Organization and Worship

Styles of church worship often fall along a continuum between “high church,” which is formal and prescribed, and “low church,” which tends to be more free form. The terms describe differences in worship practice such as the use of liturgy or the kind of clothing worn by those who lead worship.

The style of worship described in today’s passage is closer to high-church worship, revolving around prescribed sacrifices, ceremonies, and festivals. It is not surprising that prior to bringing the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem, David had to make arrangements for its placement. Its arrival in its new home was accompanied by burnt offerings and fellowship offerings (v. 2). Burnt offerings were offered by the priest alone and entirely consumed by fire on the altar. Fellowship offerings involved a shared meal between the offerer and the priest. Burnt offerings were a reminder of the worshiper’s need to be cleansed from sin. Fellowship offerings (sometimes called a peace offerings) were a voluntary expression of thanksgiving that pointed to the need for a restored relationship with God.

This installation ceremony also included a psalm of thanksgiving led by Asaph, a composite drawn from Psalms 105, 96, and 106 (vv. 8–36). Once the ark was in place, David made arrangements for its regular ministry. He assigned this responsibility to Asaph, Obed-Edom, and their associates (vv. 37–38).

The specifics of the church’s worship are not as prescribed as the worship we read about in the Law of Moses. Yet congregational worship, whether it is high church or low church, does require organization. In 1 Corinthians 14:40 the apostle Paul directs that when God’s people come together as church “everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.”

Apply the Word

What does your church do to see that its worship is carried out in a fitting and orderly way? The next time your church meets for worship, take note of all the elements that require planning and organization. Consider asking your pastor or worship leader how you might use your gifts in worship, whether through assisting, praying, or contributing.

BY John Koessler, Chair and Professor of Pastoral Studies

John Koessler serves as chair and professor in the division of applied theology and church ministry at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois. He is married to Jane and has two sons, Drew and Jarred. John is the author of The Radical Pursuit of Rest (InterVarsity), The Surprising Grace of Disappointment (Moody) and True Discipleship (Moody). John has written several other books and articles and serves as a contributing editor for Today in the Word.

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