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.