During my journey of faith, I have found myself in a wide array of Christian settings that include different types of worship and even beliefs. Through an avid study of scripture, I have recognized that not all types of Christian worship align with the Bible. However, other types of Christian worship have helped me immensely when it comes to connecting with God. Therefore, I have decided to discuss Christian types of worship in light of scripture.
What are the ways that Christians worship? Christians worship personally, privately, and collectively. Some denominations use rituals, sacred objects, symbolism, and liturgy. Other denominations are non-liturgical and take a different approach in their worship. There are various expressions of worship that can include music, dance, prayer, study, art, and serving others.
In this blog, you will find a large amount of information concerning personal and corporate worship. I am diving into the various denominational differences in worship, as well as stating simply, the overarching expressions of worship.
- Personal and Private Worship
- Public Worship
- Ritual Based Worship
- Non-liturgical Worship
- Additional Avenues of Worship
- Discerning What Worship is Biblical
Personal and Private Worship
Christianity began and was intended to form a very personal connection to God. It did not start in the way that most religions do, with distance. Instead, it focused on meeting with a God who came in humility and love and who walked in the flesh. Followers of Christ were originally accused of being atheists because of how different their belief was compared to the culture they were in.
The first believers were those who walked with Christ Himself and saw much of His life. Later, the church expanded due to the eyewitness accounts from the disciples and apostles, which began a movement.
Before Jesus’ death on the cross, He prayed for unity. John 17:20-21 depicts this when it says, “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.”
Jesus and the Father have desired unity and oneness. Jesus came to bridge the gap between man and God. Because of Jesus, Christians are able to confidently approach their Savior and God in communion. As we see in Hebrews 4:16, believers are told: “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
Therefore, a significant part of Christian faith and worship is personal. Private worship was displayed by Jesus Himself. We see various aspects of scripture that display this personal and private worship. Many, if not most, of these styles of worship, are continued today.
Prayer has been a common form of worship and connection with God for thousands of years. Within the Nation of Israel, prayer occurred often from faithful followers. Additionally, Moses consistently interceded before the Lord on behalf of the Israelites.
Jesus prayed often, which is depicted in Luke 6:12. Jesus’ close follower described Him doing the following: “In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God.” Furthermore, 1 Thessalonians 5:17 declares, “Pray without ceasing.”
Prayer has many facets and can be used for a variety of purposes. It can include adoration, worship, praise, thanksgiving, confession of sin, petition, and intercession. Jesus explained in John 14:12-14, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in Me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in My name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”
Jesus made it clear that He desires His people to pray so that He may work and glorify the Father. Worship through prayer is not merely through reverence and proclamation of God’s glory. It expands even further into what we pray for others and how we allow prayer to impact our lives to mirror the actions of Christ.
The book of Psalms speaks thoroughly on prayer and connection to God. It addresses Christian meditation which is much different than meditation from other Eastern religions. Psalm 1:1a-2 explains, “Blessed is the one… whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.”
Christian meditation focuses on the word of the Lord that is found in scripture. It is contemplation of scripture in order to memorize and apply it. Where Christian meditation varies from other practices is that the goal is not to completely clear the mind. Instead, the purpose is to fill the mind with the character, law, direction, and way of the Lord.
Meditation of this sort can worship the Lord because it leads to awareness of God’s power and glory, thus, resulting in reverence, praise, and worship. Additionally, it leads to greater levels of obedience. Individuals who memorize scripture have a faster reaction time to temptation, trials, and questions from others.
Romans 12:2 makes a command that applies to this. It states, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Moreover, 1 Peter 3:15 explains, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”
Singing and playing musical instruments to the Lord has also been an element of worship. Psalm 57:7 states, “My heart, O God, is steadfast, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music.” Personal and private worship can include singing songs of worship or playing musical instruments for worship.
Worship music can also be played from a device to lead an individual in his or her worship. Musical worship does not have to be complex or fancy. It can be simple or well-rehearsed. It can be skillful or it can be amateur. The importance of musical worship is the stance of the heart.
Although the Christian faith provides a strong personal relationship with God Himself, it does not neglect the unity of other believers. As we saw in Jesus’ prayer to the Father, His desire wasn’t merely for unity between man and God. His passionate desire stirred for fellow believers to connect with one another in the same way that He and God connected.
Hebrews 10:24-25 makes the bold statement, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
When believers gather together they worship and glorify God because they strengthen one another in the way of the Lord. Furthermore, the work of the Lord is spread faster when there are numerous believers working towards the same cause. Christians are called to bear one another’s burdens and to hold one another accountable.
Types of Public Worship
Public worship involves the gathering of a church, which is a local entity of believers. It can include prayer, scripture reading, encouragement, correction, songs, the use of spiritual gifts, and sermons. 1 Corinthians 14:26 gives evidence for this: “What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.”
Additionally, it can involve financial giving and collective works for the benefit of others. James 1:27 states, “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” The early church supported other churches, missionaries and those in need within the churches.
Ritual Based Worship
Listed above are ways of worship that we find directly in scripture. With the spread of the church came much change. Perhaps one of the largest impacts was that the church shifted from being a victim of persecution to being a vessel of power. Various governmental powers, including Constantine, connected themselves to the church to gain even more power.
They would make substantially false claims that God was the one ordaining certain things. These types of statements placed the people into a tough predicament. Through many selfish motives, the church shifted from pure believers to those with selfish desires, many of which did not even believe in God. In many denominations, the church functioned as a legal system or a political union.
This reality is not the cause of all ritualistic forms of worship, yet it has been known to influence many denominations that began in the European areas. Other causes for ritualistic worship include a new type of revelation. For example, the man who proclaimed prayer and worship to Mother Mary said that he was met by an angelic form of Mary. He claims that this being commanded him to institute this new practice.
Furthermore, rituals have entered into the church by well-meaning individuals who believe their approach is helpful to reach and follow God. The zeal of some led them to implement new tactics to help them live a more holy and sacrificial life.
Not all rituals are bad. Some can provide a helpful way to live out the Christian life. However, some rituals and religious actions and beliefs contradict scripture. Every believer should discern the rituals compared to scripture. I have chosen just a few denominations who practice ritualistic worship. This is not an exhaustive list. It does, however, include some of the more common ritualistic denominations.
The Roman Catholic Church follows a particular order of service. This type of order and tradition is held throughout the entire service, with different prompts for different times. Every Sunday, Catholics are expected to attend Mass, which focuses on the Last Supper. This attendance is recognized as an offering.
Mass includes the liturgy of the Word and the liturgy of the Eucharist. These liturgies lead the people through sorrow over sin, Bible reading, sermons, and creeds that are recited. The Church takes of consecrated bread and wine that is offered to God.
During the service and personal worship, various repetitive prayers are recited. Some include the Lord’s Prayer, Our Father, and Hail Mary. Other elements include hymns, missal, laypeople, an altar, crucifix, sanctuary lamps, statues of Mary or other saints, and the Rosary.
The Anglican Church follows a liturgy that is found in the Book of Common Prayer. This public worship takes the form of praise through preaching, Bible reading, prayer, and music. This denomination also includes a Holy Communion. These services can reflect those of the Roman Catholic Mass in their grandiose. They can also be more simple and informal.
There is a prayer book that is used throughout the service for recitation and response to the priest’s leading. Scriptures are also read together and are followed by an application for the current time. Furthermore, there is an altar, pulpit, lectern, and a lay reader. Hymns are sung, an organ and choir lead the singing, and stained glass windows depict Bible accounts. Typically, services are concluded with solemn reflection and silence.
The main service of the Orthodox Church is the Divine Liturgy. This is a time in which people take bread and wine in remembrance of the Lord’s Supper. The Proskomeida is the offering that is given as the bread and wine is prepared. Next is the Liturgy of the Catechumens which points to God through His word in the Bible. Lastly, there is the Liturgy of the Faithful which places its focus on the Eucharist.
Moreover, the Orthodox church chants, lights candles as a visible sign to God of their prayers, and burn incense. There is a divide between the icons of Jesus and saints that separates the common people from the sanctuary and the altar. Only the priests are allowed to cross this divide. Orthodox Christians pray to God through the icons. Lastly, believers offer their prayers to God through the petitioning to the saints. They believe that the saints will intercede on their behalf.
Non-liturgical worship does not include a strict order of service or events. There is no set order that is mapped out either in tradition, or a book. The service order can change and be altered at any time. Some non-liturgical denominations of worship still have a basic sequence of service, yet it is not the end-all. For example, in many denominations, the service begins with worship, greeting time, prayer, and a sermon. At times the service concludes with additional worship.
Despite this common arrangement, exceptions are often made for baptism, communion, holiday, and special services. At times, a full service is dedicated solely to musical and vocal worship. Other services have different purposes such as prayer, encouragement, guest speakers, and the sending of missionaries or those going into ministry.
The greatest difference between liturgical and non-liturgical worship is that liturgical worship has specific items, objects, requirements, and timely rotations of types of services. Non-liturgical services maintain a type of order but it is not as strict or reliant on other objects.
The Quaker denomination has perhaps one of the most anti liturgical forms of worship. Quaker services usually are in a space of stillness that is simple and plain with little or no decoration. There is not a stage or platform. Instead, the chairs are formed in either a square or a circle. At times the services are structured.
However, more often, the services are completely open to the leading of the Holy Spirit. They are based upon waiting, silence, and listening for the Lord. Meetings focus on the truth and love from God alone. Believers collectively gather to experience the Lord individually and share with one another. Inspiration from God leads each service.
Quakers are not specific to who can attend their services, they invite all. Additionally, Quakers do not have a priest or minister because they believe that all believers are equal to hearing and receiving from the spirit and presence of God. Believers are able to speak, share scripture, worship, or read aloud to deepen the worship.
The Baptist denomination can vary from one local church to another. Unlike the ritualistic denominations, there are no high authorities commanding the people on how to worship. Rather, all decisions are made by the local church and the members within it. Baptists worship through praise, worship, and prayer. Worship includes the reading of the Bible, preaching, discussion, and songs, including hymns.
Furthermore, the Lord’s Supper is celebrated each month. Baptism services are also a highlight of this denomination. Children’s ministries can include drama, dance, stories, and multimedia. There are ordained ministers within the Baptist church, yet the focus is on the Priesthood of Believers. This gives the right to all believers to interpret the Bible and minister to other individuals. The minister is simply another member of the church with different responsibilities.
Baptist services are arranged for both believers and non-believers. Within the congregation, services are used to strengthen the body. They are also open to non-believers as a means to share the gospel with those who do not have faith in Jesus Christ.
Evangelical worship is not specific to one denomination. In fact, it can include roughly 40 different denominations. The determining factor that deems a church evangelical is the belief in certain points. This includes the concept of being “born again”, baptism, and witnessing the gospel to unbelievers. Evangelicals also believe that the Bible is infallible and the Word of God.
Furthermore, Evangelicals believe firmly in the cross of Jesus Christ. Because of Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension, all who place their faith and trust within Jesus will inherit the free gift of eternal life. Services are lead by pastors and worship leaders and include music, sermons, a prayer that is either out loud or personal, and a closing blessing.
Communion is also celebrated to remember Christ’s sacrifice. The format of the service can take any form and it depends greatly on the local church. Aside from communion, there are not ritual objects or sacraments.
Additional Avenues of Worship
Within all denominations, there are various expressions of worship. All expressions of worship should be motivated from a pure heart that desires to serve and love the Lord and other people. The expression of worship isn’t as important as the lifestyle behind it. A lifestyle that lacks obedience, yet worships the Lord with the mouth is not true worship. All worship should be backed by Biblical obedience.
With that being said, worship is expressed through, gratitude, love, thanksgiving, and devotion to God. Many of this is due to the natural gifts and abilities that individuals have.
List of Expressions
Listed below are some of the various expressions of worship with a short description.
- Giving Financially – Although tithing is not a New Testament commandment, believers are called to the generosity and the care of other believers and the oppressed. Therefore, many Christians worship through giving of their finances to a local church, organization, missionary, or community members.
- Expression through Art – Artistic believers use art as a way to depict prophetic words or pictures. They also use it as an evangelism tool to reach unbelievers. Art is used during services and alongside worship leaders or preachers.
- Dance – Many believers dance during worship as an outward expression of their inward connection to God.
- Raising of Hands – Other believers raise their hands or wave them around during worship.
- Bowing – Bowing is common in worship as a sign of reverence and surrender.
- Stillness – Stillness can help some individuals focus and connect with the Lord. It also helps believers ponder the mysteries of the Lord.
- Prayer – Prayer connects believers directly to God to ask and listen for the needs of the world and themselves. It also is a way to speak to God about His holiness and grace in our lives.
- Studying Scriptures – Studying scriptures leads to a revelation that results in worship. Additionally, further obedience comes.
- Serving Others – Serving others fulfills the second commandment of loving others as one loves himself.
Find more expressions of worship in my blog, “10 Types of Worship That Don’t Include Music”. In this blog, I also explain the various motivations that lead to expressions of worship. I display what qualifies or unqualifies an act of worship. I also list 10 practical forms of worship that are easy to apply.
Discerning What Worship is Biblical
As I said earlier, not all rituals, liturgies, or expressions of worship are bad. Some can help us connect to God. Others, however, can lead believers astray. They can also confuse non-believers and hinder them from joining the faith. Therefore, it is crucial for our individual growth as well as for those around us, that we have a firm foundation in the Biblical ideals of worship.
By looking at scripture, we can get a better basis for discernment. The following scriptures and explanations are by no means an exhaustive list. However, they are a good basis for the types of Christian worship we have been discussing. My goal is that you will learn to search scripture and discern for yourself the rest of the rituals, traditions, and expressions and that you would help others to do the same.
Traditions that Take from the Gospel
Galatians 1:8-9 states that believers should not accept any new gospel or revelation, even if it comes from an angel. For this reason, we should be hesitant to believe and follow any claims that a man or woman has made about meeting with an angelic being. This is cause for concern because the revelation from the creator of the Rosary came from an angelic type being.
- Galatians 1:8-9: “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!”
Learn more about Christian prayer beads, the Rosary and Catholic tradition here.
Any type of ritual or liturgy that focuses on the works of man for salvation and blessing should be carefully considered. Scripture clearly states that salvation is not through works.
- Ephesians 2:8-9: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works so that no one can boast.”
During Jesus’ time, there was an issue of religious leaders who added many traditions that kept themselves and the people from truly connecting with God. These human traditions were not the will of God. They added unnecessary trouble to God’s people. We must be sure that our rituals and traditions do not do the same thing.
- Mark 7:8: “You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”
Equality of Believers
Furthermore, any denomination that separates believers from direct access to God should be notified. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, we do not need a man to mediate for us. We do not need a priest, pope, pastor, or ordained minister to help us reach God.
- 1 Timothy 2:5-6: “For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time.”
On the same note, there should not be a hierarchy within the church or Body of Christ. There should not be prideful leaders who believe themselves to be better than others. Believers, do not view leaders as higher than they are. Jesus and the Father are the ultimate authorities, not man. Jesus gave all people rights, values, gifts, responsibility, and authority.
- Matthew 23:8-12: “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
There are various types of Christian worship. They vary based on individuals, local churches, and circumstances. Church splits that result in addition denominations also leads to new types of worship. At times these are positive reformations. Other times, they are negative.
Additionally, expressions of worship are only as good as the heart that is behind them. Lofty expressions are worthless if they are not genuine. It is the responsibility of Christians to search their own heart concerning the types of worship they support and take part in.
Furthermore, it is the responsibility of all Christians to discern whether or not the church is following a Biblical and edifying model of worship. Scripture is always to be used to decide when a tradition should be kept or removed.
For your benefit and continued learning, I have additional resources that may benefit you on your faith journey, especially concerning worship. “Origins of Christian Worship – Biblical Viewpoints” gives a thorough overview of Christian worship. It explains why we worship as we do and how we worship. It dates all the way back to the creation of the world and continues throughout history until today.
Lastly, I recommend, “How Christians Worship: Places, Times & Types of Worship” to help you understand the complexities of Christianity. Through my own experience, research, and academic study, I have provided a simplified description. It is easy to comprehend and is beneficial, no matter how long you have been a Christian.