1 Corinthians 14:26-40 — Traditional Worship, Modern Worship? — Regardless of Style, Worship Must Point Us To God!

Posted: August 3, 2015 in 1 Corinthians

1 Corinthians 14:26-40 — There are two issues that are addressed in this passage. One seems to make perfect sense in any age. The other seems extremely sexist to the modern reader. This morning, we will talk about the first thing, the one that makes perfect sense in any age. Tomorrow, we will talk about the more controversial subject of the two presented in this passage. In the end, though, after all is said, done, and analyzed, Paul’s words are about seeking unity in the church by seeking to glorify God, a concept we should all be able to agree upon.

When I was growing up, I was a Methodist preacher’s kid. Growing up as a Methodist preacher’s kid, we moved a good bit. There was a stretch there when I was growing up that we moved every two years. However, in all that moving to different churches, one thing was familiar. There was an order of worship listed out in the bulletin each Sunday at each church no matter where my dad was serving. Even though my life was frequently changing, the order of worship was virtually the same in every United Methodist Church my dad served. And it was not just because I went to church where my dad served. It was the same when we visited other churches. There were responsive readings. There was standard prayers. After awhile, I could recite the Apostle’s Creed without thinking. There was a high level of familiarity to it. It was very structured. Even after I became an adult and married my high school girlfriend and stayed behind in Travelers Rest, SC when my father moved, I lived the Methodist worship life, the traditional church worship life, where everything was very predictable each Sunday. The only thing that was different each Sunday was the choice of which traditional hymns would be sung. This was my life until my first wife and I divorced. It was while dating the woman who would become my second wife that I was exposed to something different than the traditional church that I had known from birth to 31 years old.

When I started going to church at Trena’s home church in the Berea area of Greenville, SC, it was a modern worship style with modern worship songs. And God forbid! There was no order of worship. I was lost. The music was not the traditional hymns I was used to. There was no bulletin to tell me what was next. It freaked me out! The service seemed to ramble around without order. People would run up and down the aisles freely worshiping. Worship songs would linger on and on at times as the Spirit moved the musicians. Sometimes, a lady would speak in tongues and either she would interpret it herself or someone would interpret it for her. It was all very much a flow of consciousness to it that was so different from what I was used to. Eventually, I began to take to this style of worship. There was an energy to it that I did not find in the traditional style that I grew up in. I returned to traditional style churches over the years but it was the modern style that appealed to me. Although Trena and I are no longer together, it was this break from the traditional that lead me to the cross and it was this break from the traditional that made me really begin to seek to worship God wholeheartedly and not just go through the motions when I come to church. What had become a robotic exercise to me was now something that I was very much engaged in.

What I have learned over the years, through being part of the technical team at LifeSong Church where I now attend with my wife, Elena, that even in the modern style of worship that seems to have no order does really have an order. It may not be as rigid as traditional church where every word and every note and every activity is planned down to the nth degree, but there is a plan. There is a path where the pastor wants everything to point. Everything is pointing toward the message of the sermon. There may be more flexibility to follow the Spirit’s leading in modern worship but there is a direction to it all. Everything is done in orderly fashion even though it may appear to be freewheeling. The congregation may not have an order of worship in their hands. There may not be a group of responsive readings. There may not be hymnals. But, rest assured, our worship team and our senior pastor has a plan for the worship service. They don’t just get up there on stage on Sundays and wing it!

What Paul sees in his discussion is that whatever we do we must be seeking to lead people to worship God. There needs to be consideration of others. We must build each other up and seek God in unity. When we do not have some orderliness to our worship, the chaos becomes what we see and not God. He says God is a God of order and not of chaos. Thus, we should seek unity in our worship services. We should seek to be orderly so that we can really worship God together.

As for the modern day, what I am saying here is that there is no one way of worship that is greater or superior to another. Traditional church has its way that is very repetitive and because of it repetitive nature, some who enjoy that style say they can concentrate on God and worshiping Him when they are not worried about what’s coming next. There is a comfort to them in the repetitive nature of traditional worship. Modern worship appeals to me and to many others because it seems less rigid and less ritualistic. There seems to be a freedom there that is not present in traditional services to me. However, even though we have electric guitars, no published order of worship, and modern songs displayed on a video screen, and we probably don’t sing any of the same songs on a regular basis now that we sang a short 2-3 years ago, there is order. There is a plan. There is a considerable amount of effort expended to lead the congregation to the point of the service for that week. There is a considerable amount of effort expended to make the service seem freewheeling while the plan for the worship is be played out in front of us. None of this is to say that there are not times in traditional services or modern worship that the plan is laid aside to address something that needs to be addressed that was not planned for. But even then, those spur of the moment issues should be handled in an orderly fashion and should be at the discretion of the pastor only.

What is the point of all this orderliness? What is the point of having a plan? What is the point of not letting worship services ramble out of control? The point is that so that we can learn about God. The point is that unorganized anything is not conducive to you and me learning something that we can take away and apply to our lives. Just as when we have meetings at work that seem to have no point and you walk away frustrated and feeling as though you wasted your time, the same is true about worship. There should be an orderliness to it so that when we leave the worship service, we can say, yes, this was the point of the whole service and this is what I am going to take away about God today and then apply it to my life this week. That’s the point. All worship should be presented in such a way that we are all unified in Christ by it. All worship should be glorifying to God. When we walk out the door at the end of it, we can say yes those criteria were met and I learned something today. Check. Check. and Check.

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