God-Centered Worship

Trinity Symbols

What is God-centered worship? Isn’t all corporate worship in Christian churches God-centered? No. Some churches have made other concerns—man-centered concerns—the focus. By its most basic definition, worship that is God-centered is not man-centered. Churches that seek to be attractional by the world’s standards rather than biblical standards fall into the second category. Worship that is God-centered is focused upon God and governed by Him. This means that Scripture guides its practice.

Scriptural worship in both the Old and New Testaments is foundationally about God: revering, honoring, and glorifying God for who He is and for His acts of grace and redemption. As the O.T. priests offered animal sacrifices to atone for Israel’s sin, they acted in faith in God’s promises for the coming messiah and final sacrifice in Jesus Christ. Daniel Block defines the “Dimensions of Biblical Worship” as fear, prostration, and service (Block, 8-23). All point us as worshipers to center around God and His being. Hence, our worship is always unto God; He is the focus or object of our worship. Certainly there are horizontal as well as vertical aspects to corporate worship. The various functions of preaching and singing (Col. 3:16-17) as a part of Scriptural instruction in worship make this clear. Yet all of this is done through Christ as we “draw near” to God with “full assurance of faith” (Hebrews 10:19-25).

As fostering understanding of God-centered worship is foundational to this site, I want to point you to other articles that contribute much toward this goal. One tradition that demonstrates a pursuit of Scripture-regulated worship is traditional Reformed worship. Author Terry Johnson represents this heritage and does a excellent job of helping us understand what God-centered worship is and is not in his article “God-Centered Worship” (Tabletalk Magazine). Johnson states:

The Christian life begins when a Copernican revolution takes place when I remove myself from the center of the universe and recognize that God alone reigns there (Matt. 16:24Rom. 12:1–2). Nowhere should this revolution be more obvious than in the worship of the church.

Johnson’s article provides a succinct presentation of how God-centered worship, worship that keeps its aim set upon glorifying and enjoying God, is not only the type of worship that God desires but is also the best for us.

For further reading on God-centered worship, see the articles below:

  1. “God-Centered Worship,” by Dr. Guy Waters. Waters is Professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary and the author of several books. This article focuses on the biblical functions of each person of Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is vital for us to understand the God we are worshiping as Scripture reveals Him. Waters states, “In Romans 1:21–23, Paul says that to worship anything or anyone other than the true God is evidence of futile thinking, a darkened heart, and the abandonment of wisdom.”
  2. “Restoring Biblical Worship,” by David De Bruyn. De Bruyn is Pastor at New Covenant Baptist Church in Johannesburg, South Africa. This article speaks to the concept of rightly ordered worship and rightly ordered affections. De Bruyn states, “Corporate worship ought to set the tone for private worship; not vice-versa.” Thus, we should have a “carefulness and watchfulness” regarding our worship and God’s prescriptions for it.
  3. The God-Centered Worship Essentials series on this site. Open this link and scroll down to the bottom to begin with the first article.


Block, Daniel I. For the Glory of God: Recovering a Biblical Theology of Worship. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2014.

Johnson, Terry. “God-Centered Worship.” Tabletalk Magazine (January 1, 2005).

Waters, Guy. “God-Centered Worship.” Tabletalk Magazine (April 1, 2012).

De Bruyn, David. “Restoring Biblical Worship.” Religious Affections Ministries. Accessed May 30, 2016. Available from http://religiousaffections.org/articles/articles-on-worship/restoring-biblical-worship/; Internet.

What? Liturgy in My Church?— Never! What is Liturgy, and How Should Preaching Shape it?

Preaching 1

What is liturgy and how should it relate to preaching? Since the term liturgy is coming back into use for evangelicals, it is important to understand what it truly is. Many in the evangelical tradition assume that liturgy is a “stiff” and “fixed” set of congregational prayers and responsive readings marking “liturgical” churches. However, the term actually refers to the ritual and service of worship and to the order or form that service assumes. Therefore, every church has a liturgy: the order and form that shapes their worship on a given Sunday. The liturgy is composed of the prayers, hymns, songs, instrumental music, choral or other vocal music, Scriptural readings/responses, preaching, and offertory, as well as the ordinances or sacraments. How the church plans liturgies is a critical aspect in ensuring that corporate worship forms disciples. Planning that considers the relationship between preaching and the other elements of liturgy facilitates authentic and rich worship that trains us as true disciples of Jesus Christ.

Steve Thomas’s essay, “How Preaching Shapes Liturgy,” addresses key elements involved in this planning. Thomas states:

. . . [W]e must learn to treat both preaching and liturgy as essential to corporate worship; that they exist in a relationship of mutual dependence. Assuming the priority of preaching in symbiotic relationship, biblical exposition shapes liturgy in several important ways.

Major themes in Thomas’s article include:

1) “Preaching gives content to liturgical rites.”

2) “Preaching harmonizes the elements of the liturgy.”

3) “Preaching preserves the liturgy from undue extremes regarding form.”

4) “Preaching grounds affective elements of liturgy in objective truth.”

Our liturgies should never be cold and dead (mindless repetition), disconnected from expositional preaching, or bent toward the overly emotional or intellectual. Instead, they should be biblically spiritual, marked by an ordered vitality (I Cor. 14, Col. 3:16-17) that engages all of our “heart, soul, mind, and strength” (Mark 12:30) and is steeped in the majesty of God and the wondrous transforming truth of the gospel.

Source: “How Preaching Shapes Liturgy”–Religious Affections Ministries

Goodness, Truth, and Beauty–Do These Really Matter Today?

Glasses on Open Bible ca. 2001

The good, the true, and the beautiful. How can we best understand God’s standard for these? Where we look first matters a great deal. Do we look first to the shifting culture around us or to God’s Word? In the light of general and special revelation (creation and Scripture), God expects Christians to discern what is good, true, and beautiful from what is bad, false, and ugly (Ryken, 37-45). Clearly this discernment matters. However, there has been such a devaluing of these standards in the last century that many in our culture seem no longer able to make these distinctions. The postmodern worldview that is now so prevalent has left in its wake many who believe that in the arts, as well as in theology—goodness, truth, and beauty are merely a matter of subjective taste.

In contrast, God’s instructions for the tabernacle in Exodus 31 reveal His aesthetic standards in the crafting of both the structure and its articles (Ryken, 37-8). As a copy of the heavenly temple this was the place where the presence of God dwelled with His people, and He was worshiped. Everything in its construction pointed to the goodness, truth, and beauty of God Himself—the infinite excellence of His character and being, or glory  (Block, 257-8, 305). Here there is a principle revealed for the Christian artist. As Philip Ryken states, “. . . [O]ur art must be in keeping with the character of our God, who Himself is good, true and beautiful” (Ryken, 44).

Dr. Harry Reeder’s excellent article, “The Triune God: Good, Beautiful and True” (Tabletalk Magazine), underscores the significance of defending these standards. Along the way he unpacks the language used in our culture that distorts these realities. Reeder states “Each of us is an abettor in the relativization of goodness, beauty, and truth, claiming that there is no true truth, only ‘my truth,’ which may or may not be ‘your truth.’” He follows with good news for the Christian:  “Our Redeemer will deliver us from our sin so that we might not only behold truth, beauty, and goodness, but so that we will love truth, beauty, and goodness because we first love Him, the Lord of truth, beauty, and goodness.”

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8)

Dennis, Lane T.; and Grudem, Wayne, eds. ESV Study Bible. Wheaton: Crossway Bibles, 2008.

Reeder, Harry. “The Triune God: Good, Beautiful and True.” Tabletalk Magazine (September 1, 2010).

Ryken, Philip Graham. Art for God’s Sake: A Call to Recover the Arts. Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2006.

Block, Daniel I. For the Glory of God: Recovering a Biblical Theology of Worship. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2014.