Pentecostal “Praise and Worship”: A Radical Departure from Historic Worship

Pentecostal “Praise and Worship”: A Radical Departure from Historic Worship

Biblically and historically, a worship service is where God’s people respond corporately to what God has revealed about Himself. Yes, this response ought to be heartfelt, sincere, meaningful and unfeigned. In charismatic worship theology, one is not so much in pursuit of a response, as one is in pursuit of an experience: an experience of the presence of God that is intense, sensorily tangible, and emotionally or physically ecstatic. 

Christian worship has often had a remarkably similar shape across traditions. Bryan Chapell showed in his work Christ-Centered Worship that corporate worship (sans communion) in Roman, Lutheran, Reformed and Evangelical traditions had a very similar form: a Call to worship, a Kyrie or Confession, followed by Thanksgiving, an Old Testament reading, a New Testament reading, a prayer for Illumination, a Sermon, followed by a Benediction or dismissal, with hymns or psalms interspersed. Communion services also followed a similar pattern: An Invitation, Preparatory hymn, a Consecration of elements, an Exhortation of preparation, the Words of Institution, Breaking of bread, Communion, a psalm or hymn, thanksgiving prayer and Benediction.

Friends and proponents of Pentecostal worship often do not realise how radically different charismatic worship is from this historic pattern. Pentecostal authors have written that praise is a kind of ‘path’ into the presence of God. That is, worship is not a series of gracious revelations from God’s Word with faith-responses from His people. Worship becomes a series of steps or stages, growing in intimacy and intensity. Charismatic worship writers speak of the importance of “flow”: a technique of uninterrupted, continual music, designed to emotionally transport the worshippers into the climactic experience of “worship”, which they deem to be more intense and focused than “praise”.

Charismatic theologians do not base this on any Old or New Testament narratives of worship, such as Exodus 19-24 or Isaiah 6. Instead, an entirely new model of worship, known as the “Tabernacle Model” or “Five Phase Model” is used, using fragments of phrases from the Psalms. First, there is Invitation, “songs of personal testimony in the camp”. This is followed by Engagement, “through the gates with thanksgiving”. Third comes Exaltation, “into His courts with praise”. Fourth is Adoration, “solemn worship inside the Holy Place”. Finally, there is Intimacy, “in the Holy of Holies”. Of course, this is a technique in search of a text, not any serious attempt to mimic biblical forms. Nothing that Israel did in corporate worship even vaguely corresponds to the pursuit of a heightening climactic worship.

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