Updated April 4, 2002
(first published December 11, 2001) (David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist
Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061
There is a great emphasis among churches today on "worship services."
Commonly this involves the use of a "praise band" and a "worship
leader." The traditional hymns are discarded in favor of powerful
contemporary rock type songs that literally take control of the people.
An invitation is given to the church members to move with the flow of
the music and to abandon themselves in adoration to God. There is
commonly an emphasis on inviting the Holy Spirit to minister to the
people during these occasions. In such circles, it is typical to find a
concept that the Holy Spirit should not be "put in a box," and that it
is not wrong if strange manifestations such as shakings and fallings
occur during the worship. It is not uncommon to find disorder,
confusion, women leaders, and other blatantly unscriptural things in
contemporary worship services.
The New Testament, though, does not give any pattern for conducting a
specific corporate worship service in the churches. None whatsoever.
Those who try to find biblical justification for the "worship service,"
cannot find it in the writings of the Apostles. They must go to the Old
Testament temple worship or to the book of Revelation, but the pattern
for the churches is the Apostolic writings. There are three key words
for worship in the New Testament: worship, praise, and glorify, and none
of these are used in the context of a corporate church worship service.
The only time the word "worship" is used in the Acts or Epistles in
connection with the church services is in 1 Cor. 14:25, and it is
speaking of individual worship, not corporate worship. Likewise, the
words "praise" or "glorify" are never used in the New Testament of
corporate worship in church meetings. They are used, rather, of
individual praise to God through private thanksgiving and godly living
(Acts 2:47; Rom. 15:5-6; 1 Cor. 6:20; Phil. 1:11; Heb. 13:15; 1 Pet.
This does not mean that it is wrong for churches to worship the Lord
together. Just the opposite. Certainly, that is what we are to do at all
times, including during the church services. In fact, there is a gross
lack of conscious worship in the average church service in strong
Bible-believing congregations today. Everything is treated with such a
lack of solemnity and with such a lack of heart-felt praise directed
toward God. Even the singing is approached in a "ho hum" manner, more as
a ritual that we go through than an occasion of directing one's heart to
What, then, is the difference between the typical contemporary worship
service and the biblical pattern for worship in the church?
(1) Biblical worship has no emphasis on the use of music. The two
mentions of music in the New Testament epistles focus as much on
edifying the saints as on singing unto the Lord (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16).
In fact, biblical worship emphasizes that God is worshipped through
everything done in the church rather than merely through one particular
type of worship offered to Him via a praise time (1 Pet. 4:11). In
direct contradiction to this, contemporary worship focuses almost
exclusively on one type of worship to God, that being the worship that
is associated with contemporary music.
(2) Biblical church worship is submitted to the apostolic
commandments, which require that everything be done decently and in
order, that there be no confusion, that women cannot lead, etc. (1
Cor. 11:2; 14:37). This means that all of the unscriptural things
commonly associated with contemporary worship, particularly in
charismatic circles, are rejected.
(3) Biblical church worship emphasizes the understanding rather than
the emotions (1 Cor. 14:15). The emphasis is not on "feeling God"
but on understanding and knowing God through the truth of His Word. We
see this reflected in the traditional hymns. The old hymn writers aimed
to edify the understanding rather than to create an emotional high. In
contemporary worship, though, "songs are chosen in order to induce
feelings in the worshippers. . . . [to induce] an altered state of
consciousness by flagrant manipulation" (Alan Morrison, The New Style of
Worship and the Great Apostasy).
(4) Biblical church worship emphasizes the unity of the faith rather
than the ecumenical concept of unity in diversity that is so common in
contemporary Christian worship (Rom. 15:6; Matt. 15:9; John 4:24).
There can be no true worship unless there is complete commitment to
sound Bible doctrine. The hodgepodge of doctrine present in the typical
ecumenical setting does not glorify God and is not acceptable to Him,
regardless of the zeal and enthusiasm exhibited during the worship
(5) Biblical church worship requires moral purity and separation from
the world (Rom. 12:1-2; Phil. 1:11), in contrast to the contemporary
worship which typically ignores separation and which builds bridges to
the world through the use of the world's music, dress, etc. Typical
contemporary worship also ignores the necessity of moral purity and is
very careless about how Christians live. It is enough that they enter
into the "worship times" with great enthusiasm. If they divorce their
spouses and commit adultery and are crooked in their business practices
and dress like harlots and watch filthy television programs and
Hollywood movies, that is overlooked. Among churches that incorporate
contemporary worship styles, there is little or no preaching against the
world in any plain and practical sense and little or no church
discipline exercised. There are exceptions, but this is the rule.
(6) Biblical church worship is constantly vigilant of spiritual
dangers (1 Pet. 5:8; 2 Cor. 11:1-4). At least 11 times the Apostles
warn Christians to be "sober." Pastors are to be sober (Titus 1:8); aged
men are to be sober (Titus 2:2); the women are to be sober (Titus 2:4);
young men are to be sober (Titus 2:6); the wives of pastors and deacons
are to be sober (1 Tim. 3:11). 1 Thessalonians 5:6 and 1 Pet. 5:8
explain what it means to be sober; it means to be spiritually alert and
watchful and vigilant. To the contrary, though, contemporary worship
teaches people to open up unreservedly to spiritual influences without
any sense of danger or fear of deception. They instruct the people to
"let go and let God," to "be open and vulnerable," to "open yourself to
the Spirit," to "invite the Holy Spirit to come and do his thing," to
"be ready for the unusual." There is absolutely nothing like this taught
in the New Testament scriptures. The Apostles and early churches did not
practice anything like this. When the Corinthians began to dabble in
similar things and were allowing confusion and disorder to reign in
their midst, the Apostle rebuked them and corrected their error.