Lester Ruth: Beyond Style Debates (Questions to Renew All Christian Worship)

These questions seek to get at things so essential that they should apply to all Christian worship. Hopefully, they cultivate goals that go beyond personal preferences and style issues.

  • What makes Christian worship “worship”? What makes Christian worship “Christian”?
  • Is the worship richly Trinitarian?
    • Does it name the Trinity and all three Persons of the Trinity?
    • Does it direct worship toward the Trinity and all three Persons of the Trinity?
    • Does it remember the activity of the Persons among themselves, particularly in the economy of salvation?
    • Does it conceive of worship as participation within these inter-Trinitarian dynamics or activities?
    • Does the love and unity of the Trinity characterize the worshiping assembly?
  • Does your worship tell a good enough story? What’s the main story?
    • Does God get any good and strong verbs?
    • Do you pray biblically in that remembrance of an active God who is the root content of prayer (spoken and sung)?
    • Is there a balance between personal and cosmic tellings of the Gospel story?
    • Do you have enough Scripture and scriptural content to tell a full, broad, deep, and rich economy of salvation?
  • Does God ever get the first word? How long does it take to name God or Jesus?
  • Is the Incarnation and Resurrection taken seriously?
    • Does it seem like Jesus has gone on vacation, into retirement, or lost his voice in your worship service? Or does your worship seem like the ongoing ministry of the Risen Christ?
    • What did Jesus do? What does Jesus do? (WDJD?) Does he do it in your worship?
    • How do Word and sacrament work together?
    • How do Word, sacrament, fellowship, and mission in the world get intertwined?
  • Is the community ever “in Christ” when worshiping? Does Christ worship God the Father through you? Can you imagine the words of our prayers on the lips of Christ? Is the content of our prayer true to Christ’s character and the breadth of his Lordship?
  • Are you cultivating full, conscious, and active participation of all the people in worship?
  • Are your people filled with the Holy Spirit? In worship, do they talk about what the Spirit tends to talk about? Do they love?
  • Does it take seriously that visitors might actually want to help “get God worshiped”?
  • Can people see with more than the eyes of their heads? Can they discern spiritual realities?
  • Is the service principally prayer? Is it mainly addressing God? How much of the service is praying?
  • Over time, does your service include all the basic activities of worship (praise, thanksgiving, confession of sin, telling the Big Story, proclaiming the Gospel for us here and now, offering ourselves, being united to each other and God, interceding and petitioning for others, and moving people from one state to another)?
  • What image of God would your service portray over time? Is your worship true to God?
  • Originally posted February 2006

About the author

DWS 701 Professor and Research Professor of Christian Worship at Duke Divinity School.