By Louis J. Sharp
Much is being written and spoken concerning worship we offer to God. From the January 1996 issue of the Christian Chronicle we offer two quotes as specific examples:
Among churches of Christ today many questions are being asked, and disputes sometimes are being raised, about worship. These questions generally focus on methodology rather than theology. “How shall we worship?” rather than “why and whom shall we worship?” And the answers to these questions seem to cluster around two poles, each of which turns out to be anthropocentric: Either “We should worship as we have always done” “three songs and a prayer, using hymn books and a pitch pipe, with the Lord’s Supper always preceding the sermon,” or “We should worship in innovative, pleasing ways” “with new, upbeat praise-songs, using overhead projectors and being led by a Praise-team, with a short positive message delivered in the best televangelistic style” (Paul Watson, Essays on Worship Challenge us to Think about its Purpose, 22).
Worship is today’s hot topic. Suggestions for improving worship include making it more interesting, more emotional, and more varied. But each of these can be good or bad. To make worship more interesting by a better sermon, thoughtful song selection, or helpful comments before communion is good. To create interest through entertainment, however, is to change the basic purpose of worship from communication with God to performance for man (Stafford North asks, “Where do we go from here in public worship?” Elder and Educator, 20).
These two examples express concern as well as foment, in the thinking of many brethren. There seems to be general unhappiness and dissatisfaction as to our past practices in our worship.
Demands are being heard:
There must be a change!
We are failing our children!
They will not worship as we always have!
We need new and improved ways to worship God!
What is worship? How would you define it? Have we missed the mark in our attempts to worship God? Why must we always be in a state of flux? Why so much discontent? Why so many iconoclasts seeking to overthrow our standard of worship?
A little research reveals that there are at least fifteen words in the Hebrew and Greek that have been translated “worship, worshiping, worshiped, worshipers” in our English Bible. These words are variously translated as: (1) “to bow down, do obeisance,” (2) “to do, serve,” (3) “glory, esteem,” (4) “to be reverential, pious,” (5) “to kiss (the hand) toward,” and others. From these definitions we learn that our worship is offered to God, not for man. It is to be in harmony with the divine will, not ours. It must be with “sincerity” and “in truth” (John 4:24).
We sympathize with those who are concerned about “unspiritual” and “unemotional” worship. The advice of brother North to prepare “better sermon(s)” and have “thoughtful song selection(s)” is something we have worked on for years. But never have we attempted to compete with the televangelists with their worldly, entertainment style presentations, nor do we intend to do so now. The “upbeat, praise songs may be good for the dance floors, (and those who use them do dance and clap their hands) but not as respectful, reverent worship offered to the Almighty.
There will continue to be those who cry out for change, even after some of these “popular” changes have been implemented. There will be dissatisfaction with the “new style.” Their clamor and cries for change will call for still further changes. As for me, I shall continue to search out “the old paths,” and be content to “walk therein” (Jer. 6:16).
Guardian of Truth XL: No. 15, p. 19
August 1, 1996