09 April 2008

the living church (2)

John Stott, The Living Church (Downers Grove: IVP, 2007).

Chapter 2. Worship:
According to John Stott, "Worship is the church's preeminent duty" (34).  This is certainly going to be taken as a challenge to the many churches who think otherwise (esp. those congregations which place evangelism at the forefront - even when they haven't evangelized in years!).  But in this present chapter, Stott outlines four main characteristics of Christian worship.

Biblical Worship: ". . .that it to say, it is a response to the biblical revelation" (35).  This is a very good working definition of worship which not only describes what Scripture envisages, but also serves to explain the failure of so many evangelicals to have a proper attitude/mode of worship.  Stott goes further to state, "The spirit of receptivity is a necessary condition of hearing the word of God.  So much depends on how the readers and preachers approach their task" (36).  What he is getting at here is key: in order to provide proper worship (which is defined as a response to biblical revelation), then we must have an atmosphere which provides opportunity for hearing the word of God in order to achieve a proper response.

Congregational Worship: How many times will I hear someone say that they can worship God just as well in their fishing boat than in church on Sunday morning?  Such sentiments are far from the piety they attempt to espouse and really serve to mask the lack of commitment on the part of the sayer.  In reality, true worship is congregational - it needs a connection with others in the body of Christ.  Ours is a community affair (cf. Grenz's Theology for the Community of God).

Stott makes a good point along with this section, though.  He notes that if we are to worship together (and keeping in mind the parameters for biblical worship), then we need to ensure that it is readily accessible for the community.  In other words, everyone should be able to understand and participate (38).  But also the services should reflect the diversity of those who find unity in the cross (39).

Spiritual Worship:  "No book, not even by Marx and his followers, is more scathing of empty religion than the Bible" (41).  In approaching this particular topic, Stott introduces a few brief comments on the use of music within worship (42-43).  While there are many forms and instruments to serve as a vehicle for worship, Stott rightly points out that it is the biblical content of the music which should be at issue (43).  I agree with his comparison that many church experiences have become New Age approaches to spirituality by emptying the mind and clearing the soul unto nothingness.  The point, therefore, seems to be that if we are to affirm in our creeds that we are spiritual creatures in a spiritual world, then our practice should act as though we are about a spiritual work.

Moral Worship:  Worship cannot exist without a total surrender of our lives, living rightly and justly into the world.  The church is damaged by those who live one way and then worship another.  Stott uses 1 Samuel 15:22 and Romans 12 to get this point across.  In reading Romans, Stott points out that Paul has emphasized the mercies of God throughout the letter, culminating in the response from the believer as a living sacrifice.  This fits well with his reflections on true and proper worship.

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