Losing the Word in Worship
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine…
(2 Timothy 4:3)
Recently, I have been reading (and re-reading) Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus. It has been striking to notice how much emphasis Paul places on teaching doctrine, but not just any doctrine. In Paul’s mind there is a clear distinction between doctrine that is right and true, as opposed to doctrine that is wrong and false. And Scripture is the place from which sound doctrine flows.
Paul makes the point that we must be wary of strange and speculative doctrines (1 Tim 1:3-4), and to stay away from those that teach them (2 Tim 3:5). It is apparent that the novelty of their teaching and their “learning” led them astray (2 Tim 3:7). Paul even names specific individuals who have been led away from the truth into error, and are now teaching error as a result (2 Tim 2:16-18). The ultimate end of these false teachers is judgment, for their teaching denies the very God they claim to know (Titus 1:16).
To offset these examples of error, Paul also reminds us of the clarity of truth and pure doctrine. He ultimately points us to the Bible as the source of truth, and reminds us that handling the Word skillfully is absolutely essential (2 Tim 2:15). He speaks of godliness over and over as that which demonstrates a right belief and a right living out of those beliefs (1 Tim 6:3; 4:7-8). Most emphatically, Paul tells Timothy to “pay attention” to the reading of Scripture and the explanation of those readings (1 Tim 4:13). These themes are present throughout these epistles.
Having seen these themes, one must realize the vital place that God’s Word has in the life of the church and in worship. The Pastoral Epistles are the closest connection we have to what the church under Paul’s leadership was like, and though many facets of worship during that time are unclear, one thing that is crystal clear is his insistence that God’s Word being central. It must be read, expounded, explained and protected.
In today’s modern church, we may be violating this core value of what worship is to be about. I have noted in other articles that the first aspect of worship must be to hear from God (through His Word and through prayer), and it’s upon that basis we can then respond to Him (through singing, giving, prayer, and service). Without hearing from God, there is no point to worship.
How is God’s Word encountered in your worship? Are only little bits of Scripture read? Do pastors develop an outline of their own thoughts and supplement it with Bible passages, or do their sermons flow from the text of Scripture – being shaped by the Word? Do the songs line up with Paul’s admonition regarding sound doctrine, or are we choosing songs that are popular and make us feel good?
If we have been wondering why the church of today is in crisis, and why it cannot respond well to cultural challenges, this may very well be part of the reason. The doctrinal drift away from biblical truth is apparent as churches seek to emulate the culture and be supposedly “relevant” to the contemporary mind. There is only one answer to regaining our effectiveness: a return to Scripture as the source of truth and doctrine.
Posted on October 13, 2015, in Content of Worship, Corporate Worship, Leadership, theology, Worship Leader and tagged Mark Sooy, theology, worship, worship leader, WorshipThink. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.