If the Bible Is Foundational to Worship…Why Aren’t We Using It?

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scriptureWhy are churches that so zealously defend the Bible rarely reading its text in public services of worship?  Does its limited use convey a lack of trust in the very Word professed to be foundational to faith, doctrines and practices?  And by limiting its text to a single reading prior to the pastoral exhortation are leaders implying that a higher level of credibility is found in the exhortation than in the Word itself?  Can’t it stand on its own or must we always attempt to prop it up with our own words and actions?

Robert Webber in Ancient-Future Worship wrote, “We are nourished in worship by Jesus Christ, who is the living Word disclosed to us in the Scriptures, the written Word of God.  In spite of all the emphasis we evangelicals have placed on the importance of the Bible, there seems to be a crisis of the Word among us.”[1]

Congregations continue to struggle in their understanding of spirit and truth worship by maximizing music and depending on it alone to negotiate the worship impasse.  At the same time those congregations minimize the very foundational text from which those songs must spring forth.

John Frame offers two truths that highlight the value of God’s Word in our worship:  “First, where God’s Word is, God is.  We should never take God’s Word for granted.  To hear the Word of God is to meet with God himself.  Second, where God is, the Word is.  We should not seek to have an experience with God which bypasses or transcends His Word.”[2]

The dialogue of worship is formed when God’s Word is revealed.  This revelation causes worshipers to respond through the prompting of the Holy Spirit (I Cor 2:12-15; I Thess 1:5).  The result is a vertical conversation with God and horizontal communion with others.  This dialogue develops a community that congregations have been desperately trying to create through their worship actions.

Scripture must be foundational to our songs, sermons, prayers, verbal transitions and even announcements.  It must be frequently and variously read and allowed to stand on its own.  And when the biblical text organically yields our sermons and songs rather than serving as fertilizer for our own contrived language, we will leave in here worship with the text in our hearts and on our lips for continuous worship out there.

 


[1] Robert E. Webber, Ancient-Future Worship: Proclaiming and Enacting God’s Narrative (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008), 113.

[2] John M. Frame, Worship in Spirit and Truth: A Refreshing Study of the Principles and Practice of Biblical Worship (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1996), 90.

 

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12 Responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Neil Brown on 17.03.13 at 6:37 pm

    “Congregations continue to struggle in their understanding of spirit and truth worship by maximizing music and depending on it alone to negotiate the worship impasse. At the same time those congregations minimize the very foundational text from which those songs must spring forth.”

    David, this is what I’ve been trying to say for years. Say what you will about churches that utilize a common lectionary, but they almost always incorporate a psalm, and Old and New testament readings (Gospel and epistle) in their services. Plus a lot of music. And often they manage to keep close to an hour.

    I still don’t find that musical style (in and of itself) is the problem in most churches.

  2. Posted by Vernon Charter D.W.S. on 17.03.13 at 6:37 pm

    David, I agree with you about the lack of attention to the Word, but I think the problem goes deeper. I would propose that on the whole we have a very shallow theology of worship, based on personal experience, rather than on a faithful obedience to the teaching of scripture. And the sad thing is that a lot of evangelical churches are quite happy to leave things that way.

  3. Posted by Johnnie Jones on 17.03.13 at 6:37 pm

    Good thought.

  4. Posted by Dave Wagner on 17.03.13 at 6:37 pm

    Perhaps one of the real issues in churches that DO have worship style conflicts is none other than the lack of participatory Scripture reading in the service. Maybe if we spoke more Bible together we’d fuss less about style.

  5. Posted by Sharon Morton on 17.03.13 at 6:37 pm

    I do use the Bible during worship to introduce the song to our congregation.
    I usually look up a line of the song that may be in the Bible. I also go to the
    actual person that wrote the song to find out what lead him or her to this
    worship. Congregation loves it. And all is to Glorify our God.

  6. Posted by Patty Howard on 17.03.13 at 6:37 pm

    AMEN! Well spoken.

  7. Posted by Charles McClelland on 17.03.13 at 6:37 pm

    I couldn’t agree with you more

  8. Posted by Charles McClelland on 17.03.13 at 6:37 pm

    I agree.

    At times we have used the “Read through the Bible in a year” and read out loud the readings for Sunday. On the one hand, I knew we had at least read that day’s readings. On the other hand if this was not continued through out the week, the effect was similar to trying to follow a movie while channel surfing.

    In addition, we had a difficult time reading the genealogies in 1 Chronicles 1-10.
    Currently we are on a congregational plan to read 1 chapter a day. This means we read Sunday’s chapter during the worship service. This forms the backbone of our bible study time. It takes 3 1/4 years to get through the Bible, but at least we are encouraging everyone to read the whole Bible. This time when we arrived at 1 Chronicles we leavened it each week with some reading from the New Testament. I set these up so we read the New Testament on Sunday, rather than reading the genealogies. I am not sure whether this is a good idea. Maybe I am a coward, but the thought of reading from the Song of Solomon on Sunday morning scares me.

    Personally, I am always challenged by the fact that we read about 10 minutes of Bible and I preach for 45 minutes. This seems out of balance.

    We have several churches that use the common lectionary in our community. They do get out in about one hour. The sermon commonly lasts about 10 minutes. It does not seem to be maturing believers in their knowledge of the Bible.

  9. Posted by Charles McClelland on 17.03.13 at 6:37 pm

    I notice you quote Robert E. Webber. Are you promoting a convergence agenda for Southern Baptist Churches?

  10. Posted by David Manner on 17.03.13 at 6:37 pm

    Charles,

    Promoting an agenda is probably a little heavy but yes, I am a strong proponent of Webber’s understanding of worship convergence as opposed to blended worship. When I get the opportunity I share that understanding with our churches but more for them to consider if they haven’t considered it before. A couple of years ago I wrote the article I attached below which outlines some of the basic understandings of worship convergence. http://kncsb.org/blogs/dmanner/blended-worship-in-our-attempts-to-please-all-are-we-pleasing-none/

  11. Posted by Foundational Scripture | Worship Links on 17.03.13 at 6:37 pm

    [...] Manner asks a good question at his blog Worship Evaluation: If the Bible Is Foundational to Worship… Why Aren’t We Using It? Why are churches that so zealously defend the Bible rarely reading its text in public services of [...]

  12. Posted by David Gauthier on 17.03.13 at 6:37 pm

    Quoting Robt. Webber: “The dialogue of worship is formed when God’s Word is revealed. This revelation causes worshipers to respond through the prompting of the Holy Spirit (I Cor 2:12-15; I Thess 1:5). The result is a vertical conversation with God and horizontal communion with others. This dialogue develops a community that congregations have been desperately trying to create through their worship actions.” Please add 1 Cor 14:26 to that.
    Why isn’t this the goal of our services?

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