Defining Corporate Worship

From a recent class on worship, we hammered out a brief, Biblical, working definition of what a local congregation should be pursuing as it worships the Lord as His holy temple here on the earth.  I simply offer it below with no comment save one.  The Bible makes it abundantly clear that when people worship the Triune God, their behavior toward others will become more Christlike.  Otherwise, they are not truly worshiping.

Corporate Worship is the Church’s 

Reverent & Obedient Service to God,

as Regulated by His Word,

in the Love of the Father,

through the Mediation of the Son,

by the Indwelling Power of the Spirit,

on the Lord’s Day and Other Duly Appointed Times,

Where We are Strengthened by God

to Love the Brethren,

Evangelize the Nations,

and Engage the Needy

in Preparation for the Consummation of the Kingdom.

11 Comments

  1. Stephen rhoda May 16, 2013 at 6:53 pm #

    My suggestion is that this definition needs a more explicit reference to the preaching of the Word as the central and predominant element of worship. If you stop and ask yourself- Would the generic evangelical church say, “Amen!” to your definition? — you may see that this is needed. Of course, you include “regulated by His Word,” but a specific reference to the regulation that founds the preaching of the Word would be apropos.

    • Barry York May 16, 2013 at 7:53 pm #

      Steve,

      Thanks for your thoughts. We were trying to keep it to one sentence, albeit a long one, so it was difficult to include everything. In the class we spent a great deal of time detailing out what was meant, a significant time of which was devoted to the importance of preaching.

      I did put this out here not to be a definitive definition, but a work in progress. I welcome suggested edits or even a phrase addition that would be fitting, as my students offered several helpful corrections. Or even another definition altogether. I feel other words, such as glory, praise, etc. could/should be included, but again it is hard even in a long sentence to fit it all in. This was a challenging exercise.

  2. Vernon Shoaf May 16, 2013 at 8:12 pm #

    I applaud and encourage your work in thinking about corporate worship. It is hard to find a better reference on worship than the Westminster Confession of Faith’s (WCF) statement on “Religious Worship & the Sabbath Day”, which interesting has three sections on prayer (which is omitted above from the class discussion) and only a few words about preaching.

    Mr. Rhoda’s point above being very important, interestingly, the stated section in the WCF does not seem to give preaching a central and predominant role in worship. Prayer seems to receive the most emphasis. I certainly advocate “sound preaching” but the congregation also has a serious obligation…”food for thought…”

    • Barry York May 16, 2013 at 9:28 pm #

      Yes, the WCF is best when it comes to delineating worship. I am not suggesting by this a replacement, just a summary.

      In a summary statement, if you start adding the elements, what you both are showing is that it is difficult to leave other elements out. Certainly singing and the sacraments would quickly follow.

  3. Jess April 16, 2015 at 10:37 am #

    How do you define “Other Duly Appointed Times” in addition to the Lord’s Day?

    • Barry York April 16, 2015 at 1:35 pm #

      This phrase was in reference to the Westminster Confession’s language, which in chapter 21 speaks of other times of assembling beyond the Lord’s Day” “beside religious oaths, vows, solemn fastings, and thanksgivings upon special occasions, which are, in their several times and seasons, to be used in an holy and religious manner.”

      • Jess April 16, 2015 at 1:37 pm #

        Thanks!

  4. Kay Omholt September 8, 2017 at 4:13 am #

    I am confused about why the word ‘corporate’ is used in any of this. I did not find the word corporate in any of the more than 30 bible verses I reviewed which supposedly talked about ‘corporate worship’.

    My gut reaction to the word ‘corporate’ is not necessarily a POSITIVE reaction! Instead, it brings up many unpleasant memories of how large corporations in this country and others have committed some very egregious actions – most without consequences.

    Please help me understand why I should not be thinking of corporate as a negative thing – and how I can turn it around to be positive. It would help me immensely if I knew when the term/idea of “corporate worship”
    was started and which specific bible passages mention it by name.

    • Barry York September 8, 2017 at 1:04 pm #

      Kay,

      The use of corporate with worship is in the other sense of its meaning, which is “of, relating to, or formed into a unified body of individuals” according to Webster. In other words, corporate worship means the gathering of the entire congregation as the body of Christ and is used in distinction from other forms of worship such as private worship or family worship.

      Hope that’s helpful.

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