Five Items of Worship?

church-singing

WARNING!!!   THE THINGS IN THIS POST ARE WRITTEN TO MAKE YOU THINK!!  

 I am very comfortable with lists.  I can name the “five steps” to salvation.  I know the “five items of worship.”  When the pioneer preacher initiated the five finger concept of salvation it caught on quickly.  This was catchy and easy to remember.  Soon what was “cute” had become the “law”.  If I followed the five finger pattern I would deserve salvation.  If I did the five items of worship on my list,  I could check them off as I did them and please God.

Let me make a statement before I am misunderstood.   I will make this statement as  plainly as I possibly can.  What happens in the worship assembly matters.  It is important.  With that said let me pose a series of questions.  In Moses law God was continually telling the Israelites  what He wanted in worship.  He gave them an itemized list.  Why does God not list what He wants from us today in worship?  Some would say that He does.  For the sake of the argument, perhaps He does.   If He lists what He wants from us in worship today why does He not list it today like He did then?  Under Moses law worship pattern was plainly and frequently listed.  There was no confusion, no question about what was to take place in the worship time.  Under the new covenant we do not have a complete list of what God wants in worship or even a full worship assembly recorded,  not  one.

There are those who would state without waivering that God has five (5) items of worship.  They would further state that there are no more and no less.  We can’t add to or take away from this list of five. It makes me wonder how many we would have found if we had six fingers on each hand.  If it is this important to God why do we have to read between lines of Scripture to find this list?  Why did we have to invent a hermaneutical process to determine the appropriate list? Why would God make something this important so hard to find?  If there are five and only five items of worship, why wouldn’t God make a list stating, “These are the “items of worship” I want from you as you worship Me in the new covenant.”  After all, He made similar list in the Old Testament.

Are there things God wants from us as we worship Him today?  Absolutely, without question, God desires certain things from us as we worship Him.  We stress lists and patterns.  I am not sure God shares the same concerns about patterns or lists as we do.  Are there things that need to take place when we assemble on the first day of the week? Certainly there are things that need to take place, but is God concerned about the patterns we follow or what takes place in our hearts? I know for a people who find a portion of their identity in patternism this is hard thinking. 

Please consider this.  The old law was written on tables of stone.  The new is written on the heart.  In the old God was specific about the pattern.  In the new He doesn’t stress the pattern.  Is it possible that today God is more concerned about the condition of the heart than the works of the flesh?  Could it be that today God wants our hearts rather than our patterns?

These are difficult questions.  These are things we need to consider.  If there are five items of worship, if this is a salvation issue, why didn’t God place more emphasis on what these five items of worship were?  If this is a salvation issue, and God was concerned enough about our salvation to send Jesus to earth, why wouldn’t he make a list that couldn’t be missed or misunderstood?  Why wouldn’t He make at least one complete list contained all together in one place? After all the books of the New Testament  were primarily letters written to various churches.  Wouldn’t it be reasonable that each of these letters would contain a complete list of what God wanted in worship?  Wouldn’t this be especially true if this was indeed a salvation issue?   I know these questions may make some uncomfortable but these things are worthy of our study, especially if we find this to be an issue of salvation.    -dell kimberly-

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17 Responses to Five Items of Worship?

  1. Wayne McDaniel says:

    Dell, You have laid out the matter very clearly. If we rely upon a “pattern”, we have yet to draw near to the Lord. In Col. 4:12 Paul described Epaphras’ EARNEST PRAYERS for those in Colossae. How does that compare to the prayers we hear on Sunday morning? I heard one older man say we have come to worship Your Bible. What is that? The earliest disciples did not have the 27 books, but they loved a Man who had born their shame unto death, and rose again.

    We should recognize that not everyone who has been baptized has received the birth from Above. Some preaching has left the impression that baptism is the gospel of God. Where there is no confession, there has been no repentance. Where there is no reliance upon Jesus to cover our life with his, there is no intense praise for him.
    Isaiah 57:15 teaches us.

  2. missionsmich says:

    Hi Dell,
    just like to ask.. what are the five items of worship?

  3. The five that generally make “the list” are singing, prayer, giving, the Lord’s Supper, and teaching.

  4. Don Morrison says:

    Thanks Dell, God wants our hearts and our bodies in full devotion. That is our best love affair – our best response sice he has already given us the best of himself (really all of himself). How can we reduce that into five tangible, measurable, tasks?

  5. Guy says:

    I think the “5 Acts” are a control issue of people in the church. The sad part of this chat is that 90% of the people in the church will hear some preacher “say” that there are “5 Acts” of worship and never question this comment. I have been looking very hard for the “Required” parts of worship this passed month and I can only really come up with two that truely seem to be commands: Encourage each other and reach out to visitor’s. Even Jesus said about the Lord’s Supper that we were to do it often as we remembered Him.

  6. Todd Deaver says:

    Great questions, Dell. I appreciate your work.

  7. Matt Clifton says:

    Dell,

    It would sort of depend on whether or not one thinks examples of apostolic practice are binding. Were the examples of worship found in the NT to teach us how to worship? Or were they just included to “fill out the story?”

    If we seek to reject man’s ideas of worship, we have absolutely no other place to go than to the scriptures. If we do not practice NT examples of worship, then we are practicing our own.

    God bless,

    Matt

  8. Matt,
    Thanks for the response. I want to encourage you to pick out one of the new testament epistles and produce the pattern for worship. Pick any letter, my only requst is that you limit it to that book. Then lay out the worship pattern as described by God for a new testament church. No reading between the lines, just show what new testament worship looked like for that church from the book written to them.
    I am not saying it isn’t important, it is. What I am saying is this, in the new covenant it is apparent God is more interested in the heart than the pattern. If God intended the pattern be a salvation issue, why do we have to piece together worship from various places in order to know what God wanted in new testament worship? If our salvation was important enough to God to send His Son to be our sin payment, it is reasonable that if the new testament worship pattern is a salvation issue God would have made crystal clear what He wanted that pattern to be.

  9. Matt Clifton says:

    Dell,

    It would be a mistake for us to think we could reproduce the Lord’s church from one epistle. Remember, the epistles were written to already-established congregations. They already knew how to worship, but were perhaps in need of fine tuning in some areas. For instances, the Corinthians needed help with their understanding of the Lord’s supper.

    The request you make of me is the same one some folks make about salvation. What if I said, “Take any epistle, and show me how to be saved using only that epistle.” Well, you would likely say that wasn’t a good idea, because we need to consult all of scripture for the answer. Same concept goes here for worship.

    It is a dire mistake, in my understanding, to say there is no pattern for the church. Paul taught the same thing in all the churches, he said (1 Cor. 4:17). This in itself will let us know that everything he taught in each epistle applies to us in some way. When he taught the Ephesians and Colossians about singing, he taught all congregations. When he taught the Corinthians about giving and the Lord’s supper, he taught them all. When he taught about church leadership in 1 Tim. 3 and Titus 1 he taught us all, and forevermore.

    Thanks, brother!

    Matt

  10. Matt, I appreciate your response. I know we can ask questions and respond in kind and after all is said and done remain brethren. In stating that the various congregations already “knew how to worship” we are making an assumption that may lead us in directions we don’t want to follow. If they already knew how to worship who taught them? Was it the Jews, the apostles, the gentiles? If it was the apostles who taught them, when did this take place. If they were following the Jews, did they continue to use instruments like the Jews. If it was the gentiles..maybe we don’t even want to go there.

    If patternism in worship is a salvation issue in this instance why do we have “NO COMPLETE PATTERN” to observe, not one complete worship assembly. Not only is there never a complete worship assembly described there is never a complete description of how it ought to be done in any of the letters to the established churches.

    When we make the statement that as Paul taught the churches of Colosse and Ephesus about singing to each other as individuals he taught all churches about their responsiblity to sing to one another we are assuming that the letters were readily available to all churches at any time. We know this is not the case.

    I do not have a problem following a worship pattern. There is no problem with worshipping God in a pattern that we in the church find comfortable. I am terribly uncomfortable binding my pattern as the only thing God will accept. We are binding a pattern that is not described one time in all Scripture. Do I think the pattern we use is acceptable to God? Absolutely, if I didn’t I would do something else. At the same time for us to bind what we do as the only acceptable way to worship God when God did not bind it is outside my comfort zone. If you are comfortable binding what God did not bind then do as your heart fills right. As for me, I can’t bind as a salvation issue something that has so little instruction from God.

    Actually concerning what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 4:17, I would agree that Paul would teach the same thing in every church. 1 Corinthians 4:17 is not a proof text of that, in this text he said Timothy would remind us of his way of live which agrees with what he taught everywhere in every church. Timothy would be dealing with moral issues not patternism for worship.
    Thanks Matt and God bless.

  11. Matt Clifton says:

    Dell,

    In stating that the various congregations already “knew how to worship” we are making an assumption that may lead us in directions we don’t want to follow. If they already knew how to worship who taught them? Was it the Jews, the apostles, the gentiles? If it was the apostles who taught them, when did this take place.

    The apostles, for sure. Why would Jews teach Christians to worship? Christian evangelists established congregations, and left the teachings (the same ones we find in the NT) with them.

    If patternism in worship is a salvation issue in this instance why do we have “NO COMPLETE PATTERN” to observe, not one complete worship assembly. Not only is there never a complete worship assembly described there is never a complete description of how it ought to be done in any of the letters to the established churches.

    With all due respect, I think the word “patternism” is one of those loaded terms. To say that the NT shows a pattern of what the early Christians did in worship should not be construed as “patternism.” Since the Bible is inspired, and the examples of worship in the NT seem to be approved examples, we have to realize this is the only way we can understand worship. Otherwise, we can just do whatever we want in worship, and that clearly cannot be the case.

    I would submit for your consideration, Dell, that the NT is the complete pattern. What you seem to be forgetting in this equation is that the early congregations had inspired teachers and apostles with them. When congregations were created, they received the teaching they needed to do what God wanted them to do. Later, apostolic epistles were necessary to combat or correct certain problems. These letters to the congregations did not need to contain complete descriptions of worship, because those congregations already knew the basics. This is similar to the reason Paul never wrote extensively about baptism, because the people he wrote to were already Christians.

    When we make the statement that as Paul taught the churches of Colosse and Ephesus about singing to each other as individuals he taught all churches about their responsiblity to sing to one another we are assuming that the letters were readily available to all churches at any time. We know this is not the case.

    What I mean is that Paul taught the same things to all the churches. That means when he planted the congregations, he taught them all the same basics. I’m talking about his verbal preaching in person. These congregations were in existence before a letter was ever sent to them. They already had received teaching from Paul and others about how to live and worship as the body of Christ. And these were the same teachings we can see in the totality of the NT.

    I do not have a problem following a worship pattern. There is no problem with worshipping God in a pattern than we in the church find comfortable. I am terribly uncomfortable binding my pattern as the only thing God will accept. We are binding a pattern that is not described one time in all Scripture. Do I think the pattern we use is acceptable to God? Absolutely, if I didn’t I would do something else. At the same time for us to bind what we do as the only acceptable way to worship God when God did not bind it is outside my comfort zone. If you are comfortable binding what God did not bind then do as your heart fills right. As for me, I can’t bind as a salvation issue something that has so little instruction from God.

    The thing about it is though, Dell, that what we are calling the “five acts of worship” are simply the things we can read about Christians doing when they assembled. If these examples were not recorded for us, then we might feel some sort of freedom to do whatever struck us, since we would be lacking ANY sort of worship example at all. But, since we do have a certain amount of worship example in the scriptures, and since our goal is to remain as true to what God wants as possible, it is far safer and God-honoring in my understanding to stick with the apostolic examples.

    God bless you, Dell. I appreciate you letting me discuss this with you here. Hope you had a great Lord’s day.

    Matt

  12. Thanks Matt,
    We had a great Lord’s day and I appreciate your thoughts on this subject.

    My greatest concern is this: some have determined a pattern by piecing together bits and pieces from various scriptures. At the same time we leave out other aspects of worship shown in NT. We then bind our “traditional worship” as the only pattern acceptable. My question is, acceptable by whom, man or God? We make our worship pattern a salvation issue. I will agree if a pattern is necessary it must come from the NT and it must be complete, not piece meal. We need to consider this possibility, God may not be as concerned with the pattern as with the heart. It may be that we are more concerned about a pattern than God.

    In Scripture all important subjects were dealt with in depth. When Paul was dealing with baptism his teachings were complete and in depth. In dealing with church government he was very detailed. When Paul dealt with the Christian lifestyle he was intricate in his details. On and on we could go yet when we are searching for a worship pattern there is very little written, nothing written showing a complete worship assembly or a complete instruction of how it should be done. Our traditional interpretation of Scripture will not allow the worship pattern to be a salvation issue if we are consistent. To make this an issue of salvation is not good scholarship.

    Using 1 Corithians 4:17 as a proof text of anything other than Paul teaching the same things in regard to moral issues is a reach. Paul clearly says, “He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus.” This is clearly lifestyle. That being said I believe Paul would have been consistent in his teachings concerning worship in the NT. The problem is he consistently says very little about worship and nothing that would constitute a pattern.

    I will reinterate, I don’t have a problem with what we do in the worship assembly. However, I am not willing to bind it as a salvation issue. I am unwilling to divide fellowship nor pronounce someone “lost” over something God does not clearly designate.

  13. Brad says:

    I am loving this discussion. I have a question for you guys. If our worship ‘pattern’ (loaded word by itself in my book) is to come completely and solely from the NT (which I believe), where is the passage in the NT that SPECIFICALLY deals with so-called ‘authorized’ and ‘unauthorized’ worship practices? I don’t want a generalization of how we aren’t to be or act like the pagans or gentiles and I don’t want the scripturally relevant (but as far as this discussion goes, too general and unrelated) ‘God is seeking those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth’ answer either; I mean specifically what we are and are not to do in worship and where that person says this and only this is acceptable to God.

    I find it interesting that most people who say we can only do the things in worship which are ‘authorized’ in scripture can only turn to one example to support such a claim – Nadab and Abihu from Leviticus in the OT.

    Matt, how is it that you know that Paul taught these things (a list of ‘authorized’ worship practices) in exactly the way we in the churches of Christ today worship? Because if he didn’t, then we are in trouble, because WE aren’t following the ‘pattern.’ Are there extra-biblical texts that show such? Or any extra-biblical evidence at all written about the worship practices of the first century church? (Any later and you get into things written by those who most conservatives today consider to have strayed from the ‘pattern’ anyway).

    Also, could you point out the verse in Ephesians 5 and Colossians 3 where Paul stopped talking about their everyday walk with Christ and began discussing worship practices such as how they were to sing? If you’re going to use those verses to outlaw instrumental music, then you’re going to have to take the radio out of your house and vehicle (unless you’re listening only to acapella), and you’re going to have to take your kids out of band in school.

    I appreciate your willingness to discuss these things with Dell and others, Matt, and I am not trying to be standoffish or rude; if I come off that way, I apologize deeply. I’m just looking for answers.

  14. Brad says:

    P.S. I also meant to say, Keep up the great work, Dell!

  15. Good questions Brad. I don’t know of a specific Scripture, this was my point with Matt. Can we afford to make a salvation issue out of something God gives so little time and attention?

  16. Pingback: are there items in worship? « missionsmich

  17. Jay Guin has some excellent material on the subject of worship and dealing with the “5 acts.” Good stuff once again, Dell. Sorry I’m late to the conversation. Just now seeing your blog.

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