Worship - Lesson 14

Video Discussion 2

Continuing discussion of "Ancient-Future Worship," by Robert Webber from the "Ancient-Future Worship Video Series."

Lesson 14
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Video Discussion 2

Video Discussion #2

Robert Webber, Ancient-Future Worship, Ancient-Future Worship Video Series


  • Worship consists of both revelation and response.

  • Worship is described in both the Old and New Testaments and requires active participation.

  • Worship is focused on the character of God and involves every aspect of our lives.

  • The First Commandment instructs us about who God is and that we should worship only Him.

  • The Second Commandment instructs us to not worship images.

  • The Third Commandment instructs us to not use God's name in a dishonorable way.

  • Commandments four through ten emphasize the Sabbath, honoring your parents, loving your neighbor as yourself, and charity.

  • Discussion of the book "Worship, Community & the Triune God of Grace," by James B. Torrance. Also a discussion of the idea of revelation and response, and cultivating a lifestyle of worship are important elements in biblical worship. It is a challenge to develop an adequate understanding of who God is and how we should approach Him.

  • Jesus tries to dispel misconceptions about true worship when He has a discussion with the woman at the well in Samaria. The Holy Spirit plays an active role in guiding us to worship in Spirit and in truth. Jesus is the true worship leader. Worship transcends and includes all cultures and races. Worship celebrates the first coming of Jesus, looks forward to His second coming, and prays that His presence will be manifest in the present.

  • Discussion of two books: "Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down: A Theology of Worship for This Urgent Time," by Marva J. Dawn, and "Contemporary Worship Music: A Biblical Defense," by John M. Frame.

  • Including elements in a worship service like prayer, scripture reading, communion and songs of praise can help people have an authentic worship experience.

  • Discussion of "Ancient-Future Worship," by Robert Webber from the "Ancient-Future Worship Video Series."

  • It is important to choose theologically balanced songs with music appropriate for the people. The worship leader is an extension of the congregation and should prepare the material and the worship team so they can communicate effectively and appropriately. It is important for praise team leaders to choose praise team members that are qualified spiritually and musically, then encourage and guide the team members effectively.

  • Continuing discussion of "Ancient-Future Worship," by Robert Webber from the "Ancient-Future Worship Video Series."

  • The structure of the worship service is centered around gathering, the service of the Word, the service of the Table and dismissal. Elements of a worship service include songs, scripture reading, offerings, sacraments, prayer and affirmation of faith.



These lectures were given at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary during the summer of 2001. The purpose of this course is to consider together the relationship between worship and Christian formation and implications of this for the design and leading of community worship experiences.

Some specific questions we will be asking include: What is worship? What is Christian formation?How are these related? What can we learn from worship and spiritual formation in the Old and New Testaments that will help us in designing and leading worship experiences today? What can we learn from worship and spiritual formation in the history of the Church that will help us in designing and leading worship experiences today? How do the various worship traditions and styles shape Christians? What are some of the theological principles that guide us in our thinking as we plan and lead worship experiences? How does/should worship interface with a third great task of the Church—evangelism? What are some practical concerns that we must consider as we plan and lead worship experiences? 

Dr. Gary Parrett



Video Discussion 2

Lesson Transcript


Ancient-Future Worship

I. The Four-Fold Structure

Who remembers the four-fold structure? It was gathering, service of the Word, service of the Table, and dismissal. We have seen mostly the gathering. We will go through this faster than the previous video lecture. This is from the early church and one of the points in regards to this order; the reading of the Gospel takes priority here and there is a response after every reading. It is a revelation and response pattern that is reinforced throughout. Worship in the Old Testament was perhaps more liturgical; what about the New Testament? Much of what they did was guided by what they had done. They didn’t see themselves as becoming non-Jews. They considered themselves Jews who had discovered their Messiah. So, probably everything was patterned after what they were used to. There is a new dimension that was added. Probably, the structure was a kind of inherited structure. In Acts 2:42, they steadfastly devoted themselves to the apostle’s teachings, the fellowship, the breaking of bread and the prayers. In Greek, it reads prayers whereas in many translations, it reads just prayer. The breaking of bread is almost certainly a reference to the celebration of the Lord’s supper and there were specific gatherings of prayer. In the very next chapter, at the time of prayer, Peter and John were on their way to the temple. They were used to set times of prayer. They probably inherited a structure and we see other liturgical hints in the New Testament like the response of the amen that Paul mentions in 2nd Corinthians 1:14. We also have evidence in Ephesians 5, ‘speak to one another’ kind of language.

II. The Multi-Ethnic Church of Paul’s Day

The other whole issue that would be intriguing to explore again goes back to Acts 15. There was the challenge for the church to become multi-ethnic. This was a big and deep challenge. Gordan Fee argues that most all of Paul’s letters was motivated by this ethnic struggle between the Jews and Gentiles. In one place, Fee argues that the Book of Romans was motivated pastorally by this Jew and Gentile problem of the church in Rome. Going back to Ephesians 2 and 3; this is clearly one of the guiding issues also. As you have that whole discussion in chapter 2 about the wall of hostility being torn down. It is in that context I think about that praise song, ‘I pray that the Father from whom every nation derives its’ name would grant you power together with all the saints to grasp how wide and long and high and deep the love of Jesus is’. That is within the context of the hostility being torn down between Jew and Gentile. It is only together with all the saints that we will grasp how wide and long and high and deep the love of God is. When we sing that song, it becomes a sort of personal thing for us. He has just introduced the service of the Word. He says absolutely nothing about the children’s involvement in this.

III. Children and Youth in Today’s Church

What about children in the worship? One of the key features seems to be only a brief involvement for them. They have a profession of their own with some songs with motions and then I suppose they return to their parents. We can explain this issue to include youth in the worship service. Should they be with the adults or by themselves with their own experience? What have you seen in practice that you’ve liked or didn’t like? I think there is great profit in having them involved in the worship service as much as possible. The keyword here is involvement. If they are going to be present, how can we make their presence really meaningful? At the Korean church I worked at; because of language and culture, we were separated every Sunday. I went back to my home church for a visit and was very pleased to see two teenagers in front of me. But, after about a minute, these two teenagers had totally disengaged and were playing games and writing notes to each other the entire time. I really couldn’t blame them, for they were never ever addressed or acknowledged. They were required to be there but their presence was never acknowledged. They weren’t acknowledged by the songs nor by the sermon as the preacher only spoke to the adults. If we are going to have people involved and ask youth to be present, then we have to change our thinking as leaders. We can no longer look at the service for adults only; it is the worship service for the community. The community includes children and youth, not only the adults. The New Testament picture for the most part shows that the real teaching and nurture of the children was the job of the family. But now, in general, we need to have this whole community mindset. The promises are for you and your children.

I am always struck by these two passages in Matthew 18 and 19. In one passage we have the reference to the disciples fighting and Jesus takes a little child and tells them to study the child. Yes, children have much to learn from adults, but there is something on the other side also. Adults have something to learn from children. Although we would like to push them aside, we could learn a lot from them if we let them be part of the process. They can teach simplicity, humility, spontaneity, openness and much more. There are a lot of things they could teach us if we allow them to be part of things. In Matthew 19 we have the story where the babies are brought to Jesus for blessings. It is where the disciples say that he is too busy with real ministry for this. In the Mark passage, it says that Jesus was indignant with what the disciples did; Jesus said, let the children come to me. A lot of cultures would struggle with our practices, here in the States, as we would struggle with their practices. One such practice is why we have such a hard time with children making noise. On the one hand, it seems like a good thing to have kids involved, both for biblical and practical reasons, but on the other hand, nobody really profits if they are totally disengaged from the experience. So, what could we do to maximize their involvement? It doesn’t mean less for the adult worshipers. We saw a little of that here where the youth were involved in the service; they had a role to fulfill. They were carrying banners and they did a song for the congregation. Usually, they will be given a little sermon and then dismissed. That would be one way of dismissing them. We did a variation of this in a church mostly with young couples and their children. At one point, we called all the children forward and two or three of us laid hands them before dismissing them. That was a way of letting them be a very visible part of our community. It is a way of recognizing how critical they are to our community. Of course, there is lots of noise from the kids and this is okay. Many churches treat their young in an unwise and condescending way. We simply push them out of view.

Mary was probably thirteen or fourteen when Gabriel came to her door. Joseph was seventeen when he began to dream his dreams. Daniel and his three friends were all in their teen years when they were exported to Babylon. These days, if I get an invitation to preach at a church; I enjoy it when children are present. In preparing my sermon, I always think about how I am going to address young people. I follow the example of Paul where he speaks to children and mothers and fathers. Why not speak to children in your sermon? If the children stay in during any part of the service, there is no excuse for not talking to them. You could do a once-a-month family service or youth service. Also, one of the issues we have to address is bridging the gap between the young group and the adult group. It’s been said by some youth ministry people what looks like the most successful youth ministry may be the most dangerous in the long term. A lot of youth ministries today are such self-contained packages; they are so exciting and thrilling and yet so isolated from the church. When they graduate from the youth group, they have no way to connect with the adults. As a children’s leader, this has to be a concern. How can I help nurture these children so that they will be ready to plug into the larger life of the church? I understand why you want to have a culturally sensitive experience for the youth, I’m troubled when I see a youth group that never sing any hymns. They need to be learning hymns in that youth group.

In inviting the children and youth to be apart of the service, they sometimes just sit all by themselves. I would rather have them sitting with their families for they have an obligation to help raise their children in this way. Two books that I would recommend, Children in the Worshipping Community and another book particularly for the youth, Family Based Youth Ministries. This ends with suggestions on how to involve youth and family together. Devries says in his limited research, the young people who stay in church are those that have significant connection with adults when they were children. But those who had marvelous youth group experiences but were unconnected tended to drift away from church when they became adults.

IV. The Service of the Word

In his teaching about the service of the Word, there are no comments about the sermon. The sermon didn’t seem to be a particular important feature. By implication, this is the way it comes across. It’s all the other elements of the service that we need to attend to. Perhaps, it is implied that we have the sermon part figured out and it is the other parts that need attention. The Gospel is magnified here and this is seen in the more liturgical churches. There is some kind of magnifying of the Gospel, and it is always from the Gospels that the message is preached. Before we get to your thoughts on specific practices, what principles were at work there? Are there principles we may like while the practices may not be liked. We hear it and there is a response. Another appropriate response would be simply an Amen. Another response would be, thanks be to God. Here again, is a place where you would need to find gifted people. There are always gifted communicators in the church, find them. He strongly encourages the use of lay readers for Scripture. Two principles here would include the involvement of lay people from the whole body and secondly, the reading of the Scriptures well. For me, it is a bit of a miserable experience in hearing the Word not being read well. There are ways that we can confirm, this is not just another book but it is the Word of God. It needs to be treated with respect and listened to carefully. It needs to be read well. Raising the pulpit was done in respect to the Word of God. Perhaps we can even go back to the 1st commandment in showing respect for the Word. We need to be careful and not show respect for people that are ministering the word and song. This is not to put the focus of attention on them rather than Jesus. How else can we honor the Word of God? We could make sure that the congregation has an opportunity to follow along in the Scriptures. We need to give attention to the whole idea of attentiveness to the Scriptures and the love of the Scriptures.

V. The Service of the Table

Some of the significant underlining principles include prayers of the people rather than a pastoral prayer. He makes the claim that the ancient church had the prayers of the people. At times people would lead out with names than needed prayer, especially for those who were sick. An alternative would be praying in small groups. There are two processions: the bringing in of the Gospel and the bringing in of the elements. They provide an option as whether to take from the common cup or from a small cup. Webber loves all the ancient practices but I think some of those ancient practices needs a little more discernment in what it means and where it came from. What about the invitation to the person to come forward for prayer? It is good to pray for people who come forward like this. I thought about doing this in the church I was at; this is another way to demonstrate seeker or visitor friendliness. I really love the idea of being upfront and intentional in regards to people being at different levels in their journey with Jesus. There is joyful music going on as people are coming forward. Most protestant churches only celebrate the Lord’s Supper once a month. What Webber says; instead of a service of the Word and of the table, on those other three Sundays, have a time of thanksgiving. This could include a testimony and the use of praise songs, particularly of thanksgiving. What are your thoughts on using oil to anoint people? This could include prayers for healings or hurts of any kind. During the Lord’s Supper in one church I was at, I had leaders of the church stand up front as people came forward to receive the elements, I stood with some oil for anyone who was wanting prayer. Some think oil mentioned in James 5 had natural healing properties. Others think that the oil was more of a symbolic nature. It represented an anointing of the Holy Spirit. I don’t know that for sure or whether we can know that for sure. I tend to think of it as more symbolic of the healing presence of the Lord. I have never been troubled to understand what it is. In the tradition of the church, the celebration of the Lord’s Supper was viewed as a time of meeting the Lord and a time of healing and restoration and a time of reconciliation. This may be an appropriate time to offer a prayer for the sick and those who are hurting in the church.