Some time ago we announced that we’d be leaving the lights on from now on during worship on Sunday mornings. In that initial announcement Dylan hit the main points as to why we’ve made this decision but here’s a bit more detail…
The Lord’s Day gathering has been likened to a dress rehearsal for heaven, and while the analogy has its limitations, it is helpful in at least three ways:
1. Christ is central.
The scriptures are full of explicit declarations that Christ is preeminent over all things in heaven and on earth and in heaven this reality will be manifested. (Col 1:15-20, Matt 28:18, John 1:1-3,14-18, Heb 1:1-4,8-13, Rev 5:6-14)
In the meantime, we strive to shape our liturgy (the structure of the worship gathering) in a way that is centered on Christ. The primary way that we keep Christ central in our gatherings is by keeping the scriptures, and even more pointedly, the gospel central. And just as we see the myriad angels and saints in Revelation responding to Christ and His work in worship through singing, we respond to the preaching of Christ and His work in worship through singing.
2. The worshippers are diverse and united
There are many metaphors for the people that Christ has redeemed with His blood in the scriptures, but they all point to the unity of those people.
A flock, a family, a building, a bride, a body.
All of these illustrations are consist of various parts, but they are united into one entity. One of the ways that sin has impacted humanity is that diversity is generally seen as a hindrance to unity rather than a blessing. The scriptures, however, paint a different picture. God Himself who is eternally diverse and united (Father, Son and Spirit—yet one God!) created and redeemed for Himself a people that are diverse and united. To paraphrase Paul’s point in 1 Cor 12, the Body (Church) is deformed and ineffective without being made up of different but united parts. Not only is disunity harmful and debilitating to the body but so is a lack of diversity.
The point to saying this isn’t that we need to try to be more diverse or more united—we already are these things—these are realities for us to celebrate in Christ..
3. Christ-centered worship celebrates diversity and unity.
Sunday mornings give us a sneak peek at worshipping Jesus in heaven when we see and hear our brothers and sisters “from every tribe, language, people and nation” (Rev 4:9) worshipping in unison the Lamb of God. Corporate worship is designed to allow us to experience the truth our our being one in Christ now that He has broken down the dividing walls of race, gender, background and experience by His death on the cross (Eph 2:11-22, John 17:20-23, Eph 4:1-6).
With the best of intentions we have previously dimmed the lights for the singing portions of corporate worship in order to limit the things that may detract from the Christ-centeredness of our singing, but an unintended byproduct is the possible reinforcing of a “just me and Jesus” attitude that is a constant threat to genuine fellowship. Our brothers and sisters are not distractions from Christ, they are members of His body and graciously given to us to remind us of the great salvation that we have come to share.
We are increasingly realizing that all aspects of the Sunday gathering are precious gifts to the church. This means that we gladly embrace the reality of the differences among us that could possibly distract us if it means that those distractions are opportunities to be reminded of the power of Christ’s work on our behalf.
We are happy and humbled to see the word of God continually challenging us to conform our practice to what we see in scripture and are grateful for opportunities to more accurately portray the truth of the gospel in our worship of our Lord Jesus.