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Developing a Trinitarian Rubric for Corporate Worship

Why is it important for a church’s worship to be Trinitarian?

Does overt Trinitarian doctrine hold an important place in the weekly worship of a Christian
congregation? For those who are in the “free church” tradition or might by weary of using such
heavy language around their members this can and is a serious question.

To answer simply, if our worship is to be Christian, then it needs to be Trinitarian. This doesn’t
mean a complicated, dogmatic presentation of systematic theology every week. What it does
encourage is a careful examination of what happens in the average Church service. As
Christians, we are part of a faith that has placed importance on understanding our God as Triune,
inside of a monotheistic belief. The careful thought process of how Jesus Christ is both human
and divine was very deliberately spelled out in the Early Church. The emphasis on the Holy
Spirit as Paraclete in the Gospel of John as our intercessor and advocate and it subsequent part
of the Montanist controversy are part of our Faith. How do we understand the Father in relation
to Jesus’ words about him and the hebrew concept of YHWH?

These can be complicated questions. Ultimately, we must worship God as Triune because that is
what he is. We have to allow that Christian worship that doesn’t worship God for who He is
might not be Christian worship.

What are the marks of worship when it is adequately Trinitarian?

It might be easy to simply make a checklist and mark off every time Father, Son or Spirit is
mentioned. While this would be a good attempt, it would be doing things completely right but
all together wrong. “Name dropping” has no Trinitarian qualities, but simply is lip service.

The marks of Trinitarian worship are best described as when the entire economy of God is
worked out in accurate ways. To do this, it means the leadership in worship (music, pastoral,
proclamation, etc) must understand the language of God and how he works in Himself. When
this is simply a part of worship, the congregation we start to understand Trinitarian theology
without ever being officially instructed in it.

What are the areas of worship that should be impacted if a church is Trinitarian?
If a church is truly Trinitarian, the worship will just be the starting point of impact. It will affect
it’s missional goals (evangelism), issues of justice, relational, and formation. Since God is
Triune, and an example of perfect, divine co-operation-the operation of the church will be
affected by this. In service, many things will be impacted; the timing of the announcements, the
call to worship, how offering is taken, what the apex of the service is, and how the congregation
is dismissed. The service will have a different goal. Instead of attempting to fit a theme or cause
a specific effect, the questions asked will be “Did we tell the story of God today”.
A few questions to ask.
Does the congregation know who the Trinity is?
Don’t assume this! A basic understanding is absent from some Church members, especially
those who might be new to faith. If you have a hard time answering this question, you might
have more work on your hands than you thought.

How is the economy of God spoken about before the service begins?
Is the pre-service filled with announcements and light conversation? A familial atmosphere is
sought in many churches, while a sense of reverence is important for others. Both of these can
be right and both sides could seek to learn from the other.

When someone comes into your facility before worship starts, could they accurately identify it as
a religious event with no explanation? Part of this is being explicit can be in images, what is on
the screens beforehand, the primary content of the bulletin, and how the church presents itself
upon entrance. Think about how this can be separated from a business meeting, conference or a
Parent-Teacher meeting (a common emotion for Churches that meet in schools).

3. When is God (and how) first in the service?

Does someone hear a basic kerygma quickly in the service? Is a quick version of the Gospel
mentioned early? When would it be possible for someone to come to transforming faith through
knowledge of what Christ has done for them?

This is part of recognizing a community steeped in and with Gods plan of redemption and
separates it from mere religious humanism.

4. Is the Trinity well-defined in the language of the service?

Does the language regarding God as Father, Son and Spirit seem generic or is it part of the
average conversation from the pulpit? Does it come out easy?

If the congregation and staff can’t easily speak about God as Triune, do they fully understand
who God is. This isn’t to knock ministers, but for us to think about are we creating a God who
meets our needs, or are we willing to be transformed with a God who is bigger that we can

5. Who is the primary actor in the congregations singing and proclamation?

When the congregation is singing and listening to the word, who is doing the primary action?
Are we speaking about ourselves in worship or about God?

Areas where the Trinity is not important?

At first, it seems that there are places that don’t need or are applicable to Trinitarian content, and
not everything needs to be heavily theological. However, we we look at our service design, we
start to understand that what we do as the Church speaks about who God is. By learning to
always understand God as Father, Son and Spirit (thinking of God as shorthand for the three
members) we look at things differently. Our God is relational, loving and holy-and must be
presented in that way.