Corporate Music and Worship Philosophy

Steve Viars July 9, 2003

The worship services of Faith Baptist Church are corporate expressions of our members’ love for the God of the Bible.  Because worship is an expression of love for God, we come together not to seek first what we may receive out of worship—although we receive and need much—but how we may first through His enabling grace render our service of worship to the supreme God.  Below are various truths about our God that help shape and govern our corporate worship together.1 

 

God Is Supreme (Rom. 11:36; Acts 17:24-30).  Our public worship will focus on God.  We will seek to aggressively know Him through His Word and wholeheartedly respond to His supremacy in biblically appropriate ways as a people of God in corporate worship.

God Is Holy (Lev. 11:44-45).  “Holiness” is the term given to God to set Him apart from anything and everything else.  In Ex. 15:11 Moses asks,  “Who is like you among the gods, O Lord who is like you, majestic in holiness?”  Because there is no other god like the God revealed in the Bible, we will encourage individuals to be enthralled by Him so as to be eagerly overflowing with praise, thanksgiving, fear, repentance, confession, prayer, and obedience through humble dependence on Him.  We will, by our lives and our words, shout joyfully of the wonders of this God.  Our worship of the Holy God should compel us to be individuals characterized by holiness as well. 

God Has Chosen to Dwell Among His People Through His Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16).  Corporately, God is present when His people gather together.  His presence is seen most clearly in our lives when we allow God’s Spirit to fill (control) us to such an extent that others see Christ in our lives as we fellowship, love, serve, sing, listen, respond, etc.  Furthermore, God’s Spirit is present whenever the truth of God is proclaimed in an understandable way.  Therefore, through the lives of Spirit-controlled people and the passionate proclamation of God’s Word, our desire would be that a believer leaves our corporate worship time saying, “I have met with God today,” and the unbeliever would declare, “Certainly God is among you” (1 Cor. 14:25).

God is Truth (Is. 65:16).  God expects truth in worship (John 4:23).  All aspects of a worship service should be shaped by and permeated by the Word of God.  Only the truth of Christ (John 17:17) which is the word of Christ (Col. 3:16) has any sanctifying impact on the believer and can draw the unbeliever.  Therefore, the truth of God will be proclaimed through preaching, singing, praying, repenting, giving, observing the Lord’s Table, testifying, etc.  When we respond to God in song, the primary characteristic of our songs will be that they are theologically accurate.  These songs may be new choruses, traditional hymns, or other songs; as long as they are theologically accurate, they are acceptable.  Any instrument, arrangement, or sound that detracts from the primacy of the message will be discarded or refined so that it promotes the message of truth.  The musical accompaniment is not to be the focal point of worship—the message of truth will be.

God Knows Our Hearts  (Is. 29:13, Matt. 15:7-9).  God is not pleased with vain worship.  Vain worship is characterized by things such as personal convenience and entertainment, lack of preparation, mindless participation, irreverence, and apathy.  Heartfelt worship is marked by personal sacrifice and giving, preparation, focus, reverence and enthusiasm.2 True worship comes from the heart of individuals who are allowing the Word of God to "dwell in [them] richly" (Col. 3:16).  Our goal therefore is to engage our minds and hearts to meditate and apply great spiritual truth put to song and proclaimed through preaching.   Because worship begins with an internal response to the truth of God, we understand that external music cannot create worship and cannot make us feel and/or experience true worship.  Therefore we will not make it our goal to feel a certain way.  A sense of blessedness (awe, joy, peace, exhilaration) and a sense of our unworthiness before a holy God (Is. 6:5--sorrow, remorse, fear) are both by-products of a heart responding appropriately to God.   Furthermore, we will seek variety in song in order to avoid vain repetition leading to a numbing familiarity.

God Created the Physical Body (Gen. 2:7).  God created man as both a material (body) and immaterial (heart/soul/mind/spirit/will/etc.) being and declared both elements of man “good.”  Worship in the Bible often includes appropriate physical manifestations in the body such as singing, dancing, clapping, raising of hands, bowing down, and laying prostrate.  Physical worship expressions therefore should not be construed as intrinsically evil.  They can be very natural, appropriate, and expected.  God demands, however, that our bodies be under the control of a Spirit-led heart and mind (Eph. 5:18). Our physical bodies are inherently weak and easily habituated; our bodies are not intrinsically evil.  Redemption in Christ has impacted and should continue to impact our bodies along with every other aspect of life.  While we encourage the freedom to express one’s self physically in worship, these expressions should not draw undue attention to one’s self because our focus in corporate worship is on God.

God is Worthy (1 Cor. 10:31; 14:40, Col. 3:23).  God is pleased as we seek to do all that we do in a manner of excellence for His glory.  God is not pleased with mediocre efforts and half-hearted commitments.   We will strive to conduct our services in an orderly way even as we plan for variety and freshness in the services.  We will strive to achieve a high level of musical proficiency in all respects that enhances the message of truth and thereby glorifies God. 

God Has Given Believers Liberty (1 Cor. 8,9; Rom. 14).  Christians have great liberty in the area of personal worship to be exercised and enjoyed within the parameters of biblical principle.   We also believe that true worship will motivate us to love our brothers and sisters in Christ.  When we come together corporately, assembled together with varying degrees of personal spiritual maturities, we will not demand our rights to sing only certain songs, styles of songs, or use only certain instruments, or to worship in certain ways. We will seek to exercise our liberty or restrain our liberty in order to best serve the corporate body.  Furthermore, when the Bible is not clear, we will not go beyond what the Bible says in calling an individual’s worship style sin. 

God Is Alive (Ps. 115; Jer. 10:10; Dan. 6:19-28; 1 Tim. 4:10).  We will expect fresh expressions of God’s work in the hearts of His people.  We will encourage a freedom in worship that is God-honoring and authentic, allowing for biblically appropriate responses to God’s multifaceted glory as we meditate for extended periods on His supremacy.3 We expect that a variety of musical groups and instrumentation will be used to lead worship.

God Has Worked Marvels in the Past (Ps. 77:11-14).  God continually calls His people to remember His great and marvelous works in the past.  His work in the lives and hearts of His people as recorded in their expressions of faith in song provide us with a rich heritage.  This heritage should be acknowledged and appreciated because it reminds us of God’s faithfulness to past generations and should stimulate our faith in Him in present circumstances.

God Became Man (John 1:14, 18).  God condescended to us in the incarnation of His Son Jesus Christ.  This was a means by which He could communicate to His creation (John 1:18) in dire need of deliverance.  Within biblical guidelines we will seek ways to communicate and worship which allow for a range of diversity for the purpose of ministering to those in the diverse cultural context in which God has placed us.3 As we seek to be more indigenous, we will not compromise our calling to be noticeably distinct citizens of a heavenly kingdom.4

God Expects Unity Not Uniformity (Rom. 15:6).  We will continue with one common worship service format, “that with one accord we may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”3 Our corporate worship life will have a “defining center” with a range on either side of that center, resulting in a broad worship life that people can comfortably call “home.”3 When an individual’s tastes and preferences differ from what is observed in worship forms and styles, God will expect the individual to put understanding above accusation, forbearance above faultfinding.3 Our relationships of love for each other will lead us to patiently support and rejoice with those who appreciate other styles, believing that God is able to meet us in the context of any Christ-exalting worship style.3

God Has Renewed His People’s Hearts (2 Cor. 5:17).  God has made His children new creations—having regenerated the hearts of those who have placed their faith in His Son.  Believers have the capacity to offer sacrifices of praise to God.  Therefore we will design worship services mainly for the benefit of believers, as we express corporately our passion for the holiness of God, reflecting it so clearly and joyously that unbelievers who are present may also be awakened and give Him glory.3

God is Our Sustenance (Deut. 8:3, Ps. 73:26, Matt. 4:4, John 6:32-40).
Every day, individually, God’s people should strive to live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God as their sustenance.  Throughout the week His people are to walk in humble dependence upon Him.  As we assemble corporately, we will then be able to speak and sing of our experiential knowledge of God’s work in our lives.  We will encourage one another by sharing God’s grace in our lives.  We will warn one another by recounting God’s hand of discipline in our lives.  We will stimulate one another by shouting joyfully of His abundant provisions in our lives.  We will challenge one another by reflecting upon how God gives us what we don’t deserve and withholds from us what we do deserve.  We will stir one another by testifying of how God is using us to bring others into His family.

God Is Light (1 John 1:5-10).  As children of God, we are to walk in the light.  We will strive for authenticity and transparency and vulnerability always—public or private.  Publicly in worship, whether rehearsed or spontaneous, we will strive to be real before God and each other.3  We will strive to encourage candidness not concealment.  We will confess public sin publicly and private sin privately and admit openly our imperfections.3 

God Has Given Us Servant Leaders (Heb. 13:17).  While the church is a body composed of many members with various gifts, abilities, and wisdom, ultimately the body has servant leaders to lead the body and watch over the souls of church members (Heb. 13:17).  The elected pastors of the body will set the direction and philosophy of our worship services, including music philosophy, after careful study of the scripture, prayer, and input from members of the body.  Our main worship leader is the senior pastor elected by the church.  Our main song leader selected by the senior pastor will be characterized by a depth of spiritual maturity, a pastor’s heart, and an authenticity in worship that will be contagious to the congregation as he joyously leads us to celebrate God’s greatness.3


The Pastors and Deacons of Faith Baptist Church on 7/10/03 approved this document.
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1This document is not meant to be an exhaustive treatment of music and worship.  Furthermore, it does not include every possible aspect of what we do in corporate worship.  This document was developed in the context of discussions about music at FBC in 2003.  For a more extended discussion on music and worship issues please refer to Pastor Viar’s Summer 2003 Worship series and our other documents entitled “Frequently Asked Questions on Music and Worship Issues,” and “Discussion of Music and Worship Issues.”
2This statement is adapted from a worship philosophy by Joshua Berrus.
3These statements are adapted from a worship philosophy by Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, MN.
4Note pertaining to the previous three paragraphs:  As John Frame has stated in his book Worship in Spirit and Truth, “There is no reason why [our church] cannot attain both historicity and contemporaneity.  Most historic practices of the church are quite intelligible today and can be stated in contemporary language.  But we should avoid slavish imitation of older practices without attention to the matter of communication.  To say this is merely to call us back to our fundamental task which Jesus set forth in the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20)—the task of discipling, baptizing, and teaching all nations.  That divine mandate, rather than any human traditions, must ultimately guide our decisions.” This statement is adapted from a quote by John M. Frame in Worship in Spirit and Truth, p. 67, P&R Publishing, 1996.

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video