Day 1: The Development of Christian Worship Over the Millennia

Day 1: The Development of Christian Worship Over the Millennia

Worship home group 9-14-13                                    Notes and expounding by Kevin E. Jesmer


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These are the notes from the first day of our “Engage your worship” home group. It was a discussion of the development of worship over the millennia. None of us are Bible scholars. We are all lay people in the church, but we shared what we knew and gained a better understanding of the development of worship. The discussion was led by Dave S.  God is definitely leading the body of Christ to be more “Jesus focused” and “community focused” in regards to worship.

Our worship has become so compartmentalized and individualistic. If Paul were here he would be scratching his head asking why Christians only worship on Sunday. And even on Sunday people are not engaging with one another.

This leads us to ask what is worship and what should it be? It is not music, though it could involve music. What worship, in this post modern period, has become is a  self gratifying experience. How did we start and how did we get to where we are today in terms of worship? In the first century we went from bowing down to an idol to giving thanks to Christ for salvation. We started out to thanking God in everything.

When 325 AD rolled around, Emperor Constantine made Christianity the state religion of the Roman Empire. We adopted Romanesque style worship incorporating certain elements of the Roman Empire. They merged Christianity with Roman style worship and some elements of Judaism. When Christians met on Sunday for worship, they were following a liturgy. Worship involved magnificent buildings and an image of a powerful Christ that we must come to. We created clergy and a separation between the people of God. Worship for many, became, not a means to commune with God, but to find prestigous standing in the community, a way to get education and other benefits from the church culture. There was a convergence of society and the church up to 1100 AD., where most of Europe and North Africa was christened and the Muslims had not come on the scene yet.

Eventually came the Crusades and the Muslim invasions. The Catholic Church instituted lots of doctrine, and Christians were more interested in pulling society together. They were synchronistic.

Then came the Reformation. During this period of the Reformation, Christians wanted to get more sincere in their faith. Martin Luther wanted to get rid of everything and start with a clean slate. He advocated, only faith and only Scripture. Reformists only wanted Christ and the scripture seeking simplicity and purity in their worship.

Then we have the Puritan roots of our faith. They threw everything out. Anglicans broke away from Catholicism, keeping many of the formalities, but becoming very Bible centered. The scripture became an idol to many, getting more interested in the scripture than in Christ. It is possible to get more satisfied with the text and not the writer. It carries on even today. There are people who think that all you need is the scripture and nothing else matters. We might hear that a lot today. Some go as far as saying that if you can not read the scripture then you can not be saved. The truth is that we must worship not the text but the writer of the text.

We are told to preach the good news and the point of the good news is Jesus. Jesus is the good news. We need to tell others what Christ did for them using the scripture. This puts the focus is not the message, but the messenger. When we focus on the messenger, Jesus, then there is life abundant. Nowadays, many new comers are not interested by a long message. People get sleepy.

Then Christians became more aware of the Holy Spirit in their worship. In 1904 there was the Azusa Street Revival and the birth of the Pentecostal movement. It was coming out of the African American experience. Today there are 500 million worshippers world wide through the Pentecostal movement. It helped people to know that we need to focus on the Holy Spirit and not just rituals and the Scripture.

Next came the evangelical movements which brought personal worship to the forefront. The emphasis became  “Christ loves me and saved me.” Jesus is my friend. It also birthed the “health and wealth” gospel where worshippers focus on what is in it for them, seeking blessings from God to fulfill their own needs. “What I can get out of this service?” People became hung up on dogma and worship became divisive and exclusive.

Nowadays we have the ecumenicists who, believe that there are many ways to come to Jesus in worship. It is not just evangelical. Orthodox has the dance. We can enter into circle dance at different areas that involve the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Worship is becoming less divisive. Grace allows people to come to Jesus no matter what. It is more inclusive and more graceful. Some say that this is a compromised attitude towards worship. But now matter what you think, we need to worship in spirit and in truth. I will leave it up to you to discover what that means.

A growing emphasis today is community, and relationships. The early church had such an emphasis. Acts 4: reads, “Acts 4:32-37,  Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold 35 and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. 36 Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, 37 sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.” (ESV) Their worship was communal and involved loving one another very practically. Their giving of themselves was not just property. It can be time and personal space.

We cannot be a groups of people focused on what the church, or Christ can do for us. We need to start looking at what we can do for the church. President Kennedy asked the nation, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” He was speaking in terms of secular citizenship, but there is a lot to learn about our attitude towards worship. Let’s get communal in our worship and be ready for service.

Our worship must include fellowship. It is not just go in and do your duty and get out of there. Think this about your fellow Christian, “What can I do to engage you? How can I take the time to get into our life and to pray for you?”  We need to live in a community as we worship.

Acts 2:42-47, 42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awecame upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” (ESV) This is community fellowship and worship. There are small fellowships of people gathering together. We are not talking about little groups staying separate. It was the entire church in Jerusalem. Our worship can be like this. We are building up the house of God. It is building up relationships, relationships with Jesus and relationships with others.

The whole purpose is to celebrate our salvation with our fellow congregants and get involved in each others’ lives to love one another as Christ loved us. Seek others out. You need to see their hearts. Do we see someone and judge them? Start up conversations and get to know that person. He may be a very sincere Christian. You cannot look on the outside. We need to engage in people’s lives and get to know people and engage in their lives. Then we can worship the Lord together. The way to start is to pray. Because when you’re pray your heart is enlarged. That is what we are gathering here to do.

And it is not just about what happens on Sunday. Take what we get on Sunday and use that during the week. We have lots of ministries we can get involved in and to help the people that are in our sphere of influence. We cannot get involved in everything, but we can pray and know what it is going. That is very important.  





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