Monday, September 21, 2009

"The opening stuff"

One way to transcend the "worship wars" might be to first ask what worship is supposed to be - and only then decide what ought to be done. Three of the questions from an interview with Bryan Chapell, author of Christ-Centered Worship: Letting the Gospel Shape Our Practice:
What is—and is not—Christ-centered worship?
Christ-centered worship is not just talking or singing about Jesus a lot. Christ-centered worship reflects the contours of the gospel. In the individual life of a believer, the gospel progresses through recognition of the greatness and goodness of God, the acknowledgment of our sin and need of grace, assurance of God's forgiveness through Christ, thankful acknowledgment of God's blessing, desire for greater knowledge of him through his Word, grateful obedience in response to his grace, and a life devoted to his purposes with assurance of his blessing.

In the corporate life of the church this same gospel pattern is reflected in worship. Opening moments offer recognition of the greatness and goodness of God that naturally folds into confession, assurance of pardon, thanksgiving, instruction, and a charge to serve God in response to his grace in Christ. This is not a novel idea but, in fact, is the way most churches have organized their worship across the centuries. Only in recent times have we lost sight of these gospel contours and substituted pragmatic preferences for Christ-centered worship. My goal is to re-acquaint the church with the gospel-shape of its worship so that we are united around Christ's purposes rather than arguing about stylistic preferences.
What is the greatest misunderstanding of worship in evangelical churches today?
Many evangelical churches—perhaps most—only think of worship as "the opening stuff" prior to the sermon, or the style of music that predominates. Worship will fulfill its greater purposes of honoring and proclaiming the gospel when church leaders and worshipers understand that just as the sacraments re-present the fundamental aspects of the gospel in symbol, and the sermon does so in words, so also the worship of the church re-presents the gospel in its pattern.
If pastors could make one change to their worship service next Sunday, what would you recommend?
Structure the aspects of worship to reflect your understanding of the gospel and tell people (briefly) how each component advances that understanding.
Thanks to Justin Taylor for the reference

Transcending the Worship Wars | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction

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