First Think, Then Worship!

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Actions Flow from Beliefs

Scripture regularly points out that our actions are the result of our thinking.  More specifically—right actions result from correct thinking (1 Peter 1:13-16; Eph 4:20-24; 1 John 2:3-6; and others).  Over and over again we are told to “prepare your minds for action,” (1 Peter 1:13), or to “be renewed in the spirit of your mind” (Ephesians 4:23), or to be “transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2).

Should we wonder that these same admonitions also apply to our worship?  We all have heard horror stories about church splits as a result of changes in worship methods and styles.  The tales of “worship wars,” in which opposing sides battle to place their preferred style of worship as pre-eminent over other styles, are only too familiar within the last twenty or more years.  The striking truth of the matter is that much of this upheaval has little to do with worship style, although that is where the battle seems to rage.  In reality, the underlying issue in these “worship wars” is a shortsighted and shallow philosophical and theological understanding about worship itself.  Unfortunately, this shortage of insight resides in both the leadership and the laity.

If the right belief system can be established concerning worship, then extremes that cause divisions might possibly be avoided.  As mentioned earlier, our thinking will direct and determine our actions.  Thus, correct thinking about worship will guide our practice of worship.  This will include a solid, broadly defined theological understanding of worship based upon Scripture.  Our Scriptural and in turn theological understanding will lead to the transformation of our daily Christian walk.  It will also include a realignment of some forms or patterns of corporate worship.  Finally, it will allow for a complete experience of worship in all of its joy, sorrow and other emotions.

Theological Foundation

Recognizing the importance of our thinking is essentially a call for theological renewal.  This theological renewal is at the heart of how we think about worship and is much broader than simply doing a study on worship as it found in various Biblical texts.  Our theology of worship must be based upon a holistic understanding and foundation of what God meant for our relationship with Him.  What it was like at the beginning, what happened that distorted it so grossly, and what He has done to restore (redeem) us to Himself.  This pattern of thought—creation, fall, and redemption—is the classic pattern used in discussing worldview systems.  Ultimately, our theology of worship unfolds out of our own worldview.  Only in this broad-based picture can we truly develop theology which is both consistent with Scripture and tradition, yet adapts itself to our modern times and situations.

It is, therefore, imperative that we seek to mold our view of worship to one that is grounded in Scripture.  We must seek renewal, not based upon new methods and theories, but by renewing our minds and hearts based on a study of God’s word.  It is time to redeem worship theory and practice and return to foundational truths that transverse denominations, styles and cultures.  It is, in short, time for reform. A.W. Tozer said it pointedly:

“Every spiritual problem is at bottom theological.  Its solution will depend upon the teaching of the Holy Scriptures plus a correct understanding of that teaching.  That correct understanding constitutes a spiritual philosophy, that is, a viewpoint, a high vantage ground from which the whole landscape may be seen at once, each detail appearing in its proper relation to everyone else.  Once such a vantage ground is gained, we are in a position to evaluate any teaching or interpretation that is offered us in the name of truth.” (A.W. Tozer, Keys to the Deeper Life. Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan Publishing House, 1973, pg. 36-37.)

Tozer’s words continue to speak to the heart of what ails many churches today in the area of worship—theologically, philosophically and methodologically.  There is no shortage of opinions out there floating through cyber-space, and in print, that fall short of recognizing the foundational theological issues that face our churches in the area of worship.

I hope that my thoughts will be a continuation of the discussion of worship theology.  By saying this, I wish to recognize and appreciate the many men and women who have gone before me studying, struggling, practicing and writing on this subject—from whom I have studied, struggled, practiced and written.  I also realize that my treatment of the subject of worship might be somewhat atypical in comparison to other studies.

There has been a lot of good work done in the last thirty years in the study and advancement of worship as a discipline and activity of the church.  As I review the books on my shelf, and think through the various lines of discussion in current circles, it seems that much of what has been written deals with methodology.  Whether it is revival and renewal in liturgical worship, focus and organization in “free” worship or a combination of the two, most topics deal with the practical aspects of the public or corporate worship service.  Most often, the focus is on music—what is right, what is wrong, why we are right, why they are wrong, etc.

What I have not found in my reading and study is more than a few authors dealing with what I perceive as the heart of the matter, that is, what I would call a “theology of worship.”  As you encounter this, and other portions of my writing, you will begin to understand why I feel this is so important, and why my discussion of worship will take unusual turns from the common patterns associated with this topic.  I hope it will both encourage and challenge you to think further and deeper in regards to worship.

Please read with a heart of prayer, curiosity to explore further, a mind ready to stretch and grow, and a whole life desirous and willing to honor God in all that you do.  In this journey, I will gladly join you.

 

(This is an excerpt from Mark Sooy’s book, The Life of Worship: Rethink, Reform, Renew available through the links at www.MarkSooy.com)

 

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Posted on January 9, 2017, in Content of Worship, Corporate Worship, Leadership, theology, Worship Leader and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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