Scriptureless Worship

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A worship service without the reading of Scripture may not be worship at all.

 

 

Why do churches that so passionately defend the Bible rarely read its text in public worship services? Does its limited use convey a lack of trust in the very Word professed to be foundational to our faith, doctrines and practices? And by limiting its text to a single reading prior to the pastoral exhortation are we implying that a higher level of credibility is found in the exhortation than in the Word itself? If Scripture can’t stand on its own, then we can’t possibly prop it up with our own superficial words.

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 encourage worship renewal. At the same time those congregations often minimize the very foundational text from which our 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 songs alone.

John Burgess offers the insight that, “When Scripture is read, when it is explicated in preaching, when it is incorporated into prayers of thanksgiving and lament, when it frames the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, Scripture becomes a means by which Christians are gathered into the body of the living Lord.”[3]

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.

[3] John Burgess, Why Scripture Matters: Reading the Bible in a Time of Church Conflict (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox, 1998), 41; as quoted in Leanne Van Dyk, ed., A More Profound Alleluia: Theology and Worship in Harmony (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2005), 66.

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4 Responses to “Scriptureless Worship”

  • Robert E Pentecost Says:

    From your blog…”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.” AMEN! AMEN! AMEN! And again I say AMEN!

    Believe it or not – in my former church there were “people” who spoke to a “deacon” and said that one problem with me was I used too much scripture in our worship services. When the pastor told me, he chuckled and said he couldn’t believe that was possible and those “people” were ridiculous. Another problem I asked “someone” [personnel committee member’s wife] what song she was planning to sing for the next Sunday. This is something I have done since forever and never had a problem. If I know the song then I can transition from what’s been prepared into an intro of the person and their song. I really wanted to ask during the committee meeting why that person hadn’t come to me first with this problem as the Bible instructs. It’s a good thing we believe and practice the anonymity of the “believer” so one can never know who or where “these things” come from.

    I’ve found in certain “country clubs” aka churches there is usually no reference sheet or scorecard as to what rooms can be used for what purpose, who has to be asked to sing whether they can or not and how many songs those “people” require you to use or how often.

    Don’t get me wrong – I’ve served with many godly and wonderful pastors/staff/lay people and have enjoyed our time together BUT I’ve more recently found that the “country club” mentality is increasing as good churches are decreasing. Sad, but maybe that is part of the falling away – falling into the “our four and no more” or “our way or the highway” mindset.

  • Anamnesis 36: August 2016 — The Institute For Worship Studies Says:

    […] award this month in the category Best Use of Oxymoron in a Title for his August 8 blog post, “Scriptureless Worship.” Way to go, David! The subtitle informs the less discerning: “A worship service […]

  • Jeff Gurnett Says:

    This article is spot on. Totally agree.

  • Bob’s Links – Aug 8-14, 2016 | Bob's Links Says:

    […] Scriptureless Worship (David W. Manner) “Why do churches that so passionately defend the Bible rarely read its text in public worship services? Does its limited use convey a lack of trust in the very Word professed to be foundational to our faith, doctrines and practices?” […]

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