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What is Worship? And what should a church service look like? Regulative vs. Normative Principles – Designed (sermon notes from Mark Driscoll)

May 2, 2011

What is Worship? And what should a church service look like?

I found Pastor Mark Driscoll’s sermon on the Regulative Principle in worship to be quite good. So, I decided to make a design with some of the sermon notes using some of the visual imagery he used in the sermon.

He said that the Regulative Principle in worship basically states that “Worship services must include all the elements which Scripture commands, or is a good and necessary implication of a biblical text, and nothing more.” Basically, it is the “>RED-LIGHTprinciple – saying “You CAN’T do anything the Bible doesn’t strictly command.”

On the other hand, the Normative Principle in worship states that “Worship services must include all the elements which Scripture commands, and may include others so long as they are not prohibited by Scripture.” This is basically a GREEN-LIGHT – saying “You are free and welcome to include additional things in worship so long as they are not prohibited by the Bible.”

Before getting into the Principles

Both of the aforementioned principles has its share of strengths and weaknesses, which Driscoll elaborated on with good insight and stories (and these are shown on the overhead freeway signs in the design). However, before actually tackling the principles themselves, he addressed worship in general, and made a few great points.

First, worship is both adoration and action. This can be shown from the verses in Hebrews 13:15-16 which state: “(15) Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. [That is adoration] (16) Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. [That is action]”

Secondly, worship is both gathered and scattered. Hebrews 10:24-25 states: “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another…” This is gathered worship and fellowship together. 1 Corinthians 10:31 states: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” This is scattered worship – meaning that even as we leave the church and go about our normal lives, we still worship Creator God or created things through our daily actions.

Both of these principles are depicted on the two sides of the street. And though the street does have an exit lane, this is not to indicate that these different parts of worship can be separated. They are intended to be done together – each has its place in worship. The image provided here is only to show that they are two parts of the same highway – but the highway is ultimately going in the same direction.

The Principles

The Regulative (RED-LIGHT) Principle is shown with red lights and a red circular “light” surrounding it.

The Normative (GREEN-LIGHT) Principle is shown with green lights and a green circular “light” surrounding it.

While Mark Driscoll does agree that each has its own strengths and weaknesses – some parts of each are beneficial and some parts of each can be destructive – he does admit that neither one really sums up what his church (Mars Hill in Seattle) is about, and neither one can really be the be-all-end-all in worship. He even admits that while Mars Hill technically believes in the Normative Principle in worship, their services look more like the Regulative Principle – in other words, he admits that the Christian church can enjoy great freedom in worship, but they just don’t exercise their freedom. Even though they can add non-prohibited elements (like drama or video clips) to their worship services based on the Normative Principle, they don’t exercise that freedom, but they do want to “hold on to it in case we ever need it.”

Therefore, he proposes a new principle for worship that incorporates some of the best elements of each principle and is a wonderful illustration of what worship in the life of the Christian should be all about. This third (new) principle is called the Missional Worship Principle and is depicted in the image by the yellow lights between the overlap of the green and red lights of the other two principles. (The YELLOW-LIGHTS were my idea – since he said the others were RED and GREEN, it just made sense for the middle-ground principle to be YELLOW).

The Missional Worship Principle states:

All of the Christian life is ceaseless worship of God the Father through the mediatorship of God the Son by the indwelling power of God the Spirit doing what God commands in Scripture, not doing what God forbids in Scripture, in culturally contextualized ways for the furtherance of the gospel when both gathered for adoration and scattered for action in joyous response to God’s glorious grace.

That is quite a mouthful, but I think it is a great principle to guide lives of worship for Christians. Worship is not, after all, only a thing we do on Sundays, or in church. We daily choose between worshiping Creator God, or created things – true worship, or idolatry. And while this new principle may not end hundreds of years of debate between the Normative and Regulative camps, it is a wonderful guide for those of us who fall into neither camp, and just want to live lives of ceaseless worship.

Please be sure to check out the original sermon for more great info (there is a ton in there that would never fit on a single page design).

Check out Mars Hill Church for more great downloads.

And feel free to download, print, save, or “Set as Wallpaper” the image I made based on my notes from his sermon:

3 Comments leave one →
  1. June 1, 2011 12:21 pm

    Dude – I couldn’t find your name sorry – this design is AWESOME! So is the other one on 15 Graces. I really like Driscol’s teaching. Thanks for the doing this! Hope to see more.


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