How should a church worship God? That is a question that many ignore. Answering this question is complicated because it involves more than something like singing. Often you will hear leadership say something like, “Let’s pray and then we will have a time of worship.” By “worship” they mean singing. True, singing is part of worship, but so is prayer. Worship is much more than singing. The Reformed churches adhere to the “regulative principle of worship.” That is, what God has commanded is practiced; what God has not commanded is not practiced. What has God commanded?
First of all, worship is a heart and life matter. If our hearts are not right before God and if our lives are marked by disobedience, then whatever we do on the Lord’s Day in a service is not just meaningless; it is positively dishonoring to God. Think about this. When you go to work, you worship God because you display obedience to him in the manner in which you do your work, e.g. with thanksgiving and praise, with diligence toward your employer, etc. When you are at home, you worship the Lord because you display the characteristics of a godly marriage and godly parenting. Don’t misunderstand, it’s not that you are perfect at any of this. However, the point is this: are you manifesting the fruit of the Spirit in the totality of your life? Are you seeking to put to death the deeds of the flesh by the power of the Holy Spirit? If you are, then you are worshipping God in heart and life.
God, however, calls us to gather together on the Lord’s Day to join others in a service of worship. God is the One who calls us to worship. Of what does a service of worship consist?
A service of worship consists primarily of prayer. Prayer is the very essence of worship. Prayer is like a two sided coin one side of which consists of singing. The singing should be to simple tunes that everyone is able to sing. If the melodies are out of the range of the average voice or if they are highly syncopated rhythms making congregational singing difficult, then the songs are not suited for a worship service. They may be fine for performances, but in worship the congregation is not there to be entertained. They are there to worship God in Spirit and in truth.
Worship includes the public reading of Scripture and the exhortation and teaching that flows from that reading. The Scripture reading should be more than the sermon text. How much more is determined by the leadership of the church.
The sacrament of the Lord’s Supper should be a regular element of worship. Baptism should also be included when necessary.
At Albuquerque Reformed Church we share in the communion of the Lord’s Supper weekly. We provide both wine and grape juice to assist people in their participation. While Baptism is not practiced every week, when one partakes of the Lord’s Supper, one is reminded of his or her own baptism because the bread and the wine represent to us what Baptism holds out to us: salvation in Jesus Christ. He is the substance of both the Supper and Baptism.