worship

CHURCH SERVICES SHOULD REFLECT GOD’S SENSIBILITIES

One of my concerns with the church in America over the past generation is that the focus in the main worship service is often on reaching unbelievers.

Certainly we want to be as committed to reaching people as Jesus!

But we should not lose sight of the purpose for the gathering of God’s people, which is the ministry of the means of grace God has given to the church. This involves the ministry of the Word, prayer and the ordinances of communion and baptism.

None of this excludes reaching out to unbelievers; in fact a healthy church will be drenched with gospel clarity. My concern is when the church shapes itself according to the sensibilities of those who don’t actually care about God. The result can be churches that are shallow.

A worship service is meant to exalt God; we are not doing a good job of that if we have to minimize biblical priorities so unbelievers will not be offended.

This can easily lead to confusing people about gospel-living rather than leading them into it.

Jared Wilson lays this out in a much more coherent way that I do in this article, “Is Your Worship Service Upside Down?”  

The purpose is not to attack churches, but to have us become more thoughtful of what the church is meant to be. At the same time we will be able to think more clearly about our own role in the church and our expectations for it.

IT’S GOOD TO BE IN AWE!

Paul Tripp writes helpful books, and his new book “Awe: Why It Matters for Everything We Think, Say, and Do” does not disappoint.

There are two things Tripp does exceptionally well in his writing

1.  He gets to the biblical heart of the matters we face

2.  He applies and illustrates the truths he shares with examples from everyday life which connect to all of us

The thrust of Tripp’s latest book is that the core reason for messiness and breakdowns in our lives is because we don’t have our “awe” in proper alignment.

In addition to addressing this issue for life in general, Tripp specifically helps us look at how this applies to the two areas that dominate our life – our family and our job.

I highly recommend “Awe” and anything else by Paul Tripp you can read

TRUE WORSHIPPERS

 

Some time ago when I was having lunch with a pastor friend, we agreed that few people bring blessing to our lives as frequently as Bob Kauflin.

Bob is not only a friend; he is the Director of Sovereign Grace Music. I don’t pass through many days when God doesn’t use Bob to touch my heart through his music ministry.

Earlier this year Bob wrote “True Worshipers: Seeing What Matters to God”. It is a book I urge you to read. Worship is a subject dear to my heart and Bob once again has provided us with a healthy and satisfying meal.

Bob’s writing whether in song or prose, is full of theological depth and pastoral care. In True Worshipers, you will receive biblical rooting and wonderfully practical guidance.

Reading Bob’s latest book will encourage you to grow as a worshiper, whether it is how you walk through your day or participate in a church service.

This is not just my opinion; here are comments from music artists, theologians and pastors:

“Bob Kauflin is a good friend who is always quick to encourage all that is good about writing, singing, and living the gospel. We encourage you to read anything he writes!”
—Keith and Kristyn Getty

“Brilliant. Freeing. Needed. Worship is often limited to the walls of the church. In True Worshipers, Bob Kauflin reminds us that worship isn’t a Sunday morning routine but rather an everyday lifestyle.”
—Louie Giglio, Pastor, Passion City Church

“Bob Kauflin presents a balanced, mature, biblical understanding of worship. He is concerned above all for the heart—for the depth and authenticity of our relationship with God—which so often gets lost in the controversies over styles and traditions. I profited from this book, and in it Bob challenged the quality of my worship.”
—John M. Frame, Reformed Theological Seminary

WHAT THOUGHTS DO YOU BRING TO CHURCH?

 

What are the thoughts that you bring to Church?

Or, what types of thoughts arise during the worship services you attend?

As a pastor, I have needed to face this question.

I might be distracted by how something is being handled, or disappointed in how a part of the service turned out (especially my preaching). At times I can find myself worrying about what the people around me are thinking about the service.

To be honest, it has helped me to have the pastors sitting in the congregation rather than on the platform as we used to do. We didn’t make the change for this reason, but it has helped me stay focused on my role as a worshipper in the service. This is also one of the reasons I always like to sit near the front in any church service.

We cannot stop thoughts from coming to us as we listen to and observe what is taking. And some of these thoughts will contain criticisms. How we handle these thoughts of criticism is important for a few reasons:

So we are not distracted from the worship God deserves from us

So we don’t quench what the Holy Spirit wants to do in us during and after the service

So we don’t develop the pattern of being critical, or to let a critical spirit gain a toehold in our heart

So our attention is not distracted from how the Holy Spirit would use us in the lives of others

So we don’t bring a negative mood into the service however unknowing or unintentional it may be

Jason Helopoulos gives us a couple practical steps in this article he wrote for the Together for the Gospel website entitled “The Sunday Worship Killer”. Jason writes:

“In all honesty, very few of us knowingly enter church with such a motivation. How silly it would be for us to rise early on Sundays to play the role of the critic. But as we take our seat in the church pew, our focus and motivation cowers to the voice crying out within, “they are not doing this right,” “they are not doing this well,” “they are not doing this as I would do it.” And in the midst of it all, we move from worshipper to critic.”

The gathering of the local church for worship, fellowship, ministry of the Word and the Lord’s Supper are wonderful gifts and purposes of God to us.

May we use each experience we have with these gifts well, for ourselves and for one another!

 

THE IMPORTANCE OF PAUSING TO REFLECT

I have found that giving time daily for worshipful reflection has been an immense benefit to my life.

At the same time I have noticed that reflection is neither highly valued nor often practiced in our culture.

Tim Challies who is one of the leading Christian bloggers in the world today has written this article entitled, “The Duty of Reflection”.

The article’s title immediately caught my attention – and the article’s content lived up my expectations.

Reflection and Meditation don’t seem like priorities to us. There are multiple reasons for this:

  • They don’t press upon us with urgency
  • We feel more accomplishment when we do something with visible results
  • Most of us have not been instructed in the value and practice of reflection

My hope is that this quick read by Tim Challies will have long lasting value by motivating you to work on reflection as a habit of life and worship. As Tim says in his article:

“How can we praise God if we do not praise him for the things he has done and is doing?”

AND THEY LIVED THANKFULLY EVER AFTER

Thanksgiving-Brownscombe

Thanksgiving Day is now past. However, through the gospel of Jesus Christ, every day is Thanksgiving! All Christians should live “thankfully ever after”.

WHAT TO KEEP IN MIND

Worship

This is a common topic for me to address whether it is in conversations, during preaching, on Twitter or in a Well-Rooted article.

This is because of the enormous impact that viewing myself as a worshipper has brought to my life.

My private focus on being a worshipper has impacted my public practice as a worshipper.

When we gather as a local church family to worship, it is a grand privilege and impactful blessing.

My interest in worship caused this article by Jason Helopolous, “One Truth That Changes Worship”, to jump out at me. The life changing truth as Jason calls it is this:

“Worship is not so much about what we receive, nor about what we give, rather, it is about being”

As important as worship is for us, we quite easily get side-tracked away from what our perspective should be. Jason’s article is helpful in identifying where our focus should be as we enter into this activity which is meant to be precious to God as well as to us.

 

AUGUST BOOK RECOMMENDATION

Tim Shorey is a friend of our church who has written a wonderful little book entitled “Worship Worthy”.

The book is simple.

Tim uses each letter of the alphabet to creatively lay out the character, attributes, works and beauty of Jesus Christ.

Each chapter is only a couple pages long, but they are powerful in stimulating our thoughts about Christ, which in turn helps our personal worship of Christ.

A tremendous benefit to my life over the years has been to see myself fundamentally as a worshiper. My prayer time is preeminently about the worship of our glorious God who created us to be worshipers.

Sometimes this process of learning to worship can come slowly to us. But with Tim’s book you will be immediately helped with “worship worthy” thoughts that you can use in your exaltation of Christ, the Son of God and our worthy King.

 

WONDER AT ANY SCALE

I was given a book of Hubble Telescope photos. 
 
Inside are images of color, shape and light. It is beauty unlike anything I have ever seen. They are literally otherworldly. 
 
As wonder beholding as the sights, are the unfathomable distances that they stretch across. A galaxy held by a page. My mind is numbed by the numbers. What is a billion trillion stars? How far is a lifetime of light years? I cannot will myself to comprehend these questions. 
 
I have walked through meadows. 
 
Here the scale fits comfortably in my thoughts, and all my senses enter their applause. The dull buzz of insects, the soft stroke of tall grasses against the inside of my hand, and the entanglement of colored texture are at once understood and yet amaze. 
 
Here is a world I can bow down into and find ever more understated beauty. Whether it is an ant climbing up a stem or the innumerable shades of tawny and green within one arms length patch of field. 
 
God made them all by speaking. In a moment, out of nothing, came infinite wonder. 
 
We can and should be worshipful wherever we look, for in every frame of creation we encounter God’s ability to amaze. 
 
Yet, as God’s awestruck servant wrote for us, these are all just the “fringes of His ways”. 
 
So what could be greater? What works are at the majestic core of His ways?
 
They are found in a manger, on a cross and from an empty tomb
 
As you walk through today: breathe, listen and look. But also remember, ponder and receive. 
 
Take in and worship out.

WHEN WORSHIP CAUSES TROUBLE

We were made for worship

Worship is  a practice that will fill our hearts throughout eternity. Worship is an immense help to our having the right perspective today. Worship lifts, soothes and encourages our hearts. Worship is a joyful activity.

. . And worship causes trouble

The trouble comes when we are in a worship experience that is different from our expectations and our preferences. Vaughan Roberts describes this problem in his book True Worship:

“If I identify an experience with a genuine encounter with God, and only a certain kind of music gives me that experience, then it will be very important to me that that kind of music is played regularly in my church . . . That will cause no problems if everyone shares my tastes. But if others feel they need different kinds of music, there is bound to be trouble.”

Worship is for God

Worship is meant to bless us, but preeminently worship is for God. As a church walks through how it will shape worship in public services, it is this God focus that must dominate the conversation.

Songs are to be selected by what is God honoring, which means the songs must point us to Him rather than affirm ourselves.

What songs sound like should help to draw us in, but this means all of us, not just a particular generation or in some cases, not a particular ethnic group.

Public worship is to be the gathering of God’s people in harmonious exaltation of our God. Musical worship in a church service should always bring the worshippers into a closer bond with each other. For as Ephesians 4:4-6 tells us:

“There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all”

One of the goals we have for public worship at Greentree is for every generation to hear their own voice. We want to celebrate the involvement of writers and music styles that reflect all the generations present. This is because the church is meant to care for all the generations present.

What does this mean for us?

As long as the songs we sing are God and gospel-centered, our worship should not be affected by music style or song selection. Obviously we will enjoy some songs more than others. But our enjoyment is not the purpose of worship – is it?

Worship should always be a great experience, because true worship is always pointed at our great God.