Towards Conservative Christian Churches – 8 – Restoring Biblical Worship

Christianity is far more than salvation from sin and the knowledge of some Christian doctrine. Christianity claims to offer true worship to the only true God. Therefore, a Christianity worth conserving is a Christianity deeply concerned with the question of worship.

To conserve the gospel and the whole counsel of God and abandon the battle for biblical worship is to struggle valiantly to win the road and then surrender or flee when it comes to the destination. After all, while the gospel is the boundary of the Christian life, and the whole counsel of God is the life within that boundary, they all aim at one thing: to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. In other words, the gospel and the whole counsel of God are means towards the final end: worship. Why men will fight so hard for means, only to abandon ship when it comes to ends is an enigma. All that doctrine aims at one thing: loving God ordinately.

How can church leaders encourage this movement toward fitting, appropriate worship? To begin with, there are at least four things about worship which need to be taught repeatedly.

First, teach on the importance of worship. Whether it be in sermon series specifically devoted to the topic of worship, or whether it be a constant refrain in other sermons, pastors must make the point clear: worship is at the center of the Christian life. The gospel is a means, not an end. All of Christian doctrine is a means, not an end. What is the chief end of man? To glorify God and enjoy Him forever. At the heart of Christianity is the call to ascribe value to God (Ps 29:1-2). Those under your charge should know that there is no greater priority for the Christian than to glorify God by loving Him wholeheartedly.

Second, teach on the importance of corporate worship. While everyone agrees that Mark 12:28-29 is the greatest commandment, not everyone draws a line from that verse to corporate worship. Rather, in an individualized, sentimentalized and over-therapized culture, people immediately think of their private devotions, or “personal” relationships with God. While I strongly agree that each individual must personally seek to know God, it’s obvious that books like 1 John emphasize loving God in a far more corporate sense than we are used to. A biblical theology of worship is going to place far more emphasis on the gathered worship of God’s people than on individual encounters with God. Corporate worship ought to set the tone for private worship, not vice-versa. Just as the preached Word teaches us how to read it when alone, so public prayers and corporate song and the overall dignity of corporate worship teach how we ought to love God. Corporate worship truly is the catechism of the affections.

Third, teach on the God-centredness of worship. Worship is not a product we consume, it is an offering we give. We have come a long way from viewing worship as a sacrifice of praise, where what pleases God controls what we do. Instead, the modern discussion about worship revolves around words like style, preferences, cultural norms. While these matters deserve serious discussion, the way they dominate the discussion betrays whether our zeal is for God’s pleasure or our comfort. Pastors need to teach on the radical difference between worship and entertainment. In a culture of passive spectators, abundant distraction, Christians must hear the truth that worship is not amusement, but a serious engagement with God.

Fourth, teach on God’s prescriptiveness regarding worship. If it is true that there is worship that pleases God, and worship that does not, we can be sure that God will give us those principles in Scripture. Christian leaders should remind God’s people that God has been quite prescriptive regarding His worship and service, and has often publicly chastened those who innovated. We need to be reminded that sincerity is a panacea for all worship-ills. Good intentions do not make up for disobedience. A carefulness and watchfulness over our worship needs to return to the thinking of God’s people.

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