Philosophy of Worship

(July 6, 2021)

“May never the word of man but ever the Word of the Living God, and His counsel from its pulpit be preached. May those who worship in this place now and in years to come ever be lifted into the very presence of the church’s King, the Lord Almighty. May salvation only by Christ’s precious blood, and sanctification by the Holy Spirit from its pulpit ever be proclaimed, and may here be experienced in its full richness the communion of the saints!” (From First CRC’s New Sanctuary Dedication – June 2 & 3, 1959)


As part of our duty to glorify God, we are called to do everything for the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31) Yet, God calls us to rest from all our activities one day a week, and calls us into corporate worship every Sunday to worship our Heavenly Father with all that we are. All of creation owes unending worship to God. Consequently, the Christian worships God for who He is and what He has done for us through Christ’s life of obedience and sacrifice on the cross. Therefore, we worship our Triune God out of gratitude for the love, mercy and grace we have received.


Worship is vital to the believer and an integral part of being an image bearer.  Worship is our chief expression of praise to a Holy God and reflects our innate orientation to God. Our desire should reflect what the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 12:1-2 “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.”


Worship comes in a variety of forms in the Christian life, but ‘corporate worship’, as a body of believers gathered each Sunday to worship our Creator and Savior, is set apart from the rest.  That is why we want our worship services on Sunday to be pleasing to Him by being directed to the right One in the right way.  Corporate worship is not primarily about us and is not just another ‘thing’ we do in this life. God is both the customer and consumer of worship. Corporate worship on Sunday is meant to inspire and instruct the rest of our weekly worship.  To gather with God’s people on the Lord’s Day, to worship at God’s throne under the authority of God’s Word is our solemn duty and joyful privilege. Simply put, corporate worship is the most important activity in the Christian life.  


Heidelberg Catechism #6 – “Q. Did God create people so wicked and perverse?

  1. God created them good and in his own image, that is, in true righteousness and holiness, so that they might truly know God their creator, love him with all their heart, and live with God in eternal happiness, to praise and glorify him.


In corporate worship God stoops down to meet with His people to feed our souls, strengthen our faith, and build us up as the body of Christ. At the same time in corporate worship, we are also graciously lifted up with Christ to join with the praise of our Heavenly Father.  With this in mind First CRC of Edgerton believes that right and proper Reformed worship of our Holy God has at its heart the following principles:

Reformed Worship Is…

  • God Glorifying
  • Biblical
  • God-centered
  • Regulated
  • Dialogical
  • Simple
  • Edifying to God’s people


  1. Reformed Worship is God Glorifying

“Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness.”  ~Psalm 115:1

“Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” ~Revelation 4:11

God intends that believers should be righteous and holy and should know Him, love Him, and eventually live with Him forever to praise and glorify Him. Corporate worship is intended to be a foretaste of that heavenly reality of praise and glorification of our God. Therefore, we say with the Reformers “Sola Dei Gloria” – Glory to God alone.

 “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever” (Westminster Shorter Catechism #1).


  1. Reformed Worship is Biblical

Ultimately, worship is designed by God to give praise and glory to Himself. The Bible is God’s revelation to His people, and He has left instructions for how we are to worship. The whole worship service is designed to disciple God’s people, thus everything must be biblical. In Matthew 4, Jesus responds to the Devil’s first temptation “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’”. Throughout Christ’s ministry, he uses Scripture and gives it unwavering authority.  As the Apostle Paul reminds us in 2 Timothy 3:16  “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness…” Therefore, every element of worship is distilled from biblical principles.


  1. Reformed Worship is God-centered

In gathered worship, we seek to worship our Triune God simply for who He is in His very essence (Rev. 4:8), for who He is as the Creator (Rev. 4:11), for who the Lord Jesus is as our Redeemer and sacrificial Lamb (Rev. 5:9), and for who Christ Jesus is in his exaltation and enthronement (Rev. 5:12-13).  Thus, there is a clear movement in heavenly worship from God’s essence, God’s works as Creator, and God’s works as Redeemer.  Here at First CRC, we desire to see this pattern reflected in our worship services as well.


As pilgrims in this life, journeying through a foreign land, it is essential that we keep our eyes on God so that we will arrive in that promised land.  Jesus Christ, then, is at the center of all biblical worship.  Our focus is to remain on Him lest we get distracted and focus on something or someone else. Even the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper maintain this Gospel focus and direct us towards Christ and His work. The Gospel is what makes worship possible. We proclaim it. It calls us into worship; it isn’t optional.


  1. Reformed Worship is Regulated

“Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” ~Hebrews 12:28-29


Heidelberg Catechism #96 – “Q. What is God’s will for us in the second commandment?

      1. That we in no way make any image of God nor worship him in any other way than has been commanded in God’s word.”


“How does God want to be worshipped?” is a question not often asked, and yet maybe the most important question to be asked when it comes to worship. If Reformed worship is Biblical, then certainly God has defined how He wants to be worshipped. The Reformers called this principle the “Regulative Principle of Worship” (RPW). Simply put, we worship God in only the way God commands us to. Anything that is not commanded is prohibited. However, we shouldn’t see the RPW as strangling creativity or preferences, but incredibly freeing because God has given us guidelines which provide an opportunity for God’s people to find unity and freedom. The RPW keeps us faithful to what God wants in His worship service.


  1. Reformed Worship is Dialogical

Another way to understand dialogical is “Call and Response”. It’s a conversation.  Reformed worship is patterned after numerous biblical covenants wherein God calls to his people, and they respond (Genesis 17:7, Jeremiah 31:33, Ezekiel 37:26-27, 2 Corinthians 6:16, Hebrews 8:10 and 21:3). Our Reformed worship liturgy is a covenant dialogue between God and His people.


– God calls us into worship and greets us. – “Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;” ~Psalm 95:6
 –  We respond by singing a song of adoration to God. – “Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.” ~Psalm 100:2
 – God shows us His standard of righteousness – Reading of the Law. “What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not  have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, ‘Do not covet’”. ~ Romans 7:7
– We respond with a prayer of confession. –  “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you were proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.” ~ Psalm 51:4


– God assures us of pardon. – “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” ~1 John 1:9
– We prepare to hear God’s Word through Prayer and Singing. – “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” ~Psalm 119:105

– We ask God to open our eyes and ears to see and hear His word – Prayer for Illumination.  – “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,”  ~Ephesians 1:17-19


 – God speaks to us through the reading of Scripture and the Word preached. “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.” ~1 Timothy 4:13

“Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” ~2 Timothy 4:2-4


 – We respond in Song and give our Offerings to God. – “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.” ~Colossians 3:16

“Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” ~II Corinthians 9:7


– God gives us His Blessing – Benediction – “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” ~2 Corinthians 13:14


Other items of worship include the Lord’s Supper, Holy Baptism, creeds and our confessions of faith. Each in their own way are further examples of the Dialogical Principle at work.


The central act of worship is the reading of Scripture and the preaching of the Word; the people of God being discipled by God through His Word. God gets the first and last word in worship because of the honor that is due Him.  The Dialogical Principle gives language to what’s always been a foundational principle of First Church’s liturgy and a part of our Reformed heritage going all the way back to the Reformation and the early church.


  1. Reformed Worship is Simple

The simplicity of Reformed worship makes it catholic (universal). There are two parts to a worship service. The “how” (or circumstances) and the “what” (worship elements). The elements of worship are the unchanging parts of a worship service which includes prayer, the reading and preaching of the Word of God, singing and sacraments. These things are unchanging and necessary for worship. The “how” of worship is the circumstances. These are the conditions that are most conducive to worship that is decent and orderly, including time and place. The Bible doesn’t dictate at what time the service should be held, or how long a service should last. The “how” of worship is decided upon by the elders of a church, and their individual contexts.

The skeletal structure of Reformed worship is similar no matter the country or church you find yourself in.  Different cultural components will properly affect and flesh out what worship looks like around the world but the elements of worship remain the same.  It’s a worship model that travels. There is no need to reinvent the wheel each week. From the seasoned saint to the new believer, each one knows what to expect and what will happen during the worship service. God has decided to use regular and ordinary means of grace to disciple His church. (Word, Prayer, and Sacraments). Corporate worship should have an atmosphere of undistracting excellence.


  1. Reformed Worship is Edifying

“What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church”.  ~1 Corinthians 14:26

In the Christian life, we are called to “do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Everything we do, from our work, to how we live our lives is done for the glory of God. However, many of our everyday activities, from our work to our leisure activities aren’t appropriate activities for corporate worship. When you consider how much time is actually spent in corporate worship each week, you come to realize how precious each element of worship is. Hence worship must be edifying to the whole of the church, not one piece should favor one member over the other. Also, each element should visibly show the Gospel. In doing so, each believer should come away with a deeper sense of their sin, but also a deeper love, trust and gratitude for their Savior.


Appendix about Music

Music, just like any other aspect of the Reformed worship service must be informed by, guided by and evaluated by the Bible.  Music is to be given joyfully unto the Lord and is an offering of praise, confession, gratitude and obedience to the Glory of our Heavenly Father.  Music is an integral part of worship, and it is no wonder that the Scriptures repeatedly tell us about the eternal musical worship of our God and King in Heaven.  Because of this fact, the music played and sung in worship is both a wonderful and solemn responsibility meant to be done with excellence in all its various ways, so that it may be found pleasing in God’s sight.

Here at First Christian Reformed Church in Edgerton we believe in a blended music style that incorporates the Psalms, and classic hymns of the faith alongside the addition of more contemporary praise songs.  From week to week, a balance of all genres helps to edify and uplift the whole congregation without focusing on one at the expense of the others.  The focus should be on Christ and not on what songs we sing; that is why all the songs we sing reflect biblical principles that are consistent with our theology.  John Calvin wrote:

‘There must always be concern that the song be neither light nor frivolous but have gravity and majesty. … There is a great difference between the music which one makes to entertain men at table and in their homes and psalms which are sung in the church in the presence of God and his angels.’

Each service will have songs that direct us vertically to what the Triune God has done for us and the rich heritage of our faith while still engaging and encouraging the whole person of the believer in praise to God. 

At First CRC, music is an opportunity to demonstrate unity in worship and helps us approach God rightly.  God created us as image-bearers with an innate desire to praise Him.  As an expression of this desire, music has the unique ability to infiltrate our hearts and minds quicker and linger longer than other aspects of worship.  Because of this, proper and thoughtful Reformed worship will carefully consider the music, in all its forms (organ, piano, instrumental, choral, congregational, solo or small group, praise team, etc.), used in the worship service.  Any music used in worship will be considered with the following questions in mind:

  • Is it God-centered, Gospel-focused and vertically directed to give Him glory?
  • Is it singable and accessible by the entirety of the congregation?
  • Are the lyrics expressly biblical and theologically mature?
  • Are the lyrics meant for corporate worship (not individually focused) and emotionally balanced, reflecting the whole experience of the Christian faith?
  • Is the musical offering fitting and complementary for its place within the dialogical structure of the Reformed worship service?
  • Does the music enhance, not detract from or distract, our congregation’s ability to praise God?