Most Americans have grown up thinking that church is a place where Christians gather Sunday morning to sing songs in a large worship service. So visitors are often surprised when they hear teaching, preaching and discussion instead of praise songs at Central Teachings and home churches.
What gives? Does Dwell worship?
Yes! Just not how most modern church-goers expect.
When we look at the pages of the New Testament, the picture of "worship" is much broader than Sunday morning singing. It's the most important part of a believer's life -- and involves every aspect of how we think, act and relate. In his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul instructs, “I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Romans 12:1).
Paul teaches that New Testament worship includes a daily lifestyle of loving others, sharing the gospel with non-believers, practicing the means of growth and seeking God’s will.
Certainly, there’s nothing wrong with singing praise to God; it’s just not a biblical emphasis when Christians gather. In his book Paul’s Idea of Community, Robert Banks puts it this way:
Worship involves the whole of one’s life, every word and action, and knows no special place or time… Since all places and times have now become the venue for worship, Paul cannot speak of Christians assembling in church distinctively for this purpose… They are already worshipping God, acceptably or unacceptably, in whatever they are doing. (88-89)
We believe much of what American Christians think of as worship comes from the Old Testament and doesn’t apply today. After the cross, God launched a radical new plan for his people. The rituals, sacrifices and corporate ceremonies of the Old Covenant had served their purpose, but God designed a new way for people worship him once Jesus had been crucified and raised again.
To guide the church into this new era, the apostles highlighted new activities that replaced the old forms of worship. They include:
- Ministry within the body of Christ to other Christians (Romans 12:3-8)
- Mission and outreach (Romans 15:16)
- Financial generosity (Hebrews 13:16)
- Individual (and corporate) praise to God (Hebrews 13:16)
- Countercultural lifestyle that resists conformity to the world’s value system (Romans 12:2)
Worship at Central teachings
At these large weekly gatherings, members and guests hear gifted Bible teachers, with opportunities to share comments and questions. Our goal is to make it as easy as possible for all people in our culture to learn about the love of Jesus Christ, especially those who don’t come from a church background.
To do so, we’ve purposefully shifted features such as communion, intercessory prayer and singing from large meetings to home churches. We allocate most time at Central Teachings to instruction and preaching. That seems to be the pattern in the book of Acts. When examining passages in Acts 2 and Acts 20, among others, it appears that large meetings were characterized by “the apostles' teaching” for training and evangelism. It’s unlikely that these gatherings bore any similarity to modern American worship services.
Central Teachings enjoy a laidback atmosphere that carries easily into times of warm, engaging fellowship after the teaching. Many Christian and non-Christian guests really enjoy the non-traditional vibe and express thankfulness that they didn’t have to sing.
worship at home church meetings
In the early church, corporate worship happened in home churches. Consider 1 Corinthians 14:26: "What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification." While this doesn’t match the modern American worship service, it describes a participative meeting held in a home, with people sharing insights, prayers and possibly songs. Home churches also hosted the first century "love feast," according to early church sources, which included communion and corporate praise.
Home churches in Dwell decide how to worship corporately. Some have a time of song and praise. Others worship in prayer. Some groups worship at their regular meetings, while others hold special meetings dedicated to prayer and worship. We believe home churches or smaller men’s and women’s Bible studies provide the appropriate setting for communion.