Worship: Teach it!

T. David Gordon, author of Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns and Why Johnny Can’t Preach, visited Southwestern Seminary to interact with doctoral students in the School of Church Music and give a presentation on media ecology.  At breakfast the morning of his workshop, Gordon turned to me and said, “In today’s church, if you do not teach it then it is not important.”  He taught many fascinating things, but that one statement haunted me.

The more I thought about my congregation, the more I began to realize that I had never taught a serious study of worship to the “regular people” attending my church.  While it is normal for me to teach worship at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, I had never held my congregation to any type of learning standard.  In other words, I was a part of the problem. How could I expect my congregation to understand worship if they have never been taught the basic Biblical and historical elements of corporate worship?  How could I expect them to understand the hurt, disunity, and non-relevance caused by classifying worship with terms like traditional, contemporary, or child appropriate?

Taking Gordon’s word to heart, I created a Worship Study to begin the new year for my small-town Texas church.  To my amazement, the people were more than receptive to the idea, enjoyed the homework and readings, and came to the worship study ready to listen, interact, and discuss Scripture.  Even more so, I was stunned when one of my church members caught me by the arm last week and said, “I love how we respond to our prayer with a slow [meditative] congregational song. I can see it. As a people who are forgiven, we are now ready to move past the gathering to a deeper intimacy with God. “  One other person remarked, “I never knew how much we were missing when we were using the two-fold plan of praise and worship.  You know, praise is just one part of worship.” The list of comments grows each week.  Those 25 adults (that is about ¼ of our adult attendance) are making a difference.  I even saw one person who has not sung a note in 2 years begin to move his mouth and sing.  When I complimented him after the service and thanked him for coming to the study, he said, “You know that singing is something God expects from all of us.  Halleluiah means: All you people – praise God.”

I cannot believe that I was a teacher who was not teaching some of the most important people in my life. Our first series was a five-session overview (1 hour and thirty minutes each).  They have already asked for a mid-year Bible study just focusing on one of the overviewed subjects.  For those in a position to teach, let me encourage you to do so.

Below is an outline of the five sessions I created for the series. When I teach the next series, I will lecture less, involve far more interaction, and focus on depth rather than breadth. However, this first overview series is a critical step to enabling my congregation to seriously examine the Biblical foundations of worship and culture. You have never experienced pure teaching joy until you are a part of a group of mainly farmers and ranchers discussing scripture related to worship, the Letter of Pliny the Younger and selections from the Babylonian Captivity.


January Worship Study: 2013

I. Session 1: What is Worship (Numerous OT and NT scripture passages)

(from – Scott AniolWorship in Song)

A. Define the word “Worship” and its use the Bible: Hebrew, Greek, and Latin.

B. Present the major periods of Hebrew Worship: Worship in the Old Testament

1. Family Altars

2. Mosaic Period – Tabernacle

3. Temple

4. Synagogue

5. Second Temple leading to the Diaspora.

C.  The Christ Event: Worship in the Gospels

1. How did Jesus worship? (Temple and synagogue)

2. What are the Greater Canticles and why are they important?

II. Session 2: The Early Church: Acts, Epistles, and Extant Writings

A. The coming together of Temple, Synagogue, and Christian Home Church.

B. The amazing variety in worship actions found in the letters of Paul. (Examine Epistles and worship elements discussed by Paul)

C. Non-Scriptural Resources

1. Letter of Pliny the Younger

2. Apology 1 of Justin Martyr

3. Didache

D. What about music?

1. Clement of Alexandria

2. John Chrysostom (Byzantine)

III. Session 3: Reformation – Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin

A. The old church: Pre-Reformation

1. Infused Justification and the Mass becoming more than corporate worship

2. Development of Purgatory and the abuse of the Indulgences

3. Papal Authority

4. Scripture: Wycliffe and Huss

B. Reformation

1. Luther

a. The Five Solas (Major emphasis on Scripture)

b. Priesthood of all believers

c. Babylonian Captivity

2. Zwingli and Calvin

a. Zwingli: Berne Disputation

b. Calvin: Institutes

3. Worship

a. Terminology Change (priest to minister, altar to table, etc..)

b. Development of Free Church worship

c. Music: hymns, versified Psalms, and the exclusion of music.

C. Why Baptists Should Know These Things:

1. Anabaptists

2. Influence from the Anglican Tradition

3. Westminster Confession of Faith and the children of the Reformation.

IV. Session 4: Revivalism and the Americanization of Protestant Worship

A. Quick History

1. The First Great Awakening: 1730 – 1743: Jonathan Edwards, George Whitfield

2. The Second Great Awakening: 19th Century: Stone & Campbell, Timothy Dwight, Finney, Moody

3. For Baptists in America: Sandy Creek & Charleston Traditions

B. The Camp Meeting

1. Roots and Worship Practice

2. Spread of Frontier Worship

3. Revivalism and the rise of Gospel Song

C. The Influence of Charles Finney & Moody

1. Frontier revivalism brought to the urban centers: The Revival

2. The inclusion of the “Altar Call” and how it became a part of Baptist worship practice.

3. How worship moved from four-fold to three-fold (preliminaries, sermon, harvest).

4. Utilitarianism of the arts.

5. Application to Baptist worship.

D. Comparison of the historical developments to the Early Church as found in Acts.

1. Reading the salient worship passages in Acts and comparing them to Finney’s published statements on worship.

2. Beginning discussion of how the Early Church engaged their culture as related to the revivalist’s approach.

V. Session 5: Baptists in the 20th Century and Engaging 21st Century Culture

A. The 20th Century

1. Baptists (1900 – 1980)

2. The Worship Wars (1980 – 2005)

a. Church Growth Movement: Seeker Sensitive -Willow Creek, Saddleback

b. Prosperity Gospel – Kenneth Copland, Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker, Joel Osteen

c. Rise of the Youth Culture

d. Breakdown of denominationalism

e. Rise of Pentecostal Influence

f. Movement from a 3/4 Fold Worship to 2 Part Worship (Praise & Worship)

3. The State of the Church – Seven Faith Tribes (Barna)

B. Postmodernism (lecture, moving quickly)

1. Postmodern Shift

There is nothing outside the text (Derrida) – Deconstructionism, everything is interpretation.

Incredulity (distrust) toward Metanarratives (Lyotard) – modernity and science can’t stop telling stories, all the while claiming they are opposed to fables.

Power is Knowledge (Foucault) – disciplinary formation molds human beings into something other than what they are called to be.

2. Christian Response (from James Smith – Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism])

a. To Derrida – The centrality of scripture for mediating our  understanding of the world.  The increased role of community in the  interpretation of scripture.

b. To Lyotard – Recover the narrative character of Christian faith, rather than understanding it as a collection of ideas. Recover the proclamation of the narrative and the way we find ourselves in a world of competing narratives.

c. To Foucault – Return to strong discipleship as a creational structure that needs proper direction.  Understand the counterculture nature of this move in contrast to the business understanding (think MTV) of the cultural power of formation and discipline.

C. Worship in the 21st Century

1. Hebrews 11:1

2. Matthew 7:1-6

3. (From – Andy Crouch – Culture Making).  Gestures & Postures; Four Postures that do not work:

a. Condemning: Condemning the cultural goods, without offering an alternative, will not change a culture. [Separation Christian Movement]

b. Critiquing: Analysis without action. [Christian Higher Education – think about culture]

c. Copying: Imitate it, replace the offensive bits with more palatable ones. [The Jesus Movement and CCM]

e. Consuming: Strategic consumption. [Most of today’s American Christians – Example – go to the movies, like Keanu Reeves, Say “Whoa!” and leave just like our fellow consumers who do not share our faith: amused, titillated, distracted or thrilled.

4. What does work? – Culture is cumulative – it is what we make of the world

a. Create: Imago Dei (Genesis 1:26-27)

b. Cultivate: We say we trust in God, but we live our lives as if worry is a spiritual gift.

1)     Acts 4:15-17

2)     James 1:16-18

3)     Matthew 6:33-3

D. Memory and Imagination (From – Randall Bradley – From Memory to Imagination)

1. The church needs to be about worship, nurture (discipleship) and outreach (missions), and she needs to be hospitable and multi-musical as it adopts a posture of creation and cultivation.

2.  How does memory shape us?

3. How does memory shape worship?

4. How does this transfer to worship and music?

5. Some Myths and Worn-out Expressions

E. Where do we go from here?

1. Examining our worship service.

2. How can we engage our culture?

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2 comments on “Worship: Teach it!
  1. John Cornish says:

    Wonderful thoughts here. Authentic, Biblical worship is something that is definitely lacking in the modern church as a whole. I definitely plan on incorporating this idea into my church in the near future.

  2. Bill says:

    I”d love to see a bibliography for your teaching series.

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