Monday, December 3, 2007

Rick Warren's Convictions On Worship

1. Only believers can truly worship God.

The Bible says, "God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth" (John 4:24 HCSB). Worship must rest on a true understanding of who God is – and that can only happen when a person has a relationship with God. You can have a worship service full of people, but only believers can really worship.

True only a redeemed sinner can worship God, because only a redeemed sinner will want to worship God. Why, because worship is a way of giving thanks and only some one who has been redeemed can give thanks. The unrepentant generally couldn't careless about worshipping. Besides, sleeping in is more fun than getting up.

2. You don’t need a building to worship God.

For 15 years we didn’t have a building of our own. But I guarantee we did a lot of worshipping during that time. The Bible says, "The God who made the world and all things in it, since he is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands" (Acts 17:24 NAS). God created everything in the world. That includes any place you might consider having a worship service. Worship isn’t a place; it’s a verb

True, you don't need a building to have worship, but they sure are nice when it rains.

3. There is no correct style of worship.

The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 12: "There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men." God gives us only three requirements for worship. It must be authentic and accurate (in spirit and truth, as Jesus tells us in John 4). Paul also tells us in 1 Corinthians 14 that it should be done in an orderly fashion. Beyond that, God gives us freedom.

Debates over worship styles are almost always sociological or personality clashes, couched in theological terms. Everybody thinks that their worship style is the most biblical. But there is no one biblical style. There are no musical notes in the Bible. We don’t even have the instruments that they had. The truth is God loves all kinds of worship styles – as long as we worship him in spirit, in truth, and in an orderly fashion.

Actually, there is a theological component to the worship wars that is legitimate, but I wouldn't expect a person who believes worship is all about what we do to realize that fact. Warren seems to think that it really does boil down to personal desires and to an extent he might be right. However, there is a lot to be said about the me centered nature about contemporary worship and the cold impersonal blahness of traditional worship. I still can't get over how the song "The Heart of Worship" goes on and on about" it's all about you, Jesus," but in the end its really all about me doing something. Yes the song is largely a confession, but all it takes is a few words to ruin the whole message. Its ok to say I will praise you but lacking the context of praise in response to God's work of salvation is an empty gesture without meaning even if you are singing praise because he is the creator. Going through the service by rote is equally heinous, sure you are saying the right words, but do they reflect what is in the heart? Are you negating the joyous response of praise through your bored demeanor?

The other question he fails to ask is what is the purpose of worship. I think he does so because he assumes that it is us doing something for God. Sadly, he misses the best part, what God does for us. The worship service should be structured around the things that God does for us and our response of thanksgiving, kind of like how it should be happening in our vocations. We can praise Jesus to our hearts till we fall over from lack of Oxygen, but outside of the context of the Gospel what's the point?

The only thing that is really a question of adiaphora, neither forbidden nor commanded, is the question of guitar or organ.

4. While unbelievers can’t worship, they can watch believers worship.

We see this truth lived out in Acts 2. "They worshiped together regularly at the Temple each day, met in small groups in homes for Communion, and shared their meals with great joy and thankfulness, praising God. The whole city was favorable to them, and each day God added to them all who were being saved" (Acts 2: 46-47 TLB).

When the early church worshipped, non-believers came to faith in Christ. Non-Christians can’t worship, but they can see the kind of joy worship brings us. They can see how God’s Word transforms our heart, comforts us, and interacts with us. God can use our worship services to draw non-believers to himself
True, but it helps if you clearly proclaim the Law and the Gospel. Where these are proclaimed hearts will change. Sadly, too many preachers believe that good worship means that the sermon provides helpful tips on how to be a good parent, fiscally responsible, etc. Rick Warren Deal with real life issues but move them to the Gospel don't leave them hanging in despair or giving them false confidence in their own ability to do God pleasing work.

5. Worship is a powerful witness to unbelievers if God’s presence is felt and the message is understandable.

Both of those are essential parts of a worship service when witnessing to unbelievers. Again, Acts 2 is a good example of this. God’s presence was so evident in the disciple’s worship at Pentecost that it attracted the attention of all the unbelievers throughout the city. And then the message was understandable. Remember the miracle of tongues? Every man heard the message in his own language. It had to be understandable! And that’s true today as well.

Ok, it is good advice to avoid church jargon. Your average parishioner does not understand what sanctification means, but they will understand what it means to strive towards perfection or trying to be more like Jesus in response to the Gospel. The worship service can be a powerful witness to unbelievers whether or not they feel something. Unless all you have to go by is your feelings, but we don't. The Gospel is it's own powerful witness and its power is derived not from how we feel, but from God himself.

6. God expects us to be sensitive to the fears, hang-ups, and the needs of unbelievers when they are present in our worship services.

The Bible says in Colossians 4:5 (NIV): "Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity." When you have guests over for dinner at your house, do you act a little bit differently? I hope so! A little bit more polite. Maybe you use a different set of china or dishes. The presentation of the meal is a little bit more thoughtful. The table conversation is a little bit more courteous. You may be still eating beans and weenies. It’s the same meal, but you are presenting it in a little more polite way.

Is that being hypocritical? No. It’s called being polite. Whenever you hear people talk about being sensitive to unbelievers, that is not watering down the gospel. It’s called love. You’re just being nice to them.

Treat them nicely. That is good advice. What it doesn't mean is turning a blind eye towards sin or out right acceptance. It simply means being friendly. Help them, guide them. Don't berate. It is possible to tell somebody they have done something wrong without hitting them in the head with a Family Bible.

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