Expediency and Worship — Chase Green

The task at hand is to comment at to the nature of expediency as pertaining to worship. Perhaps the best course would be to first define the terms “expediency” and “worship.”

Defining expediency.  The term “expediency” is a derivative of the Latin word expedire and originally meant “freeing the feet; put in order” (Oxford Dictionary Online). The term now has come to mean “the quality or state of being suited to the end in view,” “adherence to expedient means and methods,” and “a means of achieving a particular end” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online). In short, the idea of expediency is a way of carrying out a goal or practice, with special attention given to concepts such as efficiency, practicality, and advantage. Thus, a particular method of carrying out a specific action that is not efficient, practical, or advantageous would not be characterized as very expedient.    

Defining worship.  The word “worship” is found one hundred eight times in the King James Version of the Bible. The most frequent Hebrew word used for worship in the Old Testament is shâchâh, which means to “prostrate (especially reflexively in homage to royalty or God): – bow (self) down, crouch, fall down (flat), humbly beseech, do (make) obeisance, do reverence, make to stoop, worship” (Strong’s Concordance). The most common Greek word used for worship in the New Testament is proskuneō, which means to “prostrate oneself in homage (do reverence to, adore): – worship” and can even carry the connotation of “a dog licking his master’s hand” (ibid). The idea, then, is loving one’s master so much that he can’t help but bow himself before his master in humble and reverential obeisance and submission to his master’s will. Within Christianity, the Master (the One to be worshipped) is God, Who is to be worshipped exclusively (Matt. 4:10) as well as in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). 

Expediency in worship.  Within the pages of Scripture, specifically within the New Testament, Christians are instructed to worship God in the following ways: singing praises to God (1 Cor. 14:15; Eph. 5:19, Col. 3:16), praying to the Father (Matt. 6:9, 1 Thess. 5:17), giving cheerfully a portion of our material earnings back to God for the work of the church on the first day of the week (1 Cor. 16:1-2; 2 Cor. 9:7), partaking of the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week (Matt. 26:26-29; Acts 20:7), and engaging in the proclamation of the Word of God (Mark 16:15; Acts 20:7; 2 Tim. 4:2). Christians engage in these five items of worship because these are the things that Christ’s apostles instructed Christians to do, the very same things that Christ had previously instructed the apostles to observe (Matt 28:20; Acts 2:42). Notice that for each item, book-chapter-and-verse Scripture references are given.

But what about the means that Christians use to accomplish these five items of worship? This is where expediency comes in. Our authorized examples in the New Testament clearly show that Christians must in worship to God 1) sing, 2) pray, 3) give of their means, 4) observe the Lord’s Supper, and 5) engage in the proclaiming of God’s Word (either through the actual proclaiming, such as a preacher would do, or in the listening to it in the assembly). But within those five commands, there is much liberty in the realm of expediency regarding carrying out those commands. Going back to the Latin definition for expedire, there is liberty to “put in order” the things necessary to carry out the commands to sing, pray, give, partake of communion, and engage in preaching the Word.

For example, regarding preaching, the setting for such is within the realm of expediency. The vast majority of congregations known to the readers of this publication (in America at least) have decided that the most expedient setting for accomplishing preaching (as well as the other five items of worship, for that matter) is in the setting of a church building. Church buildings are expedient places to get out of the weather, to gather within a reasonable traveling distance for the congregation’s membership, and to establish a sense of being well-known within a congregation’s community. However, other expedient options might include worshipping in homes (1 Cor. 16:19; Phile.. 2), worshipping in a rented facility such as a schoolhouse or a warehouse, or even in an open-air place such as a public square (Acts 17:22). The command is to engage in the preaching of the Word; the expedient is the place or setting.

Another expedient regarding preaching would be one’s style or manner of preaching the Word. The Gospel preacher is duty-bound to proclaim the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27), which consists of reproof (conviction), rebuking (correction of wrongdoers), and exhortation (encouragement) (2 Tim. 4:2). But the way in which a minister accomplishes those actions may differ. For instance, he may preach a sermon consisting of 1) questions and answers, 2) reading an article and then commenting (with Scripture) on the article’s content, 3) topical thoughts from many passages of Scripture, 4) expository thoughts that focus primarily on just one passage of Scripture, 5) summarizing the message of the entire Bible, etc.

Further, some ministers are more outgoing and lively in their presentation of the gospel, while others are more even-keeled. The command, again, is to engage in the preaching of the Word; the expedient is the style or manner of preaching. 

Space forbids commenting on the other four acts of worship, but just remember that the commands are to 1) sing, 2) pray, 3) give, 4) partake of communion, and 5) engage in preaching. Those things must be done, and must be done exactly according to the Lord’s specifications and without neglect.  However, the means of accomplishing these items (provided they do not go against clear biblical example or teaching) are left up to Christians expediently carrying them out.

 

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