Today, many evangelicals are torn by conflict over the issue of worship—often, that means the style of
worship service, the type of music or the songs chosen. But, at the heart of the issue is a lack of clarity
about our theology of worship—and how that transforms our expressions of worship.
       od designed worship as mankind’s most important               Worship is not self-referential; as previously mentioned,

G      obligation and the Christian’s greatest delight. But
       the continuing intramural skirmishes over the form
and features of worship have leached the joy out of worship
                                                                 it is regulated by divine prescription. Furthermore, it involves
                                                                 sacrifice—for example, the sacrificial offering of thanksgiv-
                                                                 ing and praise, talents, time and finances. In short, it
in scores of Christian churches. The fact that a controversy     demands our all. Moreover, true worship is both private and
of this magnitude exists should surprise few, for the church     communal. Believers are to speak to one another in psalms
seems to lurch through cycles of upheavals followed by rel-      and hymns and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19). Again,
ative tranquility. What is truly extraordinary, however, is      true worship calls for holy joy. Worship is not a requiem,
the lack of a consensus among evangelicals over the ques-        but a celebration of God. “You shall rejoice before the
tions of worship.                                                Lord” (Leviticus 23:40).
   For many, at the heart of the issue lies the question: What       This brief look at of some of the characteristics of genuine
is acceptable worship? In the end, the dialogue generated        worship sets the stage for a broader dialogue. It has become
by this question usually narrows to focus on such matters as     evident to some that what the church requires now is a clearly
worship teams, musical instruments, hymns and choruses.          worked-out biblical theology of worship. Appreciable progress
Not that discussing these is irrelevant. On the contrary,        in this debate will remain elusive until the church becomes
what we sing and how that singing is accompanied necessi-        more conversant with the totality of Scripture on the subject.
tates some debate. Nevertheless, two cautions need to be         Allen Ross has recently published a work, Recalling the Hope of
sounded. In all such discussions, it must be absolutely clear    Glory (Kregel, 2006), to address this need.
that it is Scripture (not personal taste, tradition or present       The articles published in the two-part series on worship
trends), which informs and determines what we regard as          seek to assist in advancing the discourse beyond that of wor-
the appropriate expression of worship. Second, it is worth       ship styles to a consideration of the theology of worship. For
restating that getting the form of worship “right” as one        the most part, the papers reproduced here were first read at
understands “right,” does not automatically mean God is          the International Baptist
worshipped. For worship consists of more than form. This         Conference, hosted by
point is ably developed in the first article.                    Toronto Baptist Seminary
   True worship is approaching the presence of the true and      and Jarvis Street Baptist
living God in Spirit and truth, with awe and adoration. It       Church, in October 2006. It
does not conform to worldly standards. Simply because a          is our hope that you will
particular manner of worship appeals to people within and        find them beneficial as you
without the church does not make it justifiable. Christian       continue to think through
worship does not take its cue from the world. We do not          this vital subject. GW
conduct a market survey to garner people’s predilections,
then implement these findings and pronounce what we              Dr. Glendon G. Thompson is
have done as God-pleasing. To allow the world to set the         senior pastor of Jarvis Street
standards for worship is like consulting the devil on how to     Baptist Church and president
live the Christian life.                                         of Toronto Baptist Seminary.     BY GLENDON THOMPSON
                                                                                      JANUARY 2007 — THE GOSPEL WITNESS        3

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