In 2003, Robert D. Pace was interviewed by the Evangel magazine, the Official Publication of the Church of God, Cleveland, Tennessee. Pace, founder of PulpitToday.org, provided answers to the following questions from the Editor-in-Chief of the Evangel Magazine.
Evangel: When you lead a worship service what are your expectations?
Pace: The expectations of a worship service often differ from God’s perspective and man’s perspective. Men often enter a worship service with the attitude, What’s in it for me? How can I be blessed? While worship does bless worshipers (this is why Christ invested His church with the gifts of the Spirit) its chief design is to glorify God. In public life there’s always a purpose for every organized crowd. The crowds at theatres and ballparks gather to satisfy their need of being entertained. Protesters gather and scream to vent their anger of political policy. But when God calls for corporate worship He’s asking believers to offer a demonstrable witness of His worthiness in the earth. As corporate worship focuses on God’s greatness and exalts His Name worshipers can always expect God to reciprocate with His presence and power.
Evangel: How do you gauge the effectiveness of a worship service?
Pace: The Hebrew words describing worship identify the experience with bowing, kneeling, lying prostrate, and kissing. Each of these elements has a common denominator: they are deliberate acts of reverence. That means true worship is something that’s done intentionally not accidentally. In a superficial sense, for only God can judge man’s heart, the service has been effective as believers have purposed to glorify Jesus Christ. When believers, mustering their “heart, soul, and strength,” (Mark 12:30) deliberately ascribe worth to Christ through prayer, praise, preaching, tithing, communion, baptism, or Scripture reading it’s something that’s done purposely and it’s a successful worship experience. I’ve never known anyone to accidentally get baptized, pay tithes, or partake of communion. They may have done these things insincerely but they didn’t do them accidentally. That means an effective worship service occurs, regardless of its style, when believers intentionally exalt God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ in “spirit and in truth.”
Evangel: How do you view the role of music and drama in corporate worship?
Pace: The role of music is an essential part of worship in the Old and New Testaments and even the eternal church depicted in Revelation. David assigned 4000 musicians to worship God among the Levites (1 Chronicles 23:5). These facts insist that we cannot diminish the role of music in worship. Concurrently, we must also insist that music, regardless of its style, lyrics, or presentation should both glorify Christ and allow for the continued flow of the corporate worship experience. Because God has invited all races, cultures, and tongues to worship him I believe a diverse musical expression should be allowed in churches. Generally speaking, the music of a local church best glorifies God when it flows in harmony with its culture. Then there is the role of drama, which can be defined in broad terms. It’s interesting that the New Testament apostles disregarded the Greco-Roman drama that prevailed in their day and emphasized the “foolishness of preaching.” I’m not suggesting we argue from the silence of Scripture and exclude drama from worship because it has served as a culturally relevant tool to glorify Christ and make services more meaningful. But it has no precedent in Scripture for assuming a regular or even necessary role in corporate worship like preaching or singing.
Evangel: How do you view the role of spiritual gifts and manifestations in corporate worship?
Pace: On any given Sunday a congregation is filled with people suffering emotional wounds, perplexing questions, and physical infirmities. It takes a church operating in the Spirit’s power to contravene such difficulty. And that’s why Paul called for a supernatural invasion upon the church when he commanded believers to “earnestly desire spiritual gifts” (1 Corinthians 14:1). It’s a testimony to God’s glory when the spiritual gifts operating within the church cause outsiders and unbelievers to declare that: “God is certainly among you” (1 Corinthians 14:25, NASU). We must never treat the church as a secular or natural institution. The church is supernatural in every respect! It was supernaturally birthed on the Day of Pentecost, it functions with supernatural empowerment, and it continues supernaturally with the “gates of hell” unable to overcome it! If the essential design of the church is supernatural then its expression of worship should be energized accordingly. The most seeker-friendly churches in the world are those that open the heart of Christ to their community and make His power available to hurting people.
Evangel: How does a Pentecostal worship service differ from non-Pentecostal worship services?
Pace: There exists within the construct of worship what I call fixed elements of worship and flexible elements of worship. Among the fixed elements of worship for both Pentecostals and evangelicals are the undiminished exaltation of Jesus Christ as Lord, Savior, and King; the declaration of God’s written Word as His only infallible source of truth available to man; prayer; and praise. On the other hand, there are flexible elements of worship that transcend congregational, denominational, or cultural applications and help churches avoid a stale or even legalistic approach to worship. Pentecostals consider the worship revealed in the New Testament church as the prototype for today and for Pentecostals this is not just a doctrinal persuasion it is a passionate invitation. We invite and yearn for the demonstration of spiritual gifts, “signs and wonders,” and the glory of God to manifest. And while we must never sacrifice the fixed elements of worship we must always surrender to the sovereign intrusion of the Holy Spirit to rearrange the order of worship or manifest in such a manner that reveals God’s glory and meets man’s needs.