Over the years I have received numerous email questions concerning what we today call the “worship service”. Questions have included the items in this list.
- Should we start with prayer?
- Is it ok to have two songs before we have prayer?
- Is it ok to sing or have a song during communion?
- Is it ok to have singers sing for the congregation after the opening prayer and before the closing prayer?
- Is it ok to have communion during the Sunday evening “worship service”?
- Is it ok to have communion in a separate room during or after the evening “worship service”?
- Is it ok to have Sunday school?
- Is it ok to have women teach women in Sunday school?
- Is it ok to have women teach young boys Sunday school?
- Is it ok to have separate classes for Sunday school?
- Is it ok to have Sunday school?
- Is it ok to eat in the building?
- Is it ok to use an instrument?
- Is it ok to use an instrument after the “worship service”?
- Is it ok to ever listen to instrumental religious music?
I suppose I could go on, but that is what I could remember just sitting here writing this.
The truth of the matter is that none of the above items are addressed by the scripture in the context of these questions. The only reason that people are even concerned about such is that we still have very deep ties to the “service” found in the Catholic church. The service that most of Protestant Christianity, including the churches of Christ, is at it’s root Roman Catholic in origin and tradition.
Here is one verse concerning what we do know from the new testament scripture about worship. Worship is something that we do as individuals all of our lives. Our entire lives are to be worship to God.
Romans 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing to God, which is your reasonable service.
The word service in the Greek is actually worship. We can worship in a group, but it is not something we should always leave for the group to direct. Singing and praying are just a portion of how we can worship God.
Here is what we know from the new testament scripture about gatherings of Christians. When they came together they prayed and sang. They shared some scripture and teaching with each other. They ate together.
People get distracted by the admonition Paul gave the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 11 as if they were never to eat together. The admonition was given because they were not being considerate and polite in their gatherings. They were not waiting for each other. Paul then tells them that the gatherings are for fellowship and to remember the death and resurrection of the Anointed one. It was not a time for a drunken fellowship.
I tell people to consider the youth gatherings of the late seventies. It was during those years that I was able to attend many such gatherings. They were fun with good fellowship, but they were also great times of learning and praising God. We called them devotionals. They were very informal and all participated in every aspect of what we did together. It was always best when we shared a meal. You can not share a meal with an enemy. Meals are shared among those with whom you share a common goal, in this case the continuation and spread of Christianity. That is what I believe scripture teaches us concerning gatherings.