At Main Street Presbyterian Church we strive to shape our worship around ten core principles.
1. Gospel Logic: At Main Street we believe that the gospel itself should shape the worship services of God’s people. That means that a service should lead us through a fresh encounter with God that humbles us, calls us to repentance, and assures us of mercy in Christ. So in scripture, and in our own experience of conversion, a pattern emerges of confrontation with God’s transcendence leading to our repentance and eventual renewal by His grace. As Rev. Terry Johnson writes, “This is essentially the pattern of Isaiah 6, the Lord’s Prayer, and the gospel itself. In knowing the true God (in praise), we know ourselves (as sinners), our need (for grace), and give thanks for His gifts in Christ.”(1) At Main Street you will find worship structured around a cycle of confession, a cycle employing the means of grace, and a cycle responding to God in renewed dedication.
2. Covenant Renewal: In the history of God’s people in scripture their solemn assemblies were for the renewal of their covenant commitments and relationship with God. He called them, they responded, He spoke His law and they recommitted themselves, He instructed them and they obeyed. The covenant renewal ceremony is especially apparent in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, which is a meal focused on the New Covenant in His blood and our rededication to His service. Our worship focuses on renewing our covenant with the God who has redeemed us in Christ.
3. Dialogical: Both the “gospel logic” and the covenantal structure of worship demonstrate a dialogical pattern for our services. God speaks first and last. Our speaking in praise or prayer between these two poles is always in response to His first speaking in Word or Sacrament.
4. Historic: We believe that worship must not be faddish but enriched with a connection to the church across the ages. We labor to shun a foolish preoccupation with latest trends on the one hand and a thoughtless parroting of familiar traditions on the other. Our historic worship pattern uses the psalms, hymns, and creeds of the church but does not live in the past. It is catholic, rooted in history, but living and contemporary.
5. Scripture regulated: The Bible teaches that worship that is acceptable to God is determined by Him in His Word alone and not by our tastes and preferences. We are persuaded that we must have clear scriptural warrant for what we do and all that is not scriptural must be excluded.
6. Simplicity: Unlike the worship of the Old Testament temple, New Testament worship is characterized by simplicity. We have no complex regulations for ritual, and every indication is that the impressive power of New Testament worship derives from the Word preached rather than from imagery, pageantry, or ceremony. At Main Street we try to make sure that form never trumps content but rather that the form of our worship serves and drives home the content.
7. Participation: Unlike under the Old Covenant, God’s people are all constituted a kingdom of priests (1Peter 2:9 – “…you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may declare the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”) That is to say that Christians are called upon to fulfill the duties of a priest in God’s temple, which means for us, “declaring the praises of Him.” Not to participate fully and audibly in corporate prayers, confessions of sin and faith, and in song is to deny our priesthood, bought by the blood of our great High Priest, Jesus Christ.
8. Reverence: We believe that God is not an old friend we may treat with flippant familiarity but a holy and exalted King and a sovereign Father. Our worship endeavors to strike a note of deepest reverence.
9. Joy: Alongside reverence our worship also seeks to sound the note of celebration. The gospel is good news. Joy ought to be evident in our celebration of God and of His Son. Moribund, slow, and funereal worship does not honor God.
10. Transcendence: More than anything else, God must be exalted. We, therefore, want the form and content of our worship services to serve that end and communicate something of that transcendence. This means, among other things, that we strive to ensure that our music is beautiful. We try to work hard at the aesthetics but always in the service of the sung praise of the whole people of God.
1. (Terry Johnson, Leading in Worship, The Covenant Foundation, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, 1996, p. 15)