Thoughts on Worship

I’ve been spending a bit more time this week thinking about why we worship the way we do; why do we sing what we sing, and does what we do in worship (singing, praying, reading, preaching, listening) truly bring glory and honor to God?  Who is the audience of our worship, God or man?  I know it ought to be God, but often it seems that I preach or plan worship for the approval of those in the congregation, rather than hearing the affirmation of the Lord saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

 I haven’t had a lot of time to write today, so I thought I’d leave you with some excerpts from D.A. Carson’s essay entitled “Worship Under the Word,” which is part of the excellent book, Worship By the Book.  Keep in mind, these are highlights, and I’ve left out a lot of the supporting arguments, but I think you’ll get a sense of the point that Carson is making about how we go about our worship together.

We worship our Creator-God “precisely because he is worthy, delightfully so.” What ought to make worship delightful to us is not, in the first instance, its novelty or its aesthetic beauty, but its object: God himself is delightfully wonderful, and we learn to delight in him.

In an age increasingly suspicious of (linear) thought, there is much more respect for the “feeling” of things – whether a film or a church service.  It is disturbingly easy to plot surveys of people, especially young people, drifting from a church of excellent preaching and teaching to one with excellent music because, it is alleged, there is better “worship” there.

Some think that corporate worship is good because it is lively where it had been dull. But it may also be shallow where it is lively, leaving people dissatisfied and restless in a few months’ time. Sheep lie down where they are well fed; they are more likely to be restless when they are hungry. If you wish to deepen the worship of the people of God, above all deepen their grasp of his ineffable majesty in his person and in all his works.

For worship, properly understood, shapes who we are. We become like whatever is our god.

It is a fundamental truth of Scripture that we become like whatever or whomever we worhsip. When Israel worshipped the gods of the nations, she became like the nations – bloodthirsty, oppressive, full of deciet and violence.

Pray then for a massive display of the glory and character and attributes of God. We do not expect the garage mechanic to expatiate on the wonders of tools; we expect him to fix the car. He must know how to use his tools, but he must not lost sight of the goal. So we dare not focus on the mechanics of corporate worship and lose sight of the goal. We focus on God himself, and thus we become more godly and learn to worship – and collaterally we learn to edify one another, forbear with one another, challenge one another.

Of course, the glories of God may be set forth in sermon, song, prayer, or testimony. What is clear is that if you try to enhance “worship” simply by livening the tempo or updating the beat, you may not be enhancing worship at all. On the other hand, dry-as-dust sermons loaded with clichés and devoid of the presence of the living God mediated by the Word to little to enhance worship either.

What we must strive for is growing knowledge of God and delight in him – not delight in worship per se, but delight in God.

Excerpts from: Carson, D.A. editor Worship by the Book (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI. 2002) pages 30-34.


Reaching the Unchurched

For the readers of this blog who are also members of Lennox Ebenezer Presbyterian Church, know that your Elders are deeply committed to leading the congregation in becoming more outreach oriented. While our congregation has a strong history of mission involvement and support around the world, often the hardest mission field is in our own back yard.  We’ll send missionaries around the world to bring the Gospel to the lost, but we struggle to share that same Good News with our neighbors. Your Elders have been praying for God’s grace to bring renewal and revival to our community, and searching for opportunities to get invovled “outside the four walls of the Church,” so that we may reach the unchurch with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Along those lines, I read the following on the PCA’s Mission to North America website on Church Renewal that I thought interesting and helpful.  I’d encourage you to check out the other articles and resources by clicking here.  Will you join your Elders in praying for and engaging in evangelism?  And for those readers who are not members of Lennox Ebenezer, please pray for your Church’s leadership and encourage them in outreach ministry!

Becoming An Evangelistic Church

Most churches that are committed to being or becoming an evangelistic church, who want to reach the lost with the gospel, normally start to think of training in personal evangelism or even various strategies for attracting the lost to church or getting the gospel to the lost. But before those things are pursued there are some very obvious, “simple” things that a church can and should do first as it seeks to become more outward faced and effective in evangelism. These things do not require lots of money or great or extraordinary levels of commitment. All these things take is a fundamental commitment to be a church that strives to “seek and save that which is lost”. Some of these are:

  1. Mobilize to pray. Pray for the vitality of the church, for the community itself, for a specific list of lost people supplied by the members (family, co-workers, neighbors, etc.). This prayer can take place in small groups, in a monthly or weekly prayer gathering with for this particular purpose, in a Sunday School class, and by individuals.
  2. Build into the pastor’s job description and schedule 5-10 hours a week to spend with non-Christians and visitors to the church including networking in the community.
  3. Become visitor friendly. Things such as adequate signage, a warm and helpful greeting, a clean and orderly nursery, and a simple but attractive facility will go along way in opening doors for the gospel. Without them many visitors simple don’t return and the opportunities are lost.
  4. Preach in such a way that Christians will invite their unsaved, unchurched friends and associates.
  5. Serve your community. Identify and find ways for your congregation to be active in the community addressing real and tangible needs. People are often much more receptive to the gospel once they see your concern, your care for them as individuals and as a community. Encourage your congregation to be active members of the community, serving on boards, participating in the schools, taking advantage of park district activities, etc.

Once these pre-requisites are taking place in the life of the church any training that the church members receive will be much more enthusiastically embraced and will be all the more effective since many doors of opportunity will normally be generated and the congregation will have much more of an outreach mindset.

Some resources that can be considered for training/equipping the congregation include:

  1. “Building Bridges, Tearing Down Walls” by Jerram Barrs (available through Covenant Seminary).
  2. “3-D Evangelism” by Randy Pope (available through Perimeter Church, Atlanta).
  3. “Christianity Explored” by Rico Tice.
  4. “Evangelism Explosion” (still an excellent tool).
  5. “Breakout Churches” and “The Unchurched Next Door” by Thom Rainer (+ “Surprising Insights From the Unchurched”).