The Dignity of Worship

I shared with you before that I have been reading a wonderful book by David Wells entitled God in the Whirlwind. I am thankful that I have the privilege to share with you some of the rich nuggets I find in this and other books. Wells has a chapter in this book entitled “Come, Let Us Bow Down”. It is about our worship. I will share excerpts of this but I recommend the book to you. In this chapter he talks about the growing Biblical illiteracy in our churches meaning that the content has often become highly eroded. Doctrine has largely been replaced by self-focused interests. Today’s worshiper does not have necessarily a deep knowledge of God but is more interested in the form of worship. This boils down largely to music.

Many who come to the worship service feel that they cannot worship adequately if they dislike the music, its style, its beat, or the instruments that are being used. This may not be because they have thought carefully about what kind of music is appropriate to worship. It may simply be a matter of personal taste.

Wells says: “Somewhere along the line of musical styles taste for most people has settled down. That line goes from Patti Page, to Frank Sinatra, to the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd to the Grateful Dead, to Pink, to Jazz, Blues and Bluegrass to Mozart, Chopin and Beethoven. Somewhere along this line taste comes down. He says that for many this is reinforced daily by hours of listening. Our ability to hear music, to hear exactly the type of music we want to hear, is unprecedented because taste has thus been reinforced, and because our listening becomes habitual, our preferences become fixed, immovable, and invincible. Whatever taste has come down along this line is where we are comfortable. This, or something like it, is what we want to hear in worship on Sunday.” The problem is we come down at different places.

Worship has become more me-focused than God-focused. The minister preaching in a Geneva gown has been replaced by a T-shirt and tattered blue jeans. The pulpit has been replaced  by one that is either Plexiglas, a music stand or no pulpit it at all. The message has become less of “Thus says the Lord” and more therapeutic for people who want to know how to cope in a “make me feel good, entertainment world”.

The church needs to find once again its purpose and its mission. Why do we exist? To preach the whole counsel of God. We exist to celebrate, declare and live out the truths of the Gospel in a genuinely counter-cultural way.

Wells says: “The arguments about whether or not we should toss out the pews, abandon the pulpit, bring in the drums, or offer coffee, important though they are, are not as important as why people are in church in the first place”.

Let me give you one more quote from Wells on worship: “We falsely imagine that to be successful as a church we must be more consumer friendly, not just in our manner but in the substance of the faith. From Biblical sermons we have therefore moved to inspirational, how-to-do-it, therapeutically-driven talks. Are we then surprised that Biblical illiteracy, by every measure is sky rocketing in the evangelical church, and the knowledge of God, of His character and works, is plummeting”?

As a pastor of almost 40 years, I always believed in the dignity of worship. I do not believe that we should seek to imitate the world in our worship nor do I think that we should remain inflexible just for the sake of tradition. Worship as you know is to be Christ focused and Bible centered. I do not care if a hymn was written 500 years ago or five minutes ago, as long as God is glorified. I do not care if we use a piano, organ, guitar, or bass drums, if those instruments will enhance our worship of God. The issue for me is, and always has been, God-centered worship. If people visit us and leave because they do not like the music or do not like the preaching, that tells me that their heart is in the wrong place. The modern trends of worship today may be gone in ten years. Where then will many of those worshipers be?

I’ll end with this. In 2 Timothy 2: “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all long suffering and teaching”.