GBC Sermon Audio – May 19 & 26, 2010
I heard this illustration from two different preachers on the controversy of church music and thought some of you would apprecate it and may want to file it away for preaching on Romans 14 and Christian Liberty. That is what I did. When I heard it the first time, I told the preacher I would give him $10 for that illustration. He graciously gave me the illustration at no charge.
An old farmer went to the city one weekend and attended the big city church. He came home and his wife asked him how it was. ”Well,” said the farmer, “it was good. They did something different, though. They sang praise choruses instead of hymns.”
“Praise choruses?” asked the wife. “What are those?”
“Oh, they’re okay . . . they’re sort of like hymns, only different,” the farmer said.
“Well, what’s the difference?” Asked his wife.
The farmer explained, “Well, it’s like this. If I were to say to you, ‘Martha, the cows are in the corn,’ that would be a hymn.
If, on the other hand, I were to say to you, “Martha, Martha, Martha, Oh Martha, Martha, Martha, the cows, the big cows, the brown cows, the black cows , the white cows, the COWS, the COWS, COWS, COWS, are the corn, corn, corn, they’re in the coooooorrrrrnnnn.” Then, I repeated it three times, that would be a praise chorus.
Wouldn’t you know it, that farmer’s little chuch had a visitor from the big city church that same Sunday. He went home to his wife and she asked him how it went.
He said, “Oh, it was okay,except they don’t sing choruses–they sing hymns.”
She asked, “What’s a hymn?”
He said, “Well, it’s like a chorus, only different?”
She said, “What do you mean?”
He explained, “Well, if I said to you, Martha, the cows are in the corn–but say it like this:
Oh Martha, dear, Martha hear the words of my mouth, Turn thou thy whole wondrous ear to this glorious truth;
For the way of the animals who can explain; there in their heads is no shadow of sense, Hearkenest they in God’s sun or his rain, Unless from the mild corn they are fenced;
Yea those cows in glad, rebellious delight, Have loosed their shackles, their warm pens eschew, Yea goaded by minions of darkness and night, They all my sweet corn are now destined to chew.
Martha, look to that bright day when earth is reborn, And I shall not see those cows in my corn.
That would be a hymn!
Today when you discuss worship you have to address “Worship Warfare.” Albert Mohler does in He is not Silent: “The subject of worship is now one of the most controversial issues in the local congregation” (page 23). The only part of his statement that I disagree with is the one word “now.” Worship warfare has been raging for centuries. It took Benjamin Keath (1640-1704) twenty years to persuade his Baptist congregation to sing hymns and not just Psalms. Even after twenty years, some of his members left and started another church so they could sing just Psalms.
Just Google books about “worship wars” and see how hot this topic is.
In our series on The Church we have studied pictures of the Church which showed us who we are as the Church which affects what we practice.
1. Pictures of the Church:
The Church is the Body of Christ who worships our Head so that He has the preeminence. The Church is Temple of the Holy Spirit. We worship the only true God as the temple. The Church is the Bride of Christ who adores her Bridegroom. We are the Priesthood who exercises our priestly function of the sacrifice of praise. The Church is the Flock of God who with David worships The Lord our Shepherd.
2. Practices of the Church (Acts 2:42-47)
Not all would agree that Acts 2:42-47 is the text for the model of church practices. Rick Warren states that the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:37-40) plus the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) make a Great Church (The Purpose Driven Church, 102-103). The first local church described by Luke for us in Acts 2:42-47 shows us what a church looks like that obeys both the great commandment and the great commission. So there is no real contradiction.
A. Teaching: “They continued stedfastly in the apostle’s doctrine.” Teaching and preaching of God’s Word are first mentioned for emphasis. The first Christian ministry performed after the founding of the Church on the Day of Pentecost was preaching (Peter’s sermon). This was a statement.
B. Fellowship: “They continued stedfastly in … fellowship….all that believed were together, and had all things common….breaking bread.” Fellowship is not simply contact with another believer over a cup of coffee. Fellowship is more like discipleship. Robert Anderson mentions a church that disciplined a church member and forbad the other members from having any contact with that member. If a member saw the disciplined member in the grocery store that member was to turn and walk away. This church was confusing contact with fellowship (The Effective Pastor, Chicago: Moody, 1985, 332). Biblical fellowship is a deep involvement in another believer’s life in order to help him spiritually as the Philippians did with Paul at Thessalonica (Philippians 4:15-16).
C. Worship: “Fear came upon every soul….praising God.” John Hammett describes these two aspects of worship as reverent awe and joyful praise (Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches, 249). Traditional churches have to be careful not to go to seed on reverent awe and contemporary churches must be “take care that they not obscure God’s holiness. One of the earliest studies of Willow Creek found that 70 percent of the sermons emphasized God’s love, while only 7 percent dealt with God’s holiness…. Traditionalists need to guard against the opposite danger, that of joyless worship that does not actively engage worshipers in praise, but leaves them to sit in silence” (Hammett, 249).
D. Service: “and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.” This is the outgrowth of worship. In Heaven, the result of our worshiping God and the Lamb will be that His “servants shall serve him” (Revelation 22:3).
E. Evangelism: “And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” This is another by-product of worship.
Today there are “Worship Wars.”
1. War between contemporary music and traditional music. This is the battle between those who want reverence and others who want relevance in the worship service according to Ed Stetzer.
2. War between seeker sensitive or evangelism and glorifying God and edification of believers. On this point I must take sides with glorifying God and edification of believers and use Ephesians 4:11-12 as my bases. Evangelism, as we saw in Acts 2:42-47, will be the fruit.
3. War between experience oriented worship and God centered worship. David clearly advocated God centered worship in 1 Chronicles 16:29.
4. War between the regulative principle of worship (include in worship only what Scripture endorses) and the normative principle (include whatever is not prohibited in Scripture). Most churches use both principles to varying degrees. We must be regulative in regard to the pattern seen in Acts 2:42-47. But normative with parts of our worship not directly addressed in Scripture such as announcements, length and order of service, sound equipment, technology, padded pews, and please don’t forget the nursery. Mark Driscoll shows both the strengths and weaknesses of both principles.
John 4 is the worship chapter. Jesus pursues and converts a non-worshiper into a “true worshiper” (4:23). From this chapter we learn that true worship
1. Is Directed to God the Father (John 4:21-24). Jesus informs the Samaritan woman that worship is not limited to a time and place. Worship is a lifestyle according to Hebrews 13:15-16 that should take place “continually.” We don’t just worship one hour from 11:00 to 12:00 Sunday mornings. We worship every waking hour. We either worship God or ourselves and our pleasures and possessions. We either worship God or comment idolatry.
2. Is Directed to the Father through the Son (John 4:26). The Samaritan woman went from seeing Jesus as “a Jew” to “sir” to “a prophet” to “Christ.” Even Jesus said, “No man comes to the Father but by me.”
3. Is Directed to the Father through the Son in the Spirit (John 4:24).
A. “In Spirit” (The Spirit empowers the human spirit). The Samaritans worshiped in the spirit but not in truth. They associated with pagans and worshiped enthusiastically but shallowly. The Samaritans rejected all of the Old Testament but the Pentateuch. Jesus said to the Samaritan, “You know not what you worship” (4:22).
B. “In Truth” (The Spirit enables us to understand God’s Word). The Jews on the other hand worshiped in truth but not in spirit. The religious Jews believed all of the Old Testament was God’s Word but their heart was not into worship. Jesus said to the religious but unsaved Jews, “this people honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.” They were straight as shot gun barrel and just as empty.
The divine method was demonstrated with Jesus and the Samaritan woman. He gave her the truth in 4:26 and she enthusiastically responded in 4:28. If our worship is Word driven we will both worship in spirit and in truth. We will like Daniel, after reading the Word of God in Jeremiah 25:11-12, and fall to our knees in prayer (Daniel 9:1-3). We will experience what Ezra enjoyed when he expositorally preached the Word in Nehemiah 8 and the people wept as they heard God’s word.
God centered worship is the solution to our “worship wars.” Worshiping God and not worshiping how we worship God is the remedy. Neither is a cease fire in our blended service acceptable in our worship wars. It is not enough to stop fighting the other side but only worship when “our songs” are sung. We need to come to church and worship God not how we worship. Come and pour out our praise to Him “in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (that sounds like variety of styles to me) and not focus on ourselves and our tastes only.