Planning Biblically Authentic Worship in a Fill-in the Blank Kind of World
By: Dr. Sterling Allen
As God’s creatures in the first world we are confluent with everything digital and the rapid pace that comes with that technology. Worship planners and leaders are not exempt from this way of life. The most popular digital tools are all in common use among our list of devices to plan and lead worship. Don’t get me wrong these are great tools and ones that I use on a daily basis. My question is: are they allowing us to skip steps that result in more authentic Biblical worship? John Piper describes Scripture as the bone and marrow of Biblical worship. So why is it that we allow busyness to prevent us from planning worship in the Word?
When I’m rushed with too many rehearsals to run, meetings to attend and lead, music to learn, and books to read I have a regrettable tendency to easily fill the spots in our order of worship template that, at a cursory look, relate to the sermon and possibly the dynamic of the liturgy. It does the job and rarely will anyone in the pews complain, but I know deep in my conscience that I can do better. Not just for the local church, but for God.
So here’s my idea of the best procedure for planning authentic worship: Focus on the Word!
Our pattern (or order) for Biblical worship should come from Exodus 24 and 32, Nehemiah 8, Isaiah 6, and Revelation 4 and 22. The worship pattern is four-fold with a gathering, proclamation of the Word, a response, and a dismissal. At Good Shepherd, our order of worship uses the subtitles:
Enter God’s House with Praise
Be Shaped by God’s Word
Respond to God’s Word
Share God’s Grace with the World
Once you choose to utilize a Biblical pattern of worship, look to fill the folds with Biblical acts. To be clear, I’m not saying put any and everything Biblical in one service, but instead choose what fits for the liturgical season, the themes of the day and series, and the style and tradition of the local church. Remember that we honor God when we honor his creation by equipping them to worship in an authentic Biblical way.
I pray that we as worship planners and leaders will return to the Word of God as the foundation for all acts in worship. Don’t simply rush to put something into worship or, even worse, force something cool into the liturgy despite a lack of correlation to the Word or season. You can still have beautiful worship filled with creative songs, elaborate altarscapes, and even flowing scarfs and ponchos of praise - but root everything in scripture.
You can’t go wrong by adhering to the Bible!
Dr. Sterling Allen is Director of Music and Worship Arts at Good Shepherd UMC in Cypress, Texas. He has also served on the staffs of First UMC Shreveport, Bethany UMC in Austin, and A&M UMC in College Station. Dr. Allen’s academic accomplishments include a Bachelor’s of Music in vocal performance and sacred music from the Hurley School of Music at Centenary College, A Master’s of Music with special emphasis on sacred music from the Butler School of Music at the University of Texas in Austin, and a Doctor of Worship in liturgics and hymnology from the Webber Institute in Florida. He has sung as an operatic baritone internationally in 9 countries, is a recognized Charles Wesley Scholar specializing in soteriological-lyrical theology and has served as a regular clinician and worship consultant.
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