What qualities should a public worship service evidence? What ought to be its essential characteristics? With the principles in mind that we have already articulated, let us consider a non-exhaustive list of qualities that we aspire to in biblically-informed and directed congregational services of worship. In biblical public worship, the congregation will offer Scriptural, simple, Spiritual, God-centered, historic, reverent and joyful, mediated, corporate, evangelistic, delightful, active and passive, Lord’s Day worship to the living and true triune God.
We want our worship to be biblical, that is, ordered by God’s own Word. One of the distinctives of Presbyterian Worship is that it aims to be completely guided by Scripture. It is, in fact, worship that is according to Scripture. This is what came to be known in the 19th century as “the Regulative Principle.” This approach to how we worship is aptly summarized in the Westminster Confession of Faith 21.1: “The light of nature shows that there is a God, who has lordship and sovereignty over all, is good, and does good to all, and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all the might. But the acceptable way of worshiping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshiped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the holy Scripture.”
Since our worship is for God, our first question is not, “What do we want to do?” or even “What would others like to do?” but “What does God want us to do?” For direction we look to the Bible where God directs by command or approved example how to worship Him. In the Bible we find God accepting these acts of worship: Singing, praying, reading the Bible, preaching, celebrating sacraments, giving offerings, confessing the faith, and making holy vows.
We want to assure that our corporate worship is Bible-filled and Bible-directed, that the substance and structure are biblical, that the content and order are biblical. To put it slightly differently, we want to worship “by the book” in two ways: so that both the marrow and means of worship are according to Scripture. We want the form and substance of corporate worship to be suffused with Scripture and scriptural theology.