24 January 2014

In Spirit and in Truth

I have been away for several months. My health has improved and I feel a need to return to this forum.

Today, in a doctor's office, of all places, the subject of proper worship came up.  Here's a response to the question of "How Should We Worship a Holy God"?

There are two generally-accepted and practiced views of worship in American Evangelicalism today. Each undervalues Biblical worship.  The more austere forms of worship may emphasize the preaching of the Word, but do not glorify God with beauty. The modern “Praise and Worship” movement overemphasizes singing and emotionalism to the exclusion, at times, of meaningful interaction with the Word.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism teaches that “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” The corporate worship of the church should meet both ends of that equation. To this end Christian worship should be organized around the Word and sacraments.

Music is an important emotional
and intellectual element of the worship of the church. Equally valuable are the hymns translated from Greek and Latin, classical sacred music and contemporary hymns. Whatever music is employed should be worshipful and should help focus the worshippers on the goodness of God and the theme of the sermon.

Liturgy is a way of organizing the worship. Even those churches that deny liturgy employ it. It is merely the order of worship. It should be meaningful and thoughtful, not merely thrown together or template-based. While I am not comfortable with overly emotional expressions of worship in the context of corporate worship, I encourage responding to the movement of the Holy Spirit, especially as a response to the Word of God, read or preached.

Preaching should be Biblical. That seems self-evident, but what I mean is that it is not intended to be a weekly lesson on pop-psychology or politics. It should come directly from exegesis of the Scripture and engage the hearers. Preaching needs to touch worshippers where they live, not simply be either an intellectual exercise or an emotional presentation. I tend to preach through books, though I also preach topically at times. I find that the Holy Spirit directs the timing of the Scripture portions. By preaching through books, it is also not likely that I can skip the hard portions.

Sacraments are more than mere ritual. Baptism is the one-time initiatory rite of the church, indicating an affirmation of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord’s Supper, which should be celebrated regularly, is a spiritual participation in the body and blood of Christ (1 Corinthians 10:16). I accept the view known as “the real spiritual presence,” of Christ in the sacrament.

Corporate worship, the preaching of the Word, and the administration of the sacraments are each means of grace given to the church as gifts of God.

What do you think about worship?

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