“Our church’s worship is pretty formal, but I prefer Holy Spirit-led worship.” Such was the comment I overheard recently by a young evangelical describing his church’s worship service, illustrating a very common perception by many evangelicals today—if the Holy Spirit actively works in worship, the results will be something extraordinary, an experience “quenched” by too much form and order. A common perception, to be sure, but how grounded in Scripture is this expectation concerning the nature and purpose of corporate worship?
My goal in this series to assess this common expectation, measuring it against what is perhaps the single most important text in the New Testament regarding the nature and purpose of corporate worship—1 Corinthians 14.
Corporate Worship Context
First, it is important to recognize that the context of the discussion in this chapter is “in church” (v. 19), “when you come together” (v. 26); that is, the context is specifically corporate gatherings of the church. There is a significant focus here upon gifts given to believers “through the Spirit” (12:8) or “by the one Spirit” (12:9), what chapter 14 calls “manifestations of the Spirit” (v. 12). But the specific focus is on the use of such gifts in the context of “coming together” within the gatherings of the church. Thus what the chapter teaches about use of spiritual gifts within church gatherings provides broader principles for the nature of corporate worship.
Join me over the next several weeks as we allow this important passage to shape our understanding of the purpose and nature of corporate worship.