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We Attend Church Not Primarily As Consumers To Experience A Product, But As Worshippers To Exalt God And Edify His People (via Matt Merker)

In an age and a culture that expects polish and encourages perfectionism, the tendency to import these values into worship is at best seen as a ‘bait and switch’ tactic of appealing to the non-Christian’s expectations in order to introduce them to Jesus.
There is a legitimate aim in that desire.
But unrelenting exposure to that culture must shape and form the values and expectations of Christians eventually.
If the medium is the message, what does ‘professional’ standard worship in a darkened room shape.
From Matt Merker:

We live in an age of production. We’ve learned to value and expect polished professionalism from the various interactions that make up our daily lives, from the television shows we watch to our “customer experience” at the local Starbucks.
I call these expectations “consumer intuitions.” They’re not necessarily bad or wrong. But we must beware lest we let these intuitions dictate how we approach church gatherings. We attend church not primarily as consumers to experience a product, but as worshipers to exalt God and edify his people.
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Of course, I’m not saying that we should aim for mediocrity in our church services, or that pastors should encourage members to serve in areas in which they’re obviously not gifted. My point is not for us to pursue clumsiness, but merely to embrace it when it occurs.
And I’m not against “excellence” per se. It simply depends on what we mean by excellence. Yes, it honors God to serve him with our whole heart. Doing all things for his glory (1 Corinthians 10:31) means stewarding our God-given gifts as well as we can. It means resisting sloppiness. Church musicians would do well to emulate the Levitical singers who were renowned for being “skillful” (1 Chronicles 25:7).
Pursuing excellence in serving, facilitating, and accompanying the worship of God’s people is one thing. But if by “excellence” we mean professional-level production quality, I fear it reveals that our consumer intuitions have snuck into our churches.

Read the whole post at Desiring God.


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Why Did Jesus Make So Much Wine? (via Erik Raymond)

If you’re preparing to gather for corporate worship tomorrow there’s encouragement in Erik Raymond’s answer to his rhetorical question about why Jesus turned so much water into wine at the wedding at Cana.

Jesus made so much wine to show the long-promised age has arrived and the blessings that accompany his kingdom are overflowing.
Gathering week by week may be like a taste, but there’s so much to partake of.
Read the whole post here.


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Sinclair Ferguson’s Preface To Reformation Worship

When the Gospel was rediscovered at the Reformation a focus on worship accompanied it.
Paying heed to the practice of worship from the past is an insight into the impact of the Gospel on the gathered people of God.
This is based on an understanding of worship as a whole as a means of grace, something from God to us (vertical downward focused); rather than something that people are doing for God (vertical upward focused), or developing an effective content delivery system (horizontal focused) primarily to educate non-Christians.
In reality all three aspects have to be acknowledged and incorporated; and I’m sure the current horizontal obsession will mitigate over time and we’ll see less of Sunday morning as Christian TAFE and something a little more … worshipful.

Sinclair Ferguson writes an introduction to Reformation Worship, a new book on this classic subject.

This isn’t a plea for a wooden adopting, or a slavish imitation, of any or all older liturgies; nor is it an intimidating and metallic insistence that we should use them today “because the reformers used them.” That could—and almost certainly would—have a deadening effect on our worship. Most of us do not live on the continent of Europe, and none of us lives in the 16th century.
Our greatest need is for worship in Spirit as well as in truth today. But older liturgies should stimulate us to careful thought, and cause us to ask how we can apply their principles today in a way that echoes their Trinitarian, Christ-centered, biblically informed content, so that our worship, in our place and time, will echo the gospel content and rhythm they exhibit.
This is no easy task, and it requires wisdom, tact, sensitivity, and careful communication of principles and goals. But it’s also true that, at the end of the day, people tend to learn and to grow as much by experience as by verbal instructions. They need to sense and taste the help and the value of a better way. And since their appetite may have been blunted by a diet of modernity, it’s important to advance little by little.

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The Otherworldly Beauty Of Christian Worship (via Adriel Sanchez)

Worship only makes full sense when it is experienced as an encounter with God.
In that sense it is an aspect of another reality functioning in this one.
A gathering that functions without relying on a relationship with God to make it operate is less than worship.

This Sunday, God invites you, together with your brothers and sisters, to ascend his holy mountain. To join the angels around us, and the martyrs, who preceded us. He promises to give you the rain of his holy Word, able to spark faith in your heart, and raise you from spiritual lethargy. He offers to feed you, not ordinary food, but heavenly food. A bread so sacred that the apostles warned that eating it could result in death if it was received with impudence (1 Cor. 11:30). In the Bible, worship was far from comfortable, but it was life-giving (Jn. 6:53). It’s life-giving still.

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The Psalms – Where To Plant Your Heart (via John Piper)

Tomorrow, on the first Sunday of 2018, one of our songs will be a setting of Psalm 1.
John Piper on God’s shaping the hearts of his people through his provision of the Psalms.

Plant Your Heart Here
In great mercy and wisdom, God has chosen to give us the Psalms. He has put them at the very center of his inspired word. Surely this is no accident. The heart is the center of our emotional life. And God’s heart-book is at the center of his word. How easy it is to find!
This is an invitation. God wants our hearts. He will take them as he finds them. And then, with the healing balm of the Psalms, he will shape them. Accept his invitation to come. On the front door, he has promised, Enter here. Find your delight in lingering here in meditation.
You will be “like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers” (Psalm 1:3).

Read the whole post here.


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Worship Of God Is Not A Self-determined Endeavour (via Eric Davis)

Eric Davis offers a few reasons why trying to do church away from church isn’t really church.
Here’s one of his thoughts:

Worship of God is not a self-determined endeavor.
Much of the Bible begins with God laying out what it means, and does not mean, to worship him. One take-away from Exodus and Leviticus is, “Wow. This glorious God does not leave the details of worship up to us.” That’s because one of the great problems with humanity is that depravity renders us unable and unwilling to worship him correctly. We have manufactured 10,000 ways of worship. And every one of them is profane and idolatrous.
Not once in the history of humanity has a person or people devised the correct way to worship the true God. That’s why we need the Bible. Whenever man takes the self-determined approach to worshiping God, he makes an idol. In his grace, God prescribes worship to sinful man for good reason.

“You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you lived, and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you. You shall not walk in their statutes” (Lev. 18:3).

“And you shall not walk in the customs of the nation that I am driving out before you, for they did all these things, and therefore I detested them” (Lev. 20:23).

Consider those Old Testament times. With all of those blood sacrifices, couldn’t someone just offer up a sacrifice at home? Wouldn’t that be good enough as long as they meant well and thought about God? Those who offered a sacrifice away from the tabernacle were to be killed (Lev. 17:8-9).
The point is that proper worship of God is not a self-determined endeavor. God has not left it up to me to decide what defines obediently gathering as the church for corporate worship.

Read more here.

Now there are some who feel the Old Testament isn’t relevant in this matter.
Even those folk have to contend with the situation that God is so clear and precise about gathering in the Old Covenant, while their position is that there are no corporate obligations in the New Covenant.
God doesn’t leave our corporate responsibilities up to how we feel.


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Liturgy For The Non-Liturgical Christian (via Stephen McAlpine)

Watch someone with a completely scripted contemporary order of service maintain they’re non-liturgical.
Stephen McAlpine bounces off the observation that all churches have a liturgy of some sort or another, the issue is whether it conveys the reality of the Kingdom of God or is shaped as a pastiche that reflects the Kingdom of the world.
This isn’t a matter of old-fashioned or new-fashioned. It’s a matter of intent and content.
McAlpine states that good liturgy serves as a means for Christians to be re-stored and re-storied.

A sample:

Self-conscious and faithful liturgy re-stories us. We gather to hear that we are in a different story to the stories that we have been plied with all week long. We gather to hear the story that begins in a Garden and ends in a City and that has a vision of the good life and of flourishing centred around the worship of the Lamb, not the worship of the self.
Good liturgy walks us through that story. Not all of it every week. But enough of it over time that we gradually can become impervious to the alternate stories of sex, power and money that are constantly reinventing and re-presenting themselves to us in various guises. Good, self-conscious liturgy is not the sum total of what we do when we gather in various formats as church, indeed it would be strange if it were, but it must the planet at the centre that pulls everything else we do into planetary alignment.
Good liturgy becomes embedded in us so that when those lies come to us as truths, the sheer weight of the truth in us casts them aside, and we find ourselves living liturgically in the gospel due to the sheer length of time we have spent proclaiming true liturgy. Good liturgy doesn’t pretend to be all of our worship, it simply prepares us for a life of worship that is directed towards what is worthy of our worship. Good liturgy sends us out after gathering us in with a clearer sense of the story.
The decision by many churches to cut liturgy at just the time the cultural liturgies were ramping up in energy, was to the church what uni-lateral disarmament was to politics in the 1970s and 1980s.
Both are suicidal and naive.

Read the whole post at Stephen McAlpine.