Worship Then And Now

By Not Known

How did Christians in the early church actually worship?  There are two primary sources from which we get an idea to this question.
In Acts 2:36-47, Luke the evangelist wrote to Theophilus about Christian worship.  From his account, we notice that Christian worship is foundationally a responsive outflow from a genuine relationship with God through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.  Baptism was a corporate testimony of separation from the world and adherence to the church – the Body of Christ. It is within this context of body life that praising, learning, fellowshiping, celebrating, praying, giving, caring and witnessing took place.  Personal devotion to God must always express itself in corporate worship of God. Unity in Christ produces unity in the Body of Christ which further produces unity in Christian witness.
Justin Martyr, a first century Christian philosopher and apologist also wrote about Christian worship and beliefs in defence of Christianity to the Roman Emperor.  In his First Apology (A.D. 155), it is noticed that evangelism was key to bring one into the community life of worship where baptising, breaking bread, reading Scriptures, praying for one another, and giving to the needy were common acts of devotion to God and duty to man.
Worship then was clearly founded on Christ [i.e. Evangelism], gave community expressions to Gospel-living [i.e.  Discipleship], and built up through the apostle’s teaching [i.e. Word].  Bible, evangelism and discipleship are vital to authentic Christian worship because these produce true worshippers.
Worship today has often become an arena for division over styles and preferences – music, mood, multi-media, and mechanics.  Much has to do with creating worship experiences to lift worshippers up to God.  Huge budgets are committed to acquiring instruments, sound-systems, lightings, scores, worship training, sharp suits and colourful costumes.  Worship risks becoming neatly packaged sacred performances where singers and instrumentalists have mastered their voices and music.  The sermon risks becoming like a topping, or else an anti-climax to the whole worship experience.
Worship today is under great pressure to please the worshippers rather than to please God.  A note off or a word missed can incur “wrath” from the congregation in the name of excellence.  Bible, evangelism and discipleship are displaced by ethnocentric focus and considerations.  Worship experiences are being perfected, but the worshippers remain largely unchanged.
Let us return to those things that make true worshippers who please God.




Benson Goh