Joseph Franks lists questions that have hounded him throughout eighteen years of ministry:
Does God care about theater seats, stackable chairs, or pews?
What is God’s preference in regards to instrumentation? Are the the organ or piano more excellent and preferable than the guitar and drum?
What about the songs people sing? Are uninspired older songs that we call hymns more holy than uninspired new songs that someday might be called hymns? Some would have us only sing psalms.
Are women and men who sing from the choir loft more preferable to God than men and women who sing from the stage? In God’s eyes, is a choir more sacred than a praise team?
What sort of bowing, kneeling, hand-raising, clapping, and bouncing is allowable in the presence of God? Exactly when does responding with tears or dance become too emotional?
How ought water be applied to worshiping folk? This is an especially problematic question when sprinkling, pouring, and dunking can be found throughout the pages of sacred scripture.
Should believers be concerned over the amount of fermentation found in the fruit of the vine or leaven found in the bread?
Where would one go in Scripture to find the discussion of how the communion elements must be properly covered?
Are all good sermons delivered in the same manner? Does God prefer robed men, suited men, or less formal men? Does God love the wooden pulpit? Does plexiglass really prove the compromising minister? Should the faithful church disapprove of the man delivering his sermon from a seated position?
What would we say to Jesus who often sat while those who listened stood?
Why can some appreciate air-conditioning technology, lighting technology, audio technology, but then look at visual technology as a step down the slippery slope of sin?
Before the worship of God, ought men and women come together in quiet, meditative, somber silence, or should the worship service of God be preceded by festive communion between worshiping friends?
Ought generous New-Covenant worshipers to make a big deal of the percentage and the plate in financial giving?
Who was it in the Presbyterian tradition that declared a young man could be licensed to preach, deliver his sermon, but then not be able to declare the benediction from Jesus to those who just received his message?
Must the pulpit be centrally located in order for the Word of God to be rightly honored?
Such a list might imply that those who ask such questions are trivializing worship. But Franks insists that’s not his purpose:
I am not saying that anything goes; my Bible is full of stories of good-hearted individuals who are judged or disciplined due to their failure to take God’s commands seriously. I would just merely ask them to not confuse the “Traditions of Man” with the “Doctrines of God.” I am not even asking them to let go of their traditions. Some love the worship style passed down from Jerusalem, to Rome, to Geneva, to Scotland, to Westminster Abby, and to our Scots-Irish fathers in the South. But again, allow them to prefer and pass along their traditions without pretending they come from the sacred text.
The missing category here it seems is wisdom. Lots of the answers to these questions are “it depends.” If you are a church plant meeting in a theater, deciding whether to use theater seats is a no-brainer. And if you are an established congregation with a pulpit centered at the front, why would you even countenance a church renovation that moved the pulpit to the side?
After eighteen years, doesn’t a pastor have answers to these questions? Even more pressing, after eighteen years haven’t you had a chance to instruct church members so they can see the difference between the elements, circumstances, and forms of worship? Or is it wise to pile up questions without answers so that believers think most aspects of worship are mere preferences. Franks writes,
Let us not throw away our ancient roots, but at the same time, let us not be bound by the extra-biblical regulations of our fathers that some well-intentioned friends present as the “Doctrine of God.”
Does that apply to heating, plumbing, and speaking in known tongues? Or might some of the aspects of church life that modern people living in the West take for granted be valuable even if not holy? I mean, Franks asks questions the way that John Frame used to about worship. That’s ironic because that defense of contemporary worship included the notion that all of life is worship (which is not from from all of life is sacred) and so the regulative principle should apply to all of life. If that’s the case, then each of the questions Franks asks have holiness and eternity written over every square inch of them. And since he is a minister of God’s word and the Bible speaks to all of life, he’s got the answers.