Tag Archives: Corporate Worship

“A village church with a village God” by John Stott

“I remember some years ago visiting a church incognito. I sat in the back row. I wonder who’s in the back row tonight.

You know they often slip in there incognito. I’m not going to tell you the church. You won’t be able to identify it; it’s thousands of miles away from here.

When we came to the pastoral prayer, it was led by a lay brother, because the pastor was on holiday. So he prayed that the pastor might have a good holiday. Well, that’s fine. Pastors should have good holidays.

Second, he prayed for a lady member of the church who was about to give birth to a child that she might have a safe delivery, which is fine.

Third, he prayed for another lady who was sick, and then it was over. That’s all there was. It took twenty seconds.

I said to myself, it’s a village church with a village God. They have no interest in the world outside. There was no thinking about the poor, the oppressed, the refugees, the places of violence, and world evangelization.”

–John Stott, Ten Great Preachers: Messages and Interviews, Ed. Bill Turpie (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000), 117.

[HT: Mark Dever]

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“God’s gracious assault” by Michael Horton

“We do not find God; He finds us. Faith comes not by feeling, thinking, seeing, or striving, but by hearing. Proclamation does involve doctrinal and ethical instruction, of course. The law and the gospel not only kill and make alive; they direct our life and doctrine.

However, we must come to church expecting nothing less than God’s gracious assault on the citadels of our autonomy, our supposing that we could ascend to God by our theological acumen any more than by our actions.

This confrontation occurs not only in the sermon, but in the entire liturgy, including the singing, whose purpose is to ‘let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God’ (Col 3:16).

While carefully distinguishing the Spirit’s illumination of the preached Word from the Spirit’s inspiration of the canonical Word, we can affirm that the content– Christ and all His benefits– is exactly the same. This should create a sense of urgency and expectancy in our public assembly, as God addresses us here and now.”

–Michael Horton, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims On the Way (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), 763.

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“Worship in the church” by Peter Toon

“Worship in the church was centred on the Word of God and on free prayer.  This was possible because the Book of Common Prayer had been set aside in 1644 by Parliament and the Directory for Public Worship brought in to replace it.

Beginning with a solemn call to worship, followed by a prayer acknowledging the majesty of God and the sinfulness of man, the service proceeded with the singing of psalms and the public reading of Holy Scripture.

Then perhaps another psalm was sung before the long prayer that preceded the sermon was uttered.  This prayer began with a full confession of sin and a plea for divine grace and forgiveness.

It continued by beseeching God for the conversion of the Jews, the fall of Antichrist (the Pope), and the hastening of the second coming of Jesus Christ; for deliverance of the distressed churches abroad from the tyranny of Roman Catholicism and from the cruel blasphemies of the Turk and for blessing upon the Church in Britain.

Then came prayers of intercession for the King, Queen and Prince as well as for the Queen of Bohemia and the Elector Palatine of the Rhine.  Also the divine blessing was asked for those in positions of authority in England, for Parliament, the judges, magistrates, nobles and gentry.

Following this long prayer which would have taken anything from ten to twenty minutes, the people listened to a sermon which would have taken at least one hour.

This contained the exposition of one or more principles of the Faith from the Word with suitable application to the needs and hearts of the hearers.  Finally the worship closed with a prayer that the divine Word would bear fruit in repentant and obedient souls.”

–Peter Toon, God’s Statesman: The Life and Work of John Owen, Pastor, Educator, Theologian (London: Paternoster, 1971), 26. This is a description of the worship service in John Owen’s church at Coggeshall.

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“Cultivate the best people” by David Platt

“We recently cut 83 percent of our worship budget. We did this not only to free up resources for urgent needs around the world but also to scale back our emphasis on nonessential elements of corporate worship.

We want to focus on ways we can cultivate the best people: a people who love to pray together, fast together, confess sin together, sing together, and study together; a people who depend more on the Word that is spoken than on the one who speaks it; a people who are gripped in music more by the content of the song than by the appeal of the singer; and a people who define worship less by the quality of a slick performance and more by the commitment of a humble people who gather week after week simply to behold the glory of God as they surrender their lives to Him.”

–David Platt, Radical Together (Colorado Springs: Multnomah, 2011), 60.

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“Without this transcendent Word” by David F. Wells

“The issue of inerrancy basically focuses on the nature of the Bible. It is entirely possible for those who have sworn to defend the concept of biblical inerrancy to function as if they had no such Word in their hands.

Indeed, it happens all the time. And the sad fact is that while the nature of the Bible was being debated, the Bible itself was quietly falling into disuse in the church.

Without this transcendent Word in its life, the church has no rudder, no compass, no provisions. Without the Word, it has no capacity to stand outside its culture, to detect and wretch itself free from the seductions of modernity. Without the Word, the church has no meaning.

It may seek substitutes for meaning in committee work, relief work, and various other church activities, but such things cannot fill the role for very long. Cut off from the meaning that God has given, faith cannot offer anything more by way of light in our dark world than what is offered by philosophy, psychology, or sociology.

Cut off from God’s meaning, the church is cut off from God; it loses its identity as the people of God in belief, in practice, in hope. Cut off from God’s Word, the church is on its own, left to live for itself, by itself, upon itself.

It is never lifted beyond itself, above its culture. It is never stretched or tried. It grows more comfortable, but it is the comfort of anaesthesia, of a refusal to pay attention to the disturbing realities of God’s truth.”

–David F. Wells, God in the Wasteland: The Reality of Truth in a World of Fading Dreams (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994), 150.

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“I had it all wrong” by Cornelius Plantinga Jr.

“When television-saturated worshipers attend their local churches or wonder how to draw secular seekers there, it’s not the songs of Zion they want but the songs of Babylon and Hollywood– or something like them. People attend worship with expectations shaped by television, and evangelical preachers try to meet them.

In such cases worship may degenerate into a religious variety show hosted by some gleaming evangelist in a sequined dinner jacket and patent leather dancing slippers who chats with celebrities and introduces for special music a trio of middle-aged women in pastel evening gowns with matching muffs for their microphones.

He may also include, or even perform, certain eye-popping acrobatics or karate moves. Each act in the show is pre-timed, including estimates of the length of audience applause. Imagine a High Five for Jesus replacing the Apostles’ Creed; imagine praise time beginning when the evangelist shouts, ‘Gimme a G! Gimme an O!…’

Naturally, services of this kind give an impression of a religion somewhat different from historic Christianity. One could imagine a visitor walking away from such a service and saying to himself:

‘I had it all wrong. I had thought Christianity included a shadow side– confession, self-denial, rebuke of sin, concern with heresy, a willingness to lose one’s life for the sake of Jesus Christ. Not so, apparently. The Christian religion isn’t about lament or repentance or humbling oneself before God to receive God’s favor.

It’s got nothing to do with doctrines and the struggle to preserve truth. It’s not about the hard, disciplined work of mortifying our sinful self and learning to make God’s purposes our own. It’s not about the inevitable failures in this project and the persistent grace of Jesus Christ that comes so that we may begin again.

Not at all! I had it wrong! The Christian faith is mainly about celebration and fun and personal growth and five ways to boost my self-esteem. And, especially, it’s about entertainment.'”

–Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1995), 192-193.

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“The perfect church service” by C.S. Lewis

“Every church service is a structure of acts and words through which we receive a sacrament, or repent, or supplicate, or adore. And it enables us to do these things best– if you like, it ‘works’ best– when, through long familiarity, we don’t have to think about it.

As long as you notice, and have to count, the steps, you are not yet dancing but only learning to dance. A good shoe is a shoe you don’t notice. Good reading becomes possible when you need not consciously think about eyes, or light, or print, or spelling.

The perfect church service would be one we were almost unaware of; our attention would have been on God. But every novelty prevents this. It fixes our attention on the service itself; and thinking about worship is a different thing from worshipping…

A still worse thing may happen. Novelty may fix our attention not even on the service but on the celebrant. You know what I mean. Try as one may to exclude it, the question ‘What on earth is he up to now?’ will intrude. It lays one’s devotion to waste.

There is really some excuse for the man who said, ‘I wish they’d remember that the charge to Peter was Feed my sheep; not Try experiments on my rats, or even, Teach my performing dogs new tricks.’

Thus my whole liturgiological position really boils down to an entreaty for permanence and uniformity. I can make do with almost any kind of service whatever, if only it will stay put.

But if each form is snatched away just when I am beginning to feel at home in it, then I can never make any progress in the art of worship.”

–C.S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer (San Diego: Harvest, 1964), 4-5.

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