Entertainment and Worship

Joe Thorn: In every church and every generation of Christians, there is the potential to lose our focus on the things that are most important (Heb. 2:1). We must constantly remind ourselves and re-center our churches lest we find ourselves trusting in something other than the gospel of God and the Word of God. One of the more dangerous drifts happening in our local churches today is within our corporate worship. In many churches there is a de-emphasis on the means of grace (Scripture, prayer, and the sacraments or ordinances), and a reliance on entertainment. Some try to balance the two in the name of reaching more people with the gospel, but there is an inescapable danger in overvaluing entertainment and implementing it in corporate worship. This is not a new phenomenon. The nineteenth-century pastor Charles Spurgeon said, “The devil has seldom done a cleverer thing than hinting to the church that part of their mission is to provide entertainment for the

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Why God Demands Worship

Don Carson: I have been doing university missions off and on for about thirty-five years. About a dozen years ago, I started stumbling across a question from university undergraduates that I never received when I was a young man. This relatively recent question is put variously, but it generally runs something like this: “Amongst human beings, anyone who wants to have all of the attention and garner all the praise, anyone who wants to be the focus of everyone’s constant admiration, with everyone stroking that person and fawning all over him, would be thought of as massively egocentric. The God you are trying to push on us looks to me to be very egocentric. He keeps demanding that we praise Him all the time. For goodness sake, is He insecure? Isn’t He, at very least, morally defective? What do you say to that? The reason I never heard that sort of question in the past, I suspect, is because until fairly

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Worship is an End in Itself

Sam Storms: Worship is utterly and eternally unique in one critically important respect: unlike every other Christian responsibility or experience, worship is an end in itself. In other words, worship that glorifies God must be expressed in conscious awareness that this is the ultimate goal for which we were created and redeemed. We do not worship God in order to attain some higher end, or to accomplish some greater goal, or to experience a more satisfying joy. Every other ministry or activity of the Christian serves some higher end. There is a “so that” appended to everything we do, except for worship. We preach, so that . . . We evangelize, so that . . . We cultivate fellowship in the body of Christ, so that . . . We study the Bible, so that . . . But when it comes to glorifying God by enjoying him and all that he is for us in Jesus, we can never

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Do You Hear the People Sing?

Marshall Segal: What does Sunday morning sound like at your church? More specifically, what do you hear when your church worships God in song? What is the defining sound? For some, it will be the old, massive, beautiful organ — a full, enduring, and familiar tone. Others would say it’s the energy of an electric guitar and the deep pounding of a bass drum. Maybe you have one or two vocalists you love. They could sing the encyclopedia on Sunday morning and bring you to God. I enjoy and appreciate all of the above — I really do — but I believe the defining sound on Sunday morning should be the singing voices of God’s people. It’s been taught and lived out at our church, and I love it. And I don’t think that my love is a matter of personal preference. I wouldn’t have chosen this style of worship for myself six years ago, and the music I listen

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5 Things to Remember about Worship

Bob Kauflin, author of True Worshipers: Seeking What Matters to God. An All-Too-Common Misunderstanding Wherever I’ve traveled—whether it be Australia, South Africa, India, the UK, Latin America, or somewhere in the United States—I’ve found that worship is almost universally understood to mean singing with a congregation or the music associated with it. Pastors make sure the worship doesn’t go too long to leave enough time for the sermon. Worship leaders try to set a worshipful mood as church members straggle in to worship. We listen to worship albums and go to worship concerts. We attend worship conferences and buy worship t-shirts. Young musicians aspire to use their talents in worship bands and maybe become worship artists someday. While undeniable benefits have come from the worship music explosion, it’s easy to misunderstand the relationship between biblical worship and music. Music can be a part of worship, but it was never meant to be the heart of it. In his conversation with the

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Liturgy

Darryl Dash: We gather on Sundays. Someone stands at the front and welcomes us. The music team takes its place and leads us in singing. We then come to the offering before the pastor gets up and preaches. As soon as the sermon is over, the music team reappears and leads us in a closing song before we leave. Most of us don’t think we follow a liturgy, but most churches I’ve attended follow the pattern I’ve described above. It’s not a bad liturgy, but it is a liturgy nonetheless. It’s worth considering why we do things the way that we do, and if there’s a better way. “To talk about liturgy in its most basic sense is to talk about what the congregation is gathering to do,” writes Mike Cosper.  “In this sense, every church has a liturgy; we all gather with work to do.” In his book Rhythms of Grace: How the Church’s Worship Tells the Story of

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5 Spiritual Dangers of Skipping Church

By Nathan Rose: I read recently that my denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, has a total of 16 million members, but on a typical Sunday only 6 million of those members attend their local church’s corporate worship gathering. Considering the importance and necessity of corporate worship for the Christian, this is a very discouraging statistic. Not only is it disheartening, it is also spiritually dangerous for those who profess Christ, but regularly miss worship with their church family. Below, I want to list some reasons and explain why skipping church is a really bad idea. [1] 1. You will miss out on God’s primary design for your spiritual growth and well-being. The central aspect of corporate worship is the preaching of God’s Word. The proclamation of Scriptures is God’s primary means for a disciple of Jesus to grow in spiritual maturity. When a professing Christian misses church they are missing God’s prescribed process for spiritual growth. 2. You disobey God.

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What is worship?

Sam Storms: I’m often amazed at the controversy in evangelical circles concerning worship. So here’s my definition or description of worship: Worship begins with deep, biblical thoughts about God, robust and expansive truths about who he is and his greatness and glory, thoughts that in turn awaken passionate affections for God such as joy and gladness and delight and gratitude and admiration and love and fear and zeal and deep satisfaction in all that God is for us in Jesus. These in turn find expression in all of life, whether in singing or speaking or acting or the decisions we make or the way we live life in general. Or again, Worship happens when the mind is gripped with the revelation of great truths about God and the heart and affections are set on fire with joy and satisfaction and gratitude and gladness and admiration and the mouth explodes in songs of praise and proclamations of the incomparable greatness of

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What Unites Us in Worship at Bethlehem?

  John Piper: As a supplement to the two messages I am preaching on worship (September 28 and October 4–5), here is a list of “marks” that define us in worship at Bethlehem. I wrote these ten years ago and have only changed them slightly. The reason they are the same, even though we have changed in many ways, is that they deal with deeper issues than style and form. I pray that we will always define ourselves with deeper issues than style and form. “The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him” (John 4:23). 1. God-Centeredness. We put a high priority on the vertical focus of our Sunday morning service. The ultimate aim is to experience God in such a way that he is glorified in our affections. 2. Expecting the powerful presence of God. We do

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True Worship

To worship God ‘in spirit and in truth’ is first and foremost a way of saying that we must worship God by means of Christ. In him the reality has dawned and the shadows are being swept away (Hebrews 8:13). Christian worship is new covenant worship; it is gospel-inspired worship; it is Christ-centered worship; it is cross-focused worship. — D. A. Carson Worship by the Book (Grand Rapids, Mi.: Zondervan, 2002), 37 (HT: Of First Importance)

Singing To One Another

  Tony Reinke: Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs . . . Eph.5:18-19 David Ford, Self and Salvation: Being Transformed (Cambridge: 1999), 122, 125: Drunkenness is a practice that incapacitates people for responsible use of time in line with ‘the will of the Lord’ (5.17). Singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, by contrast, enables a ‘sober intoxication’ which attunes the whole self — body, heart and mind — to a life attentive to others and to God. It is a practice of the self as physical as drinking — and as habit-forming. One of the main habits formed is that of alertness. . . . It is striking that there is encouragement to the members to practice ‘addressing one another’ in song. This is part of facing each other in the community. One way of understanding it is that one

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One truth that changes worship

  Jason Helopoulos: This truth changed my life a dozen or so years ago. I have quoted it so often that I am not sure where I got it from (maybe someone can help with its origin in the comments). I am convinced that it is not original to me, for it is far too good. The truth is this: Worship is not so much about what we receive, nor about what we give, rather, it is about being. Do we give in worship? Of course, we give our praise and thanksgiving to God. We give our offerings for the use of His Church. Do we receive in worship? Of course, we receive mercy and grace. We receive encouragement and peace. But worship is not primarily caught-up with giving or receiving. It is primarily about being, meeting with God. Or more rightly put, God meeting with us. When we gather with God’s people on Sunday morning for holy worship, it is

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Worship Like a Hedonist

  David Mathis: Let me encourage you to take a very hedonistic approach to worship this weekend, and to every corporate worship gathering. A hedonist is someone who thinks of pleasure as the highest good and tries, in everything, to maximize pleasure. We Christians don’t believe that human pleasure in itself is the highest good, but we should believe that finding our pleasure in God is essential in our participating in the highest good — the glory of God. As we love to celebrate here at Desiring God, God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. Since the glory of God is the highest good, and the way in which we glorify him most is by being satisfied in him — enjoying him or maximizing our pleasure in him — then the most important approach for us to take together in our weekly worship gatherings is to seek him hedonistically. To aim together at maximizing

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“We Always Worship, and We Usually Preach”

  Andrew Wilson: Theologian and teacher types are often taken for pedants, and no doubt that’s often with good reason. When, for example, I make the observation / loaded comment / speech / rant that “worship” isn’t the bit with the guitars at the start of the meeting, as in many charismatic circles, people tend to roll their eyes and wonder why anyone would bother being so fussy. What does it matter what we call it? Surely what matters is that we’re doing it, right? Well: yes and no. Yes, it matters more that we worship God than that we use the right language for it. But no, the words we use are not irrelevant, and can in fact inhibit and prevent true worship from happening if they are used often enough and inaccurately enough. For a case in point, consider this statement I heard recently, which is (so I’m told) a regular part of the culture at one very

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What’s Wrong With Producing a “Worship Experience”?

Jared Wilson: In his invaluable book The Divine Commodity, Skye Jethani reproduces a conversation between economist James Gilmore (author of The Experience Economy) and Leadership Journal staffers Marshall Shelley (MS), Eric Reed (ER), and Kevin Miller (KM) that gets to the problematic heart of some evangelical churches’ drive toward producing a “worship experience.” I excerpted it in my current book project (on the attractional church model), and thought it might be of interest to blog readers: MS: So how does all this “experience providing” apply to the church? Gilmore: It doesn’t. When the church gets into the business of staging experiences, that quickly becomes idolatry. MS: I’m stunned. So you don’t encourage churches to use your elements of marketable experiences to create attractive experiences for their attenders? Gilmore: No. The organized church should never try to stage a God experience. KM: When people come to church, don’t they expect an experience of some kind? Consumers approach the worship service with

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A Deeper Look at the Most Popular Worship Song of 2013

Trevin Wax: The first time I heard Matt Redman’s “10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)” on the radio, I knew I was listening to a song that would soon be sung in churches across the United States. The plaintive melody perfectly suits Redman’s paraphrase of Psalm 103, and the chorus was singing in my head the rest of the day. According to CCLI’s biannual list of 25 songs reported by churches across the country, “10,000 Reasons” is now the most-often sung contemporary worship song in America. Since Redman’s song is so popular, I thought it may be helpful to take a deeper look at the main themes of the song, in comparison to the themes of the psalm on which it is based. I enlisted a hymnwriter and student at Belmont University (Bryan Loomis) to analyze the song’s message, and the two of us had a lunch conversation recently about its strengths and weaknesses. The Chorus The song begins with the chorus, a paraphrase of the beginning

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The Lost Verses of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”

  My favourite Christmas Carol just got better! Trevin Wax: Included in most hymnals are three verses of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” written by Charles Wesley in 1739. But there are actually two additional verses that speak not only to our salvation, but also our sanctification: Come, Desire of nations, come, Fix in us Thy humble home; Rise, the woman’s conqu’ring Seed, Bruise in us the serpent’s head. Now display Thy saving power, Ruined nature now restore; Now in mystic union join Thine to ours, and ours to Thine. Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface, Stamp Thine image in its place: Second Adam from above, Reinstate us in Thy love. Let us Thee, though lost, regain, Thee, the Life, the inner man: O, to all Thyself impart, Formed in each believing heart.

Nobody Does Not Worship

Tim Keller shares this illustration in his new book, Encounters with Jesus: Unexpected Answers to Life’s Biggest Questions (Dutton; 2013), 28–30: Everybody has got to live for something, but Jesus is arguing that, if he is not that thing, it will fail you. First, it will enslave you. Whatever that thing is, you will tell yourself that you have to have it or there is no tomorrow. That means that if anything threatens it, you will become inordinately scared; if anyone blocks it, you will become inordinately angry; and if you fail to achieve it, you will never be able to forgive yourself. But second, if you do achieve it, it will fail to deliver the fulfillment you expected. Let me give you an eloquent contemporary expression of what Jesus is saying. Nobody put this better than the American writer and intellectual David Foster Wallace. He got to the top of his profession. He was an award-winning, best-selling postmodern novelist known around

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Overcome with Awe

Trevin Wax: After spending 11 chapters magnifying the grace of God shown to us in Jesus Christ, the apostle Paul broke out into a hymn of praise: “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” (Rom. 11:33). Have you come to this place before? A place of awe before an all-knowing, all-wise God? Whenever we study the big questions of life, the big debates of our world, and the development of a biblical worldview, we can easily become smug and confident in what we know. We put God in a box and assume we have figured out His ways and His plans. Reacting against this arrogant overconfidence, some Christians make everything about the Scriptures a mystery. They wonder whether we can know anything with certainty about who God is and what He has done. The apostle Paul struck the right balance. Paul believed he knew things about

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US-centred or GOD-centred?

Darryl Dash: A radical shift has taken place within the church. Pressure is put on pastors and church leaders to make church about us. The focus is no longer God and how we fit into HIs story. The focus is us, and how God meets our needs. One author puts it this way: Throughout Western societies, and most especially in North America, there has occurred a fundamental shift in the understanding and practice of the Christian story. It is no longer about God and what God is about in the world; it is about how God serves and meets human needs and desires. It is about how the individual self can find its own purposes and fulfilment. More specifically, our churches have become spiritual food courts for the personal, private, inner needs of expressive individuals. (Al Roxburgh, The Sky is Falling) This shows up in a number of ways within the church: Worship — “Contemporary worship is far more egocentric than theocentric. The

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