“Spontaneous Worship” is one of the gimmicks employed by those who seek to restructure the worship. The idea is that of spontaneously bursting forth in song, prayer, or testimony. This practice is often observed in “youth meetings: and :devotionals.” Those in charge of these activities often (not always) seek to create an artificial atmosphere of mysticism and excitement by turning down the lights and asking those there to hold hands. Then an invitation is extended for any and all to participate by doing whatever they feel impelled to do: begin a song, word a prayer, or speak. The speaking is usually in the form of testifying as to how much more fulfilled and happy their lives are since they “accepted Christ.” The prayers are sometimes “chain prayers” in which all who desire are invited to participate. Spontaneous singing is not always exclusive of these special meetings, but often takes place a few minutes before the regular meetings of some congregations. One arriving prior to the announced time is shocked to discover the worship has already begun.
Authority for such worship comes not from the New Testament, but rather has its roots in the false worship of sectarian churches. New Testament churches were commanded to “Let all things be done decently and in order” (1 Cor 14:40).
The expression “in order” is from the Greek word taxis which has been defined by scholars as: “An arranging, arrangement, order (akin to tasso, to arrange, draw up in order), is used in Luke 1:8 of the fixed succession of the course of priests; of due order, in contrast to confusion in the gatherings of the local church, 1 Cor 14:40”. Spontaneous worship then is a violation of this command. While orderliness is included in the command, it
involves more. A practice may be orderly but not in order. Though the New Testament has not specified the exact sequence of the items of worship, it has specified what they are and that the services are to be by plan or arrangement. The number of songs or prayers used, whether the Lord’s Supper is observed before or after the sermon, etc., are things which may be varied from time to time and congregation to congregation, but this is not to be done haphazardly or spontaneously without plan or arrangement beforehand.
The idea of spontaneity comes from the Society of Friends (Quakers) who teach that one must wait until the Spirit moves him before speaking in their assemblies. We are told that they sometimes sit for hours before one feels that they Spirit has directed him to speak. This practice may also be derived from the Pentecostals who teach the direct operation of the Holy Spirit, modern day revelations, and speaking in tongues. Testimonial services come from Calvinism, which requires an “experience of grace” before one is admitted to membership in churches practicing this doctrine. While they speak of “testifying for Christ,” they are in reality testifying concerning themselves. The testimony of the apostles and inspired men of the first century is recorded for us in the New Testament. They were eyewitnesses of His resurrection and gave ample testimony of His Divinity. The idea of mysticism and excitement created by such things as turning down lights, etc., comes from spiritualism and the occult religions.
I believe that true New Testament worship has been restored, and any effort to modify will only result in perverting it and making it vain. There are those who accuse us of ritualism and traditionalism and attempt to cure this situation by adding the rituals and traditions of men. I plead guilty of practicing only those rites authorized in the New Testament and holding fast to the tradition of the apostles. Worship in churches of Christ can be improved and made more spiritual by improving the worshiper and not by modifying the worship.
There are many things in life
That we cannot understand,
But we must trust God’s judgment
And be guided by His hand.
The Lord is a stronghold to him whose way is upright.