By David Bernard
O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together.
Start With the Scriptures
- Psalm 150
- Amos 9:11-12
- Acts 15:13-19
- 1 Thessalonians 5:18
Pentecostal worship, when contrasted with the worship of many contemporary churches, is rather different. The verbal congregational expressions in praise and prayer, the significant role of singing and musical instruments, the physical demonstrations in worship, and the energetic preaching may appear to the stoic as irreverent. Formal denominations consider the church service to be a place for deep meditation, silent introspection, restrained participation, and pious formalities. Pentecostals, although they respect these methods and agree that they have their place, believe that the church service is a celebration—the believers are the celebrants and Jesus is the celebrity! Therefore, the atmosphere is alive with joyous expressions that celebrate the majestic splendor of God.
What Is Pentecostal Worship?
A believer, upon conversion, becomes a minister for the Lord. We are not referring to a preaching type ministry, but we are saying that each individual has a place of function and influence in the church. Paul compared the members of the church to a physical body, with each individual functioning in some vital way, ministering to that body (I Corinthians 12:12-27).
Our ministering can be divided into three basic areas—exhortation, evangelism, and worship. Let’s look at each of these briefly.
Exhortation is the ministry we render to our spiritual brothers and sisters. We pray for, comfort, assist, encourage, counsel, and protect one another (I Thessalonians 5:6-11).
Evangelism is the ministry we offer to the sinner. This ministry reaches for the lost through intercessory prayer, witnessing, providing good examples, being a friend, and sharing the Word of God (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15).
The third ministry is different from the other two because it does not directly involve others. Worship is a direct ministry to the Lord. It is not horizontal (i.e. reaching to people), but vertical—reaching directly to God. Worship is an interaction between the believer and God, without the involvement of anyone else. Of course, we can encourage one another in worship, but ultimately the experience is between the believer and God. It is a wonderful thought to consider that God is actually gratified when we worship Him. We are actually ministering unto the Lord when we worship Him.
Worship can be broken down into three progressive steps: thanksgiving, praise, and worship.
To be a worshiper we have to start with an attitude of gratitude. Thanksgiving is that prevailing thankful attitude that creates the seeding ground for a great worshipful experience with God. If we are an unthankful person, we will never become a good worshiper. In fact, Romans chapter one describes the serious problems that result from an unthankful heart. Thanksgiving is a prevailing mental state of gratitude for what God has done. Paul said, “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (I Thessalonians 5:18).
Praise goes one step further and expresses that gratitude in some verbal, audible or demonstrative way. Praise can be heard. Verbally or demonstratively extolling the virtues and divine attributes of God is praise. Thanksgiving praises Him for what He has done and praise exalts Him for who He is. All expressions of praise can be grouped in these three areas.
Verbal. “My tongue shall speak of thy righteousness and of thy praise all the day long” (Psalm 35:28). (See also Psalm 40:3; 89:1; 119:108; 119:171; Isaiah 12:6; Hebrews 13:15; Revelation 19:1.)
Audible. “Praise the LORD with the harp: sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings” (Psalm 33:2). “O clap your hands, all ye people; shout unto God with the voice of triumph” (Psalm 47:1). “Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: . . . psaltery and harp . . . timbrel and dance . . . stringed instruments and organs . . . cymbals . . . “ (Psalm 150:3-5). (See also Exodus 15:20; II Chronicles 5:13.)
Demonstrative. “I will lift up my hands in thy name” (Psalm 63:4). “And he leaping up stood and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God” (Acts 3:8). “Let them praise his name in the dance” (Psalm 149:3).
Worship is the ultimate in this interaction with God—the apex of divine communion. This third and highest level of ministry unto the Lord that we are calling “worship” is not just man reaching to God, but it is a mutual exchange between God and man. Worship enters the supernatural realm where there is real contact with the Spirit of God. Worship is entering the throne room of God and bowing in His presence.
The Roots of Pentecostal Worship
Pentecostal worship finds its roots in the apostolic pattern. The early church forms the design and basis for our entire belief system. The church today is an extension of that pristine church of the first century, born on the Day of Pentecost (Ephesians 2:20). We are worshiping the same Jesus and have been baptized in the same Spirit as the early church.
Information is sparse as to how the early church worshiped. There are only hints, at best, as to the methods they employed in a normal church service. In contrast to this, the Old Testament is replete with information concerning praise and worship methods. This absence of instruction in the New Testament indicates that the resurrection of Jesus and the indwelling Holy Ghost make following mechanical instructions unnecessary for one to worship God. Our praise and worship is spontaneous, heart-felt expression—not adherence to demanded ceremony and ritual.
The following points can be made concerning worship in the first century:
Since the early church was Jewish, Old Testament worship methods were most likely adopted in apostolic worship. “Christianity began among the Aramaic-speaking Jews and then spread to the Hellenistic Jewish community and eventually to the Gentiles,” according to Robert Webber in Worship Old and New.
The worship methods of David’s tabernacle continued to be the expression of the apostolic church. David’s tabernacle was a very unusual interjection into the Old Testament system. While Moses’ tabernacle was located at Shiloh, where the priests continued their sacrifices, David’s tabernacle was located in Jerusalem on Mount Zion. David’s tabernacle was a tent in which dwelt the Ark of the Covenant. It was surrounded with choirs and orchestras offering praise twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week (I Chronicles 15; 16; 25). God permitted this unprecedented phenomenon and made it a prophetic display of His coming kingdom.
Amos prophesied the tabernacle of David would be restored (Amos 9:11-12) and James confirmed that its fulfillment was being experienced in the first-century church, which began on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 15:13-16). Part of this restoration was the adoption of David’s worship methods—singing, musical instruments, dancing, clapping, lifting hands, and others. Pentecostal worship, therefore, is based upon the apostolic pattern which inherited its practice from its rich Jewish heritage.
The Methods of Pentecostal Worship
We can become so preoccupied with the methods of worship that we forget the real purpose. Nevertheless, Pentecostal worship methods are sometimes challenged, so we defend them from a biblical point of view. We want to examine them, not to be technical, but to establish the boundaries of proper expression.
We will examine the physical expressions of biblical worship as well as events that create a climate for worship.
Physical Expressions of Worship
Physical expressions of worship involve offering our bodies as an offering of praise unto the Lord. Paul said our bodies are the temple of God, “therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (I Corinthians 6:20).
- Our mouth is possibly the most frequently used physical organ of praise.
Talking: “My tongue also shall talk of thy righteousness all the day long” (Psalm 71:12). (See also Psalm 77:24; 119:27.)
Shouting: “Shout unto God with the voice of triumph” (Psalm 47:1). (See also II Chronicles 20:19; Luke 19:37; Revelation 5:11-12.)
Singing: “Sing praises to God, sing praises: sing praises unto our King, sing praises” (Psalm 47:6). (See also Psalm 66:4; Matthew 26:30; Acts 16:25; Hebrews 2:12.)
Laughter: “Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing” (Psalm 126:1-2). Seven times the psalmist said, “Make a joyful noise unto God” (Psalm 66:1; 81:1; 95:1-2; 98:4, 6; 100:1). This would include laughter.
Tongues: “For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God” (I Corinthians 14:2). (See also I Corinthians 14:14-15; Jude 20.)
- Our hands are very useful in worship and praise to the Lord:
Lifting hands: “I lift up my hands toward thy holy oracle” (Psalm 28:2). (See also Psalm 63:4; 134:2; I Timothy 2:8.)
Clapping hands: “O clap your hands, all ye people” (Psalm 47:1). (See also Psalm 98:8; Isaiah 55:12.)
- Our feet are also useful in praise and worship:
Stand: “My foot standeth in an even place: in the congregations will I bless the LORD” (Psalm 26:12). (See also 134:1; 135:1-2.)
Walking, running and leaping: “And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God” (Acts 3:8-9). (See also Luke 6:23; II Samuel 22:29-30; Psalm 18:29.)
Dancing: “Let them praise his name in the dance” (Psalm 149:3). (See also Psalm 150:4; I Chronicles 15:29; Exodus 15:20.)
- Our entire body is an instrument of praise and worship.
Bowing and kneeling: “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 3:14). (See also Psalm 95:6; Genesis 24:48; I Chronicles 29:20; Daniel 6:10; Matthew 17:14-15.)
Prostration: “And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me” (Revelation 1:17). (See also Mark 5:22; Luke 5:12; Acts 9:3-4.)
Three common methods by which we may worship are singing, playing musical instruments unto the Lord, and in giving of our finances.
Singing of hymns. In Acts 4:24, “They lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said. . . .” Six verses of beautiful praise follow, possibly recording the words of a hymn; otherwise they could not have lifted their voices with one accord. A song puts amplitude to our words of praise. (See Ephesians 5:19; I Corinthians 14:15; Acts 16:25; Colossians 3:16; James 5:13.)
Playing of musical instruments. Even though there is no explicit command in the New Testament to use musical instruments in worship, we know it is an appropriate method. With such profuse use of musical instruments in the Old Testament, it seems obvious that if the Lord did not like musical instruments in worship He would have said so. The Greek word psallo is used four times in the New Testament, directly associated with praise, and it means “to twitch, twang, to play a stringed instrument with the fingers.” The word is translated “making melody” (Ephesians 5:19) and “sing” (Romans 15:9; I Corinthians 14:15; James 5:13). If God had intended that the praise not be accompanied by musical instruments He would have inspired the use of the Greek word ado, which means only to sing. The early church was obviously accustomed to the use of musical instruments (I Corinthians 13:1; 14:7-8).
Offerings. Giving money in the offering should be as praise and worship unto the Lord. “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver” (II Corinthians 9:7).
Events Which Create a Climate Conducive to Worship
Preaching and teaching. Both of these events recreate the gospel story, giving the listener an opportunity to involve himself in worship. The first Easter message is recorded in Acts chapter two. Peter exalted the Lord through preaching, and 3,000 people were converted. Also, in Acts four, 5,000 people were converted by the preaching of John and Peter. Preaching and teaching that exalt Jesus Christ create a climate of worship.
Communion. Just as the Passover was the fulcrum of Old Testament rituals, the communion service replaced it as a Christian ordinance. “For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us” (I Corinthians 5:7). Jesus instituted this memorial in Matthew 26:22-30. Its importance was emphasized by Paul the apostle in I Corinthians 11:23-34. Communion reminds us of the sacrificial death of Jesus and symbolizes a oneness between the believer and Jesus, thereby stimulating heart-felt worship.
Foot washing. Washing one another’s feet was instituted by the Lord Jesus (John 13:1-20). After Jesus had washed the disciples feet He said, “If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14). The historical customs of that day made foot washing more relevant, yet when practiced today foot washing revives a basic principle of God’s kingdom—the greatness of servanthood. A worshiper must assume the role of servanthood before he can be a true worshiper. Foot washing does not guarantee servanthood, but it is symbolical and reminds us that we are servants of each other to the glory of God.
Baptism. Even though baptism is a one-time experience and is a part of conversion, it is a beautiful act that elicits praise and worship from the believer (Acts 2:38; 8:12; 10:47; 19:5). It dramatizes the burial of the old man that died in repentance—doing symbolically what Jesus did literally (Colossians 2:12; Romans 6:4). It also symbolizes and in truth initiates the washing away of all our sins by the blood of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38; 22:16).
Special days. Paul said, “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come” (Colossians 2:16-17). Although there are no Christian holidays established in the Bible, there are convenient times to celebrate certain Christian beliefs. One traditional Christian special day is Sunday. The Jewish Sabbath is Saturday, which is the seventh day of the week. But Christians worship on Sunday in order to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, which occurred on the first day of the week. Sunday is not a holy day, but a convenient day in our society to conduct worship services and to serve as a day of rest.
Salutation. Worshipful greetings are biblical. When Boaz arrived from Bethlehem he greeted the harvesters with, “The LORD be with you,” and they called back, “The LORD bless you” (Ruth 2:4). When greeting another believer, it is a good opportunity to offer a hearty, “Praise the Lord!”
Testimonies. Public testimonies of praise in the church service have been practiced by Pentecostals for years. Many have referred to the verse of Scripture in Revelation 12:11: “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony.” Although this passage is concerning martyrs during the tribulation, the principle is illustrated here that there is power in testifying for the Lord.
Altar service. This is a time for the saints to make consecrations and commitments to the challenges given by the Holy Ghost in the service. It is also a time for sinners to find salvation. This makes the altar service a wonderful time of worship and praise. Worship creates the climate for sinners to be converted at our altars.
The Pentecostal Experience and Worship
It is not just happenstance that the Pentecostal churches are the ones that practice biblical methods of worship with exuberance and enthusiasm. The churches that forbid many biblical worship methods are the same churches that denounce the Pentecostal experience as being available today.
David’s tabernacle. The outpouring of the Holy Ghost in Acts 2 was the fulfillment of many Old Testament prophecies. Yet one outstanding prophecy, given by Amos, links the Pentecostal experience and worship together in an interesting relationship of fulfillment. Amos prophesied that the tabernacle of David would be restored, and James confirmed that the events of the apostolic era were a fulfillment of that restoration (Amos 9:11-12; Acts 15:13-19).
The following points can be made concerning the prophetic fulfillment of David’s tabernacle, as it relates to worship in the Pentecostal experience:
- David’s tabernacle was an open tent.
- The worship practiced at David’s tabernacle was spontaneous and unrestrained.
- David, in his tabernacle, organized music and made it a permanent part of the worship experience.
- The Ark of the Covenant and not sacrificial rituals became a focus of worship.
The Feast of Pentecost. The New Testament Pentecost fell on the same day as the Old Testament Pentecost (Acts 2:1). The Feast of Pentecost was the fiftieth day after the Feast of the Passover. It was a dual celebration, the celebration of the harvest season and a commemoration of the giving of the law at Mount Sinai. The outpouring of the Holy Ghost fulfilled both celebrations. What a harvest on that first day-3,120 souls were made members of the church (Acts 1:15; 2:41) Pentecost is also a celebration of a better way! The second Pentecost is saturated with praise and worship to God because it is the event that marked the beginning of the new covenant.
Pentecostal Music and Worship
Most Pentecostal churches use music extensively in worship. We are living in a musically-saturated society. Modern technology has made more music available than at any other time in history. Therefore, since music was used in biblical praise, it is appropriate that it be used abundantly in worship today.
A survey of biblical music will reveal that sacred music was used for praise and worship. Music can be used for teaching, witnessing, and entertainment, but biblically it is for worship.
Test Your Knowledge
True and False
_______1. Dancing is not a form of New Testament worship since it was an Old Testament practice only.
_______2. Thanksgiving is a primary attitude of gratitude forming the essential basis for real praise and worship.
_______3. Praise is a deep, silent meditation upon God.
_______4. True spiritual worship transcends the physical and becomes a spiritual interaction between God and man.
_______5. Pentecostal methods of worship are the result of traditions established by highly emotional founders at the turn of the century.
_______6. If Christians work for God and serve Him horizontally through evangelism and edification, worship becomes unnecessary.
_______7. Praise can be expressed either verbally, audibly, or demonstratively.
_______8. Since the early church was Jewish and Jesus was the Jewish Messiah fulfilling all the Old Testament types, many methods of worship in the Old Testament were adopted in the worship of the Lord Jesus Christ.
_______9. The restoration of David’s tabernacle was fulfilled when Gentiles were allowed into the church and has no further significance.
_______10. The outpouring of the Holy Ghost on the Day of Pentecost stands in great contrast to the Feast of Pentecost as an event of celebration.
Apply Your Knowledge
It is possible to leave a service feeling down and defeated. If this describes your consistent experience, it would be good to evaluate your worship involvement.
If you are an inhibited person, offering a sacrifice of praise using biblical methods will open up new avenues of expression to you. You will be liberated from your prison of self-consciousness and will experience great heights of joyous praise and worship.
It is also good to expand your vocabulary of worship expressions by reading and memorizing the psalms. Learning to recall the virtues and attributes of God will expand and inspire your praise. Learning new choruses is a wonderful way to add freshness to your worship.
Expand Your Knowledge
There are many books on praise and worship. Here are just four we recommend:
- Pentecostal Worship, by Gary D. Erickson, (Word Aflame Press).
- Real Worship, by Warren Wiersbe, (Oliver Nelson).
- The Hallelujah Factor, by Jack R. Taylor, (Broad-man Press).
- Elements of Worship, by Judson Cornwall, (Bridge Publishing, Inc.).
This article “Pentecostal Worship” was excerpted from Meet the United Pentecostal Church International written by David Bernard, C. A. Brewer, P. D. Buford, Dan Butler, Gary Erickson, J. L. Hall, T. M. Jackson, Edwin Judd, Ralph Reynolds and Dan Segraves. It may be used for study & research purposes only.