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Philosophy of Worship

Values relating to corporate worship:

Many of the worship values listed in the Master Planning document are already being realized at Bethlehem. Some, like solid Biblical preaching, have characterized Bethlehem for decades, while others have begun to grow more recently. Most, if not all, of these values will be found in increasing measure if Bethlehem continues on the Master Planning trajectory of the past year. May God complete what He has already begun.

Because we value a public worship form that communicates the supremacy of God in all of life, it will focus on God. The form may vary from week to week as long as God continues to meet us in worship. It will encourage an expectancy and eagerness for God to draw near to us in reviving and renewing power.

Because we value fervent, Biblical, Spirit-anointed, God-exalting, personally-helpful preaching, we will pray that God’s Word continues to run and be glorified among us as greatly in the future as it has in the past, as all aspects of worship are shaped and permeated by the Word of God.

Because we value the importance of old and new, historic and current, we will pray that “the Holy Spirit may lead us into ways of worship that are continuous with the historic witness of worship given to the church throughout its history in the world, and at the same time He may lead us into the discovery of new forms and patterns that meet the needs of the people of our day” (R. Webber, “Worship Old and New”). We will continue to be a “both/and” people that cherishes all the richness and freshness that comes from God.

Because we value the importance of both head and heart in our worship experience , we will continue to fill our minds with Biblical thinking about God, others, ourselves, and life, while at the same time putting renewed and greater emphasis on giving expression to our heart’s affections for God during worship.

Because we value going hard after God as an all-satisfying end in Himself, we will increasingly plan our worship service for greater opportunities to linger in the presence of the Lord. He is the treasure, the pearl of great price, and we will come with an earnestness and wholeheartedness on our past that desires God more than anything.

Because we value authenticity and transparency in communicating in large and small group settings, we will strive for genuineness when in groups or by ourselves. Whether rehearsed or spontaneous, we will strive to be real before God and each other.

Because we value vulnerability with our imperfections that encourage candor, not concealment, we will minister in the strength that God supplies as we are sustained by His grace, acknowledging that our treasure is in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is not our own. We will confess public sin publicly and private sin privately, and admit openly our imperfections. We will not continue in public ministry while flagrant sin holds sway in our lives.

Because we value being a singing people with growing appreciation for diverse expressions of love for God, we will use as many musical styles and forms as are helpful to worship and respond to God appropriately, as we seek the “significant range” of “at-homeness” referred to in Fresh Initiative #2. We will encourage whole-hearted participation by the entire congregation in all parts of the worship service, as the defining sound of Bethlehem worship becomes the singing voices of all God’s people praising Him.

Because we value a place for spontaneity and lay ministry to the body, we will cultivate a sense of waiting on the Holy Spirit in worship. We will make room for God to act on Sunday morning by giving opportunities for spontaneous ministry by spiritually gifted people.

Because we value increasing in a humble willingness to support others whose tastes are different than ours, we will put understanding above accusation, forbearance above faultfinding,and Biblical unity above the demand for uniformity. We will create opportunities for God’s reality to be conveyed more powerfully by learning to affirm the forms and styles that edify our brothers and sisters. 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.

Because we value growing in appreciation of both fine and folk elements in worship, we will strive to affirm the strengths and avoid the weaknesses inherent in both forms. We will worship within the range of gifts that God bestows on us, never compromising spiritual qualifications for aesthetic considerations, as we pursue undistracting excellence in spiritual leadership.

Because we value a determination to welcome people different from ourselves for the sake of Christ, we will continue to embrace God’s call for visible manifestations of love toward each other and our neighbors, providing opportunities before, during and after the service to reach out to those God would have us touch.

Because we value being more indigenous to the diversity of our metropolitan cultural setting, both urban and suburban, we will seek ways to communicate and worship that allow for a significant range of diversity in those whose worship is driven by a passion for the supremacy of God in all things.


Sunday morning worship is a corporate expression of our passion for the supremacy of God. We sense God’s leading to develop fresh expressions of this passion that 1) allow for a more focused and free lingering of love in the presence of the Lord; 2) reflect musically the diversity of our congregation and our metropolitan culture; 3) interweave the values of intense Godcenteredness and more personal ministry to each other in the power of the Holy Spirit. The following clarify our worship distinctives at Bethlehem:

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.”

Our worship life will have a “defining center,” with significant range on either side of that center, resulting in a broader worship life than in the past that people can comfortably call “home.”

Our main lead worshiper will be characterized by spiritual maturity and depth, sensitivity to God’s leading during worship, a pastor’s heart, and breadth of musical skills. His authentic worship will be contagious to the congregation as he joyously leads us into God’s presence.

We will emphasize spiritual leadership rather than performance in all “up-front” acts, as we encourage spiritually gifted people to minister within their range of ability rather than perform.

We will design worship services mainly for the benefit of believers, as we express corporately our passion for the supremacy of God, reflecting it so clearly and joyously that unbelievers who are present may also be awakened and give Him glory.

We recommend obtaining a high quality of digital synthesizer, capable of reproducing a broad range of instrumentation (including organ), to complement and broaden the range of musical styles available.

We will encourage greater freedom in worship that is God-honoring and authentic, allowing for Biblically appropriate responses to God’s multifaceted glory as we linger for extended periods in His presence.

We will encourage increased lay participation in the Sunday morning service by spiritually gifted people.

We will encourage diversity in worship leadership that reflects the diversity of our congregation and our metropolitan culture.

We anticipate that a variety of musical groups (Choirs, worship teams, vocal and instrumental ensembles, etc.) will be used to lead in worship on Sunday morning.

Approved by the Council of Elders January 21, 1996