philosophy

7 Tips for Writing a Philosophy of Worship

Whether it’s an intricately written document providing guiding principles and goals or it’s a “shotgun” approach of firing off new ideas and hoping you hit the target, every pastor has a ministry philosophy. The same is true for worship ministry. Too often, a culturally-shaped methodology informs our philosophy of worship. Over time, this chips away at theology, and we can find ourselves falling into pragmatism or even unorthodoxy. Instead, what we believe about God must always sculpt our philosophy which then informs our practice. Does doctrine determine what you do?

Have you considered writing a philosophy of worship ministry to use as a guide and check for crafting Christ-centered worship services? Though the task might seem daunting, a written philosophy can prove vital to maintaining integrity in ministry and casting a vision for worship in the congregation. Here are seven tips for writing a philosophy of worship ministry for the local church.

  1. Keep it Trinitarian: If worship is to be Trinitarian in nature, then our definitions of worship should be. Look to Paul’s doxology in Ephesians 1 as a model where he echoes over and over “to the praise of his glory” while describing the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We worship the triune God, and worship that neglects any of the persons is simply unchristian.
  2. Keep it biblical: Let the Word determine your belief and practice. A powerful philosophy of worship oozes Scripture from every pore. If we desire our people to be rooted in the Bible, then our ministries must be as well. Build your ministry upon the Rock of Ages (Matt 7:24-27).
  3. Keep it focused: Avoid tangents or words that might open yourself up to speculation or question. Make every phrase crystal clear. Determine from the outset what the most important aspects of worship ministry are in your local church and stick to them. The old communication adage goes “Say what you’re going to say. Say it. Tell them what you said.” The same is true for writing a concise, focused philosophy of ministry.
  4. Keep it timeless: Avoid common buzzwords that float around in the blogosphere. Write timelessly that your philosophy will endure and be as relevant in 50 years as it is today. Words like “energy” and “experience” will fade from vernacular, but biblical words like “truth” and “gospel” will stand forever (Isa 40:7-8).
  5. Keep it simple: Though you might have a seminary education, most of your congregation will not. Use words that they know and can latch on to. Use these words in your conversations with your bands and choirs and from the platform. They might not know what “hypostatic union” means, but they do know Jesus was “fully God and fully man.” Ministry is about the people, so your philosophy should serve them.
  6. Keep it practical: How does the philosophy you write actively spell out in your local church? Rooting ourselves in the Gospel truth of the Word is paramount, but with faith comes obedience (James 2:14-19). All theology is ultimately practical because it tells us not only who God is but also how to worship and love him. Does your worship philosophy do the same? 
  7. Keep it short: Limit yourself to a two-page document. This is plenty of space to provide short, to-the-point principles. Learn to condense your writing. Make every sentence count and maximize your impact by using specific, detailed wording. Never say in two sentences what you can say in one. Would your philosophy easily fit on your church’s webpage? Could someone interested in visiting your church learn your stance on worship without reading a novel or sending a clarifying e-mail?

So, what about you? Have you thought through your approach to ministry? Do you have a theology of worship guiding the songs you choose, the instrumentation you implement, or the services you craft? Spend some time sitting down and crafting a philosophy for worship ministry informed by and rooted in the Word. Your ministry and people will no doubt benefit from it. You can find a couple of sample philosophies of worship on our website here and here which might help guide your thoughts. We’d also love to hear from you, so feel free to share your philosophy of ministry with us over on the Contact page.

May the Word shape and guide your worship ministry.


Austin Collins serves as the research assistant at the Institute for Biblical Worship. He and his wife Liz currently lead worship at Harrison Hills Baptist Church in Lanesville, IN, while he pursues his Master of Divinity in Worship Leadership at Southern Seminary.

A Sample Vision for Worship and the Creative Arts

Worship and Creative Arts Ministry

Christian worship is both the corporate and private response of a redeemed people to the revelation of the triune God found in the Word, to the glory of the Father, by the mediation of Jesus Christ the Son and his atoning work, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The church gathers each week united in the Holy Spirit to glorify God the Father through the blood of Christ poured out on Calvary. The gospel shapes corporate worship practice by providing the Christ-centered foundation by which men and women worship God in Spirit and truth for his glory and for their own edification through biblical, congregational elements. The worship pastor’s task, then, is to help provide a renewed glimpse of the gospel each week through biblical and artistically creative means.

Worship should be gospel-shaped, theologically enriching, congregationally driven, missionally focused, and centered on the Word, ultimately uniting believers with Christ and one another in Spirit and truth (John 4:23-24).

Gospel-Shaped Worship

Union with Christ in Spirit results from an authentic encounter with the triune God as the Holy Spirit guides worship of the Father through Christ. Worshipers seeking to engage with God must understand this Trinitarian source, therefore worship must paint a full picture of God, not neglecting any of the persons. Through worshiping Jesus, believers “who [are] joined to the Lord becom[e] one spirit with him” (1 Cor 6:17; cf. John 37b-39a; Rom 6:5). Participating in gospel-shaped worship is one of the primary ways in which believers unify their spirits with Christ. Re-presenting the gospel story of Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Consummation each week reminds Christians that “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness … so that through them [we] may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire” (2 Pet 1:3-4). Our spiritual union with Christ through the workings of the Holy Spirit to the glory of the Father leads believers into worship.

Believers are not only unified with Christ through worship, but also with one another since “there is one body and one Spirit – just as [we] were called to the one hope that belongs to [our] call – one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Eph 4:4-6).

Theologically-Enriching Worship

Worship must also be done in truth. Christians gather in worship to impart doctrine to one another through teaching, singing, praying, and artistic endeavors. Paul urged the church in Colossae to “let the word of Christ dwell in [them] richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in [their] hearts to God” (Col 3:16). Music and song are not just about the artistic expression of the worshiper as a response to God’s revelation but also about spiritual formation. The Word of Christ dwells richly among his people when they glorify God and edify one another through song and the arts. We disciple one another by singing the truth, and that truth is the Word of God. Through art, Christians declare truth for the glory of God. The gospel provides the firm foundation on which doctrinally rich, transformative, and fresh encounters with the one, true God take place. The eternal truth of God also connects Christians to the historical and global church.

Congregationally-Driven Worship

Christians congregating for worship are a continuation of the grand story of God’s chosen people living in the world. No Christian is isolated from the narrative of God’s redemptive plan for the world, and corporate worship is a vivid reminder of this fact. Believers of countless backgrounds, races, ethnicities, and cultures gather together to witness one another affirm the same truths and grow from participating in worship, discipling one another in the process. (Rev 7:9-10). True worship of the living God includes the redeemed from every nation and tribe.

Paul also reminds his readers that participation in worship holds utmost importance: “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them” (Rom 12:4-6a). Worship is not passive, but active. Christians should therefore employ their spiritual gifts in service to the Lord and the church body in a variety of ways (Rom 12:1-2).

Missionally-Focused Worship

One of the goals of corporate worship is to put words in the mouth of the people: battle cries, funeral dirges, victory chants, and songs for everything in between, to carry into everyday life and shape our devotion to the Lord. Through personal and corporate encounters with God, Christians are energized to proclaim and live out their faith to a lost and dying world. As Christians worship, the Word of God alone provides the transformative power for Christlikeness in the lives of God’s people. “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom 10:17).

Word-Centered Worship

The Bible not only provides a clear picture of gospel-shaped worship, but it also regulates the approach to worship. Through the Word, God mandates what must take place during corporate worship. The Bible depicts worship practice through:

  • declaration with song and voice (Ps. 96, 150; 1 Cor 14:15; Eph 5:19; Col 3:16; Titus 2:11-15)
  • praying (Acts 2:42, 4:23-31, Eph 6:18)
  • public reading of Scripture (Ezra 8:3; 1 Tim 4:13)
  • teaching and preaching (Ezra 8:8; Acts 2:42, 5:42; 2 Tim 4:2)
  • service and the giving of resources (Acts 2:44-45; 2 Cor 9:6-7; Phil 4:16)
  • baptism (Acts 2:41; Eph 4:5)
  • observance of the Lord’s Supper (Acts 2:42; 1 Cor 11:17-24)
  • exercise of spiritual disciplines (Acts 13:2-3; 1 Tim 4:7)

This regulation may appear restricting, but in reality, it allows for creativity within biblical bounds. The Lord delights in the creative nature of his people, and Christians glorify God through creative endeavors. What is crucial to this regulative principle of worship is the centrality of the Word to worship. The Word guides and shepherds man, while providing the substance of worship – the revelation of Jesus Christ. God directly reveals himself to man through the Scriptures, and so man’s understanding of who God is and the redemptive work of Christ comes from the text. God’s revelation fuels and appropriates man’s response. The Bible gives us glimpses into the lives of those who had direct encounters with God (Ex 33:17-23; 2 Chr 5-7; Isa 6, Acts 4:42-47; Rev 4:8-11) and lets us see how people in the Scriptures responded to God’s revelation in various scenarios. The responses always take the form of the elements listed above. The Scriptures, then, provide the guiding principles for worship.

The Word made flesh, Jesus Christ – eternally begotten of the Father and giver of the Holy Spirit – is the source, mediator, and object of our worship, now and forevermore. “For his steadfast love endures forever and his faithfulness to all generations” (Psalm 100:5). May we, his redeemed people, worship him now both in Spirit and truth by the power of the gospel!


Austin Collins serves as the research assistant at the Institute for Biblical Worship. He and his wife Liz currently lead worship at Harrison Hills Baptist Church in Lanesville, IN, while he pursues his Master of Divinity in Worship Leadership at Southern Seminary.

A Philosophy of Worship

Oh sing to the LORD a new song;
     sing to the LORD, all the earth!
Sing to the LORD, bless his name;
     tell of his salvation from day to day.

(Psalm 96:1-2 ESV)

It is important to remember that worship is more than what we do while in the church building, it is something we do all the time. We can worship our job, our families, a sports team, or even the ministry itself. The Pharisees were some of the most passionate worshipers in the Bible. The problem was that they were not focused on authentic worship of God, but had become worshipers of the Law instead. They had lost focus of what or Who was really the center of their praise.

Who worships?
Everyone is a worshiper. We can either choose to worship the true God of the universe or something He created. We are born worshiping and we naturally spend our time and money on what we ascribe worth to. We sometimes think that only “religious” people worship something, but that is not the case. As Harold Best says, we are beings created worshiping. We naturally gravitate towards what we value and we ascribe worth to those things, whether it is God or something else.

Why worship?
Worship is the rhythm of God’s revelation and our response to it. We are unable to conjure up worship on our own; we worship because God has made us worshippers. He has graciously made Himself known to us and He has given us the ability to respond in worship to that revelation. God is the only being in existence that is worthy of all our worship. He is worthy of much more than what we can do in worship. In fact, He deserves infinitely more worship than what we are capable of. We do not worship because we are forced to do it or that we do it in order to gain his approval, rather, we worship him because he has already approved of us by applying Christ’s righteousness to the elect.

How do we worship?
We worship through the reading of the Word, the preaching of the Word, the singing of the Word, the praying of the Word, the memorization of the Word, giving cheerfully to the Lord, and through communion and baptism. Although the aforementioned are the most tangible ways in which we worship corporately, we are instructed to respond in worship in all that we do, think, and say. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:16-17 ESV)

What should worship look like?
Whether intentional or not, a common worship practice among many evangelical churches is to utilize vocalists on stage as the primary focus of a worship service. The singers, though, should not be the focus, nor should the band, orchestra, choir, or preacher. The primary objective of those who facilitate corporate worship should be to point congregants to Christ. If the leaders do anything to point to themselves, the foundational principle of corporate engagement with God is thwarted.

Worship is not about the style of music, the instrumentation, the clothes worn on stage, the equipment one owns, the mere ability of the musicians, or the delivery of the preacher. Worship is a matter of the heart, and God sees the authenticity of one’s heart in worship. This authentic heart of worship should therefore be what we seek to work on more than anything as we prepare to point others toward worshipping God. Ironically, big churches can find themselves causing more distractions because of the vast amount of resources they are capable of providing. At times, things put in place to aid people in worship can be the very things that cause distractions. Fancy displays, videos, and equipment can put people in awe of “stuff” instead of the “stuff maker.”

Ministry Leaders
Church and ministry leaders must make it a top priority to carefully and prayerfully craft worship orders as they lead others in corporate worship. In John 21, Jesus repeatedly asks of Simon Peter to feed his sheep. Those of us in ministry should recognize the same calling on our lives. It is our responsibility to lead the people of God in a Biblical way towards Christ-likeness. The most effective way to lead others in this way is to continually refine our own personal holiness. To properly feed Jesus’ sheep, it is essential to feed ourselves in such a way that reflects the character of God in our lives, both publicly and privately.


Scott Cornish serves as the Instrumental Associate & the Director of the Performing Arts Academy at First Baptist Church in Arnold, MO.  He is also a recent graduate of Southern Seminary with an M.A. in Worship Leadership.