A Curmudgeon Weighs in On Evangelical Worship
We do all manner of things, including very important things, because we think they are a “good idea.” The worship of God is, indeed, a good idea. It is especially so because it is God’s idea. To think of worship simply or even primarily in terms of a human act is deficient, because the Scriptures teach us that the worship of God is a matter of divine initiation. This is plainly seen in Exo 25:8 where God speaks to Moses: “Let them [the people] construct a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.” Moses did not come up with the idea; it was God’s idea for the people to worship him, and to do so in the way He prescribed.
God’s liturgical initiative begins with the act of creation itself. God made a world in which man, male and female, could dwell in the good land formed for them. This land, the garden of Eden, a place of delight, was the place in which Adam and Eve and their offspring could enjoy God’s blessing and presence. Even after their sinful rebellion, God made it possible for humans to worship him. In Genesis 4, after Moses narrates the first murder in human history (done in the context of worship, I must add) we see God’s unfolding grace as humans are, even in their fallen state, able to “call upon the name of the Lord” (Gen 4:26).
The Grand Biblical Narrative is truly God’s story of redemption through His promised Son. It is, equally, God’s story of His glory and His invitation to His image bearers to worship Him, and Him alone. The Scriptures can be read as an ongoing drama of God’s gracious pursuit of idolaters, as He calls them to worship Him in spirit and truth. None of us deserve this, of course, any more than we deserve God’s lavish grace to us in Christ. But God has in Christ made a way for us to approach Him (Heb 10:19ff), as David Peterson puts it, “on His terms and in the way He alone makes possible.”
This series of blogs will lay out a basic doctrine of worship along with some commentary on current issues that I feel need urgent consideration in our churches. I’ll say up front that I’m likely to offend virtually everyone in the series, so if you get your feelings hurt easily, let me apologize now. I won’t do it (apologize) again. And, yes, as Bruce Ashford likes to say, I’ll be a curmudgeon at times about some of this. Frankly, I’m fed up with much that goes on in evangelical circles that masquerades as worship, so I intend to let off some steam. But I do promise to be charitable (mostly), even when I disagree sharply with some people.
So you’ll have some idea of what to expect, the next few posts will provide a definition of worship and some key biblical-theological ideas that are fundamental to a healthy worship life in the congregation. As well, I’ll have some posts that take up certain contemporary issues, including my complaints about what I call “DisneyWorld Worship” and answers to questions like “What should we do when we fight about the volume of the music?” Yes, I have opinions on all this and more, and I’ll be blogging about it over the next several weeks.