Worship is War

rthymns-of-graceThe “worship wars” are never behind us. They are always with us. Just because your church has settled upon what style of music it is going to use come Sunday does not mean that worship has ceased to be a war for you or your church.

A few weeks ago I finished Rhythms of Grace, a book by Mike Cosper. It is an excellent book that would benefit every pastor (especially those who are primarily responsible for the worship order on Sundays). It speaks to the power of the worship service shaped by the biblical story of the gospel. Here is what he has to say about the “worship wars” in particular.

Whoever dubbed the debate over musical style a “worship war” failed to realize that worship is always a war. The declaration that there is one god, that his name is Jesus, and that he has died, has risen, and will come again is an all-out assault on the saviors extended at every level of culture around us. We’re taught to find a sense of hope in a political party, trusting in our duly elected saviors to make the world right once and for all. We’re taught to find our identity in our friend counts on Twitter and Facebook. We’re taught that a victory at work or good news from a doctor or a bathroom scale will satisfy us. We look longingly into the eyes of other human beings and believe that they can affirm us enough and love us well enough to end our sense of loneliness.

We believe these things because we’ve been taught them again and again. Like the ascending pilgrims of Psalm 121, we’re surround[ed] by clamorous mountains advertising happiness, sex, and power, all available for consumption. Our entertainment in television, film, and literature paints the good life this way, and it grips our heartstrings, calling us away to worship at the feet of these idols.

Worship isn’t merely a yes to the God who saves, but also a resounding and furious no to the lies that echo in the mountains around us. The church gathers like exiles and pilgrims, collected out of a world that isn’t our home, and looks hopefully toward a future. Our songs and prayers are a foretaste of that future, and even as we practice them, they shape us for our future home. (pg. 103-104)

Just before this Cosper quotes Jean-Jaques von Allmen:

Christian worship is the strongest denial that can be hurled in the face of the world’s claim to provide men with an effective and sufficient justification for their life. There is no more emphatic protest against the pride and the despair of the world than that implied in Church worship.

These are powerful words. Gathering for church with the body of Christ is a private protest against sin, satan, and all the false hopes and dreams this world offers and which vie for our affection. It is a public rebellion against the false gods of our culture that tempt us to believe satisfaction, joy, and deliverance can be found in anything other than God through Christ. Worship is war.

The following are my favorite books on worship. What are yours and why?

  1. Worship by the Book ed. by D. A. Carson
  2. Recalling the Hope of Glory: Biblical Worship from the Garden to the New Creation by Allen P. Ross
  3. Give Praise to God: A Vision for Reforming Worship ed. by Ryken, Thomas, & Duncan
  4. Christ-Centered Worship: Letting the Gospel Shape Our Practice by Bryan Chapell
  5. Rhythms of Grace: How the Church’s Worship Tells the Story of the Gospel by Mike Cosper
  6. Worship Matters: Leading others to Encounter the Greatness of God by Bob Kauflin

Good Book. Great Price.

Westminster Bookstore (online) is having a phenomenal price on the recent book Finding Faithful Elders and Deacons by Thabiti Anyabwile. If you are a deacon or a church elder, want to be one someday, or simply want to know more about what God says about these roles I encourage you to check it out along with some of the other great deals on 9 Marks books that they are selling. I love the ministry of 9 Marks and so I heartily recommend these books for your edification.

Here is the table of contents for Finding Faithful Elders and Deacons:

Part One: Finding Table Servants

  1. Choosing Your Waiter: An Introduction to Deacons
  2. Full of the Spirit and Wisdom
  3. Sincere
  4. Sober and Content
  5. Keeps Hold of the Faith
  6. Tried and True

Part Two: Finding Reliable Elders

  1. Sheep and Shepherds: An Introduction to Elders
  2. Desires a Noble Task
  3. Above Reproach
  4. A One Woman Man
  5. Sober-Minded, Self-Controlled, Respectable
  6. Hospitable
  7. Able to Teach
  8. Sober, Gentle, Peacemaking
  9. Not a Lover of Money
  10. Leader at Home
  11. Mature and Humble
  12. Respected by Outsiders

Part Three: What Good Pastors Do

  1. Elders Refute Error
  2. Elders Avoid Myths and Train for Godliness
  3. Elders Hope in God
  4. Elders Command
  5. Elders Let No One Despise Their Youth
  6. Elders Set an Example
  7. Elders Teach
  8. Elders Grow
  9. Elders Watch Their Life
  10. Elders Watch Their Doctrine


Sample Elder Ordination Vows

Here are some sample pages if you want to test run the book a little before purchasing.


Let the Text Shape The Message

Expository preaching begins in the preacher’s determination to present and explain the text of the Bible to his congregation. This simple starting point is a major issue of division in contemporary homiletics for, from Harry Emerson Fosdick onward, many preachers assume that they must begin with a human problem or question and then work backward to the biblical text. Expository preaching begins with the text and works from the text and its revealed truth to the application of that truth to the lives of believers. If this determination and commitment are not clear at the outset, something other than expository preaching will result.

The preacher comes to the text and to the preaching event with many concerns and priorities in mind. Many of their concerns are undeniably legitimate and important in their own right. Nevertheless, if genuine exposition of the word of God is to take place, those other concerns must be subordinate to the central and irreducible task of explaining and presenting the biblical text.

…Expository preaching is inescapably bound to the serious work of exegesis. If the preacher is to explain the text, he must first study the text and devote the necessary hours of study and research necessary to understand the text. The pastor faces an immediate issue of priority when this is acknowledged. He must invest the largest portion of his energy and intellectual engagement (not to mention his time) to this task of accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). There are no shortcuts to genuine exposition. The preacher must stand ready to present and proclaim the message of the Bible and bring the congregation into a direct confrontation with the biblical text. the expositor is not an explorer who returns to tell the tales of the journey, but a guide who leads the people into the text and teaches the arts of Bible study and interpretation even as he demonstrates the same.

Taken from Give praise to God: A Vision for Reforming Worship (pg. 112-113) edited by Philip Graham Ryken, Derek  Thomas, J. Ligon Duncan III. Andrew Franseen gave me this book as a Christmas present years ago when he was still getting to know me (along with another ministry shaping book). That act of giving has stuck with me for many years. Thank you Andrew once again!

And another (shorter) quote from the much newer book Invitation to Biblical Interpretation: Exploring the Hermeneutical Triad of History, Literature, and Theology. I add this quote simply because it talks about the value of God’s word and the price that must be paid to preach and hear it. 

As seekers of truth and as lovers of God and others, then, we set out to discover revealed truth and to acquire biblical wisdom as one sets out to mine gold and precious stones. Our conviction that God’s Word is the most precious commodity there is fuels a desire to extract even the last ounce of meaning from the biblical text no matter how much effort or learning it takes to recover it. In our quest for revealed divine truth, we will be prepared to pay whatever price it takes to hear God speak to us in and through his Word and to proclaim his life-giving message authentically and accurately to others. (p. 59)


What is The Church?

Fundamentally, God intends the local church to be a corporate display of his glory and wisdom, both to unbelievers and to unseen spiritual powers (John 13:34-35; Eph. 3:10-11). More specifically, we are a corporate dwelling place for God’s Spirit (Eph. 2:19-22; 1 Cor. 3:16-17), the organic body of Christ in which he magnifies his glory (Acts 9:4; 1 Corinthians 12). The Greek word for church is ekklesia, a gathering or congregation of people. The church is God’s vehicle for displaying His glory to His creation.

The uniqueness of the church is her message – the Gospel. The church is the only institution entrusted by God with the message of repentance of sins and belief in Jesus Christ for forgiveness. That Gospel is visualized in the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, both instituted by Christ. The distinguishing marks of the church, then, are the right preaching of this Gospel and the right administration of the biblical ordinances that dramatize it.

The structure we’re building, then, is fundamentally God-centered – it is a Godward structure, designed to display the glories of God’s character and the truth of His Gospel. It is also an outward-looking structure; but even in its outwardness it is God-centered, since we look outward for the purpose of spreading God’s character and Gospel through all the nations – to gather more worshipers for Him and thus magnify His glory.

Ours is a ministry of magnification – making God’s glory appear to the eyes of the world as big as it really is by bringing it into closer view and sharper focus in the form of the local church. What we are building, then, is not simply another nonprofit organization or Christian company. We are building a corporate, organic structure that will accurately magnify God’s glory and faithfully communicate His Gospel.

Jesus is the One who is ultimately building His church (Matt. 16:18). But He has graciously allowed us to participate in the construction process, and it is therefore according to His biblical blueprint that we must build the structure and life of the church. What are you trying to build?

This was taken from Mark Dever‘s and Paul Alexander’s Book (published back in 2005) The Deliberate Church. I know it isn’t new but I loved it when it came out and I still do. Want a better church pastors and leaders? Read this book. Want to catch a vision for what the church ought to be and how to begin getting there? Read this book. Buy it inexpensively Here.