The Impact of Gospel Content on the Shape of Corporate Worship in Select Baptist Churches in North America circa 1650-1910
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Public worship--North America--History.
Public worship--United States--History.
Recent trends in Baptist worship have revealed an interest in Liturgical forms and some movement toward more thoughtful worship content and order in what has historically been a free church worship tradition. The fields of liturgical theology and liturgical anthropology have produced research that indicates that there is validity to this interest and that the order of worship elements can be instructive as is the content of worship. When both are oriented around the gospel's shape and truth (e.g., the gospel of the glory of Christ), the worshiper is pointed to Christ who is the object of faith and the facilitator of spiritual formation through the Holy Spirit. The result is a worshiper who becomes like the one he holds in view in worship. This survey of representative churches in North American Baptist history (ca. 1650-1910) reveals that there has always been some evidence regarding the gospel's presence in Baptist worship. This has not always been due to deliberate thought and planning, but because the gospel controls its forms. Where a church has held the gospel, its worship has reflected that conviction. Where the gospel has been lost, worship is at least reflective of that, if not partially the precipitator. These churches reflect varying degrees of gospel-content and form. The historical trend demonstrates that overall, Baptists have held the gospel, often in the face of stiff opposition. This grip on grace has been reflected consistently in their worship and likely is at least one of the reasons that they have continued to grow. Their growth is at least partially, in direct correlation to their worshiping in light of the cross. They have not just sung of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, but they have engaged it in corporate worship and reflected the effects of this encounter with Christlikeness in their daily lives of worship.