Friday, October 13, 2006

IBC Session 1: What is worship? (Rev. Joe Boot – Director of Ravi Zacharias Ministries – Canada)

Roger Bergs began with a conference introduction and an explanation of worship. Worship is first of all to honor God by speaking of who He is, or what He has done (or doing). How we feel about these attributes is secondary to their Truth.

Glendon Thompson welcomed all and stressed that part of the purpose of the IBC is to bring Baptists together of different persuasions, so we can learn from one another and grow in our fellowship.

Dr. Haykin introduced Joe Boot, and noted two books authored by the speaker.

Rev. Boot:

My goal in ministry is to direct people to Christ and I want to direct them to God. Tozer once said, “Christians don’t speak lies; they sing them!” What we express outwardly often varies from our external experience.

Amos 5:21-24

What comes to mind when you hear the word “worship?” We often think we know what it means but find it hard to define. The music time. A band. Whole service. Songs from the Psalter. Romans 12:1. Diverse results even within evangelicalism. But so often it is confused with music and singing. Posturing and celebrity-ism often follow.

Labels help us fight each other – and often they are defined by our worship style. The more innovation that is pursued, the more we cater to a fussy generation of church shoppers! Too often we do not define things and just run to what we like.

What Amos says raises a certain rebuke, whomever we are. Worship is a contraction of the old Anglosaxon “worthship.” To love, admire or idolize. When the world looks at the church they should be able to see something of the God we love and adore. They should perceive what is worth most to us?

Gibben described worship in ancient pagan Rome: no one took anyone else seriously. No one form was distinct from another in justice and love. They all looked the same and ignored one another. In Canada today, people look at all religion as the same way. Politics uses religion when expedient. What sets Christian worship apart in Canada? Music style, festivals, meetings? Are we just another demographic?

What is worth most to you and how do you express that order of worth in your life? Singing, prayer, sacraments, special days, reciting of Scripture, giving our money – are all forms of public worship. But do these constitute worship? Amos says they do not.

Just being solemn is not what God desires! Just singing does not work either! Offerings don’t cut it either! Is there something wrong with these things? No. Israel’s problem was a disjunction between what they expressed and how they lived. This grieved God’s heart. True worship is a life of justice and righteousness. Jesus spoke in John 4 that worship is a matter of “spirit and truth.” The mountain, the soft chair, the pew – they don’t matter. A just heart and life – the right value structure: love to God and men.

Israel obsessed over forms of worship even in the times of our Lord. It was this that brought so much division between them and Jesus. To worship is about obedience to God. We know God if we keep His commandments.

The greater our love for God, the clearer our understanding of worship as justice. Pascal said, “Unless you love the truth, you cannot know it.” Our prayer should be for an increase in love for God so that our worship would grow. So, worship is love. We cannot be worshippers in name only – otherwise it is pure theatre. A person’s ultimate love directs their lives and highlights their value structure. What kind of love you have distinguishes the kind of person you are – you become like what you worship.

I was a major Elvis fan as a youth. I conformed myself to all things Elvis! You become like what you worship. We conform ourselves to the object of worship. Love unites us with the object of our love.

Augustine: Love God means a mutual indwelling – God in us and we in God (with a big difference!). No one can love God while not loving their neighbour that disagrees with them about worship in the pew beside them.

We worship God alone since only God can make us truly happy. True worship is the one vocation that is everlasting. We all worship something and we will be conformed to it. True rest is in worship of God.

Power of Worship (and its public perception)

When we meet together to worship and mouths are reflecting the reality of what is true in your life. David danced before the Lord. So our whole self might engage in worship. We might listen, sing, bow down, light a candle or two, and give of our money. Public confessional worship has an enormous impact on the unbeliever. Paul desired orderliness in worship so it was recognized that God is amongst us.

In the early church, hymn-singing was often a crucial part of teaching the people. It was a means of passing on Christian truth. Ambrose led his people in Trinitarian hymns to teach this faith. There was a reciprocal relationship between hymns and theology.

Many illiterate meant there was a need to get Scriptural truth into the hearts of the people. The sound flowed into their hearts and the Truth was distilled into their hearts. Every time we sing we join the angels and all the saints through the ages.

Psalms were the first hymn book, but very soon (even in Scripture) there were other words being written to communicate truth.

God, Creator of All Things Ambrose (quoted).

Note that there is not only theological truth, but expressed love for the Lord as well.

Here is a good place to start in our current worship wars. What are we doing when we come together to worship? Just because something is from the 19th century does not mean it is good. Some of it is rationalistic. We need to ask what Truth is being distilled into our hearts.

We are not the first to struggle with music, truth content and … Is it entertainment to enjoy the music in worship? Augustine could speak of “enjoying the musical element in song. I can give more affection to some truth when it is sung, rather than just spoken. Sometimes this feeling leads to a kind of soulishness that runs in front of my thinking. But a seriousness may distract from our heart worship – our minds cannot keep up with our worship.” Doesn’t the Spirit pray through us?

Augustine continues: “When I recall the tears I shed at the songs that are sung… I vacillate between dangerous pleasure and helpful exercise.” “Heal me, O God.” Perhaps if we had this attitude we would avoid some of the conflict.

Worship is God’s gift to us, not the other way around. He does not lack anything in Himself. He needs nothing. Will we possess God or will we be His possession?

God demands, commands and implores us to worship so that we might discover to be truly human. No one knows what it is to be truly human until lost in wonder and praise. Do not squander this gift.

God is worthy of our worthship.

Questions and Answers:

1. What is the biblical defense for an inflow of Truth as being a part of worship?

The Psalms are just this.

2. Corporate worship. How should leaders in worship deal with those who have different tastes in style and instrumentation?

I am bound to upset somebody this answer. I do not think there is a blueprint on how to deal with this. If leadership asks for some to lead, their priority is to express biblical worship. The task is not to cater.

I love choral music, but I was also part of a contemporary music band that evangelized in prisons.

My difficulty is with splitting services to cater to worship preferences. The critical issue is content. Is there a demonic b-flat, a demonic drum beat? I don’t think so. Extremes do not work because they do not bring to God.

Singing about me all the time is a problem. We need to sing of God.

We can become overly divisive over instrumentation. Are we caught up in wonder, love and praise? That is what matters. Content-less songs have no purpose.

Some contemporary expressions of song do have excellent content. That is the issue – not entertainment.