the Oxford Dictionary of Religion (1981) is correct in noting 20,280 denominations in the world, we are not surprised to think about the variety of approaches to worship. In addition, worship is culturally differentiated in the Bible by time period and people involved.
Perhaps it si helpful to think of five basic models of worship in the Bible: pre-Sinai (family worship modeled by the patriarchs), tabernacle-temple, synagogue, Pauline, and worship in the book of Revelation.
Perhaps these five models can serve as a beginning point for thinking about worship in the contemporary church culture. At the least, they provide a helpful framework and may provide a grid through which we can view the biblical teaching on worship.
This understanding provides ever-widening circles according to the size of the worship group. These five models form part of the biblical and historical record and serve as prototypes for worship today. They each add a dimension to the whole of the worship experience. They demonstrate how people can come into the presence of the Lord to worship him.
When these models are put in order according to their size, not in chronological order as they appear in the Scriptures, they suggest a pattern for natural growth in worship.
Churches and individuals who view a worship model, including the one currently in use in their congregation, in isolation from other worship concepts likely feel tension. The goal of our study of worship through these five models is to enlarge our vision and to provide guidance for understanding biblical foundations for worship more clearly.
In the pre-Sinai model of worship, the patriarchs serve as priest to their own families. They build altars, offer sacrifices, and gather families together for worship. Their worship is part of everyday living. Their worship emphasizes the intergenerational aspects of life.
In the Pauline model, we see dynamics of spontaneity, the presence of the Holy Spirit, and an emphasis on unity. Small groups provide intimacy and opportunities for maximum participation. Synagogue worship emphasizes a structured liturgy and gives a prominent place to prayer, Scripture reading, and biblical teaching. The synagogue model is basic to may churches today.
In the large group worship models, for example, the temple-tabernacle model, our perspective includes elements of worship such as praise, music, festivals, celebrations, special events, and symbolism.
Most churches worship using blended or alternate elements. Most churches reflect the elements of the correlating models. Small churches use the elements especially appropriate for small worship groups. Large churches use body-life participation principles.
Understanding these models may help build bridges between private and public worship outside the context of the church building. Certainly many churches need to pay attention to this aspect of spiritual life today.
Old Testament Principles
New Testament Principles
What is true worship? (John 4)