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It's About time (we return to our roots)

There is an old saying, “keeping up with the Joneses.” It basically means to keep up with your neighbour's status. If they buy a luxury car, you need to as well. After all, chases if you want to be popular, you must keep up. Sadly so many are stuck in this cycle. There are various degrees, but advertisements and trends show the reality many chase the neighbour as it were. Now, in Christianity, this is also true. Often churches or denominations will attempt to keep us with the church Joneses. If they are doing A - then we should be doing A. If the denomination sees growth in one church model, that congregation may become a flagship church so that the others can be like the (those) Joneses.

A moment of transperancy. As a young pastor, I was like this. I was one who would go to the conferences, here all the stories, and get sold on all the marketing gadgets to bring about church growth. Though doctrine was never compromised, convictions were. If other churches had a successful children's ministry, I wanted it at the church. If the music was in the top 40 worship hit catalogue, I was okay with it being played. All of which I regret. Why? Scripture was not enough. I wanted what was normal, not regulated. As I matured in my vocation as a pastor, my family grew, and some children moved away; I was hit with the reality of not only my deficiencies of the past but the need to be sound moving forward in how we operate as a church (and family). Now that I have been open and honest, here is why we as a church have been moving towards and now fully (to the best of our ability and convictions) into a regulative principle of worship.

First, let us define terms so that the points I will make are understood. In short regulative principle means that corporate worship (so local church congregating) is directed by Holy Scripture. Not what is common or normally accepted. Saying regulative is not just a music genre or lyric selection or liturgical order, it also touches on how the family comes together. Further, regulative is not about only using hymn books, or certain instruments, Scripture provides an allowance of all sorts of instruments (which we use at The Mill), as it provides Psalms in which we also sing. So, Paul, giving some guidance on the issue, tells us first, church services are to have a reading of the Word (1 Timothy 4:13) and that there is to be preaching (2 Timothy 4:2). There is a time to explain to the listeners what the text is saying through expository preaching. There is a call to sing songs that either originate from Holy Scripture (Psalms) or music that is doctrinally sound and directed towards God. This may be from a Hymnaldoctrinally sound music or a modern piece of music (Ephesians 5:19, and Colossians 3:16). The service is to have a time of prayer and observing the two ordinances of baptism and communion (Matthew 21:13, Matthew 28:19, Acts 2:38-39, 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 and Colossians 2:11-12). Understanding the basic overview, let us now turn to my thinking points.


With the rise of many artists, it becomes apparent there is a move away from soundness with the lyrics. For the most top 40 worship songs that are being utilized by churches. The lyrics are highly repetitive and emotional. It must be noted here there is a huge difference between a song and a song of worship. Just because it is on a Spotify playlist and acceptable for personal listening does not mean it should be used in the corporate service.

Now, elders have a duty to hold onto sound doctrine and rebuke those who contradict it (Titus 1:9) and are to test everything, in doing so, holding fast to what is good (1 Thessalonians). This does not stop with teaching, as there is doctrine in the songs that are sung. In other words, we sing what we believe - since this is true, should not the lyrics be regulated by Scripture? For many congregations, they are satisfied with the unitarian view of worship. As James Torrance says in his book Worship, Community and the Triune God of Grace says,

(unitarian worship is ) what we do before God”, as opposed to worshipping with our hearts and minds. He (Jesus) lifts us up out of ourselves to participate in the very life and communion of the Godhead, that life of communion for which we were created; the agent of true worship in a New Testament understanding is Jesus Christ, who leads us in our praises and prayers. [1]

So music cannot be about us or what we are or doing before God, nor should lyrics be utilitarian. Such songs fill people with an emotional experience that brings about enjoyment or happiness of self. Songs that do not mention who Christ is, what he did on the Cross, His holiness, and his attributes often move toward these areas instead of the One we are called to Worship - Christ. Remember what Paul said,

Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:16)

Psalm 147:1 reminds us that we are to sing praises to our God, this means our singing is directed to HIM. When a sermon is preparing a sermon, there needs to be a time for exegesis - this is breaking down the text to what it means so that when it is preached, it is in context and truth. Many make a great error in their sermon preparation by doing eisegesis. This is when they put what is not there but what they want it to mean in the text. Many songs do the same thing; they display an un-Biblical image or emphasize the self and is wrong. So the Regulative principle aids the church in walking a more solid path, with less likelihood of going wayward.


Having already touched on this in the introduction, it is important to understand that there is indeed order and reverence to a church service ( 1 Corinthians 14:33, Hebrews 12:28). When people come to church, they are not coming to a rock show. There is no need to turn the lights down low, jack up the stage lights, or get the base and drums going to pump up the crowd. The believers are coming corporately to worship, so those pragmatic programs are not required. The service should always start with a call to service. This is typically a verse or multiple verses being read. When the music is played, the musician's role is to lead corporate singing, not be the loudest voice in the room. When it comes time for the Scriptures reading, the congregation stands. Why? Reverence.

Remember Ezra reading the law. All the people gathered when Ezra brought the Law before the assembly of men, women and all who could understand. Standing brings attention, focus, and respect. It is the authority over any song sung or message preached. This is why the congregation sits during the preaching. There is a pastoral prayer, and after the song, there is the benediction.

When it is time for communion. It is taken seriously. Yes, the table is open for all believers, who have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit and have publically testified to Jesus Christ, but it needs to be fenced. There needs to be a strong reminder of Paul’s instruction (1 Corinthians 11:20-30) that if one is not saved, or is living in serious known sin, to repent and confess. The argument will be this is dry. No one wants old dead religion. Such words show great deficiency.


Nowhere in Scripture do we read the allowance of headship in a household to be usurped by an elder. The pastors are not called to be the husband or the parent. This statement needs unpacking. Going back as early as the Old Testament example, we see when Ezra 10, while he was praying and confessing, weeping and throwing himself down before the house of God, a large gathering of Israelites was present. Men, women and children were gathered together (Ezra 10:1-4). It was always the norm for the men to lead their families - those present in the days of Ezra did not feel children could not comprehend what was taking place. Men were called to lead and teach their children, as one can read in Deuteronomy 6. Men are to train up the child in the way they should go (Proverbs 13:24). This is the man’s role, not the church's. The father is to gently teach the doctrines of Christ to their children today, just as children were present in the past. Men are to catechize, pray over, and show by example they way the children are to walk. They are to do it in a way that does not provoke children to anger but brings them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). This includes bringing them to church, sitting with them in church, and guiding children through the service.

Staying with the children for a moment, it must be said here. Men, it is NOT the role of the pastors to ensure your children are getting fed in a Sunday school class. This is your job at home, and if you are failing, it will become evident. Trust me, no judgment, only experience. This is why the children need to stay in the service. Get them to write down questions or things they learned. Talk about these things at home or at lunch after service. Let the children see men and women revere and love Christ, to be content in the service. Show them there is a community standing firm and against all the filth the world will throw at them. If service is unimportant to you, it will not be important to them.

Moving over to the headship of our wives. Men, it is not proper for our brides to be stressed out on a Sunday morning. They should not have to leave the service to attend to the little ones - no, they should be at our side. We are to love our wives as Christ loved the church. We are to wash them in the word and love their bodies as we love our own (Ephesians 5:25-30). We are to live with our wives, as Peter said, "in an understanding way, showing honour to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life" (1 Peter 3:7). This has so many lenses, but in short, it is not proper for women to be missing the service. Either to attend the little ones or serve in a ministry where they are removed from the corporate worship. Women are to remain in the service. Attending to their children with the help of their husbands (See footnote 2). If a sister feels comfortable, this would include nursing, and the husband is there to provide the support she needs so that the family can be together. Later, if there are questions or concerns over the message - they can talk together at home and fellowship in the word.

Scripture repeatedly shows us what is and what is not acceptable regarding corporate worship. The issue is not over musical instruments, genre, or even extra programs but what should occur on Sunday. Since Scripture seems to be clear on our public gatherings, what should be done in those gatherings, and who was present, the only logical conclusion would be to move towards a regulative principle.

Take what you want from this post. As an older guy who raised his children in children’s church, Veggie Tales and other cool trending parenting ways, I speak from experience, and I am thankful the Lord allowed me to repent, lead and move a church in this direction.

In His Grace,

Pastor Steve.


1. Torrance, James B. Worship, Community and the Triune God of Grace (Downers Grove IL, InterVarsity Press 1996) 20,22,23

2. Brothers, it is not godly to sit back and act the part while our wives are stressed out. Being part of the church family, we are to assist with the little ones. This means giving them colouring pages, showing where in the Bible the message is, and assisting your wife. Sitting there like a "macho man while your bride struggles is not manly.

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