Renewal in Worship (Sept 1992)

By Matt Dabbs

“Renewal in worship is a return to the redeeming, transforming cross of Jesus Christ.”

by Mike Cope
September, 1992

5Thomas Long imagines how a university student away from home and struggling with personal and academic problems. If his minister from home knew of these struggles, what could he say in a note to the student that would be helpful? Long suggests something like this:
“I want you to know that you are always in my prayers, but more important than that, you are under God’s protection and care. Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, for the living of these days, for the living of these days.”

The strength of this brief note is in evoking powerful images of his church at worship. He can hear familiar voices singing Harry Emerson Fosdick’s “God of Grace and God of Glory.” How many times had he sung those words – “grant us courage for the living of these days”? This memory then dominoes into other stirring pictures:

  • his little sister squealing with delight when the song directory led “Jesus Loves Me”;
  • his father’s head bowed and Bible open as he waited for “the fruit of the vine” to reach him;
  • his cousin’s baptism after the familiar formula, “in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit,” and before the joyful singing of “O Happy Day.”

More than he had ever imagined, worship had shaped his life. It had given him a family larger than the five who had lived at 1427 River Oaks Drive. It had given him a story and an identity: he was part of a people who absolutely believed that God had redeemed them in Jesus Christ.

Worship is a shaping event. In worship we meet God and are changed by God. Therefore, any renewal movement – such as the one Churches of Christ are experiencing – must begin with renewal in worship. As Robert Webber has so insightfully put it:

“Evangelism is an exceedingly important work of the church as is teaching, fellowship, servanthood, missions, and the healing of broken lives. But it is worship … that really stands behind all these activities. The church is first a worshipping community. Evangelism and other functions of ministry flow from the worship of the church.”

The act of worship helps us keep in mind who our God is: the King of kings and Lord of lords who is perfectly holy, loving, forgiving, and demanding. Before him, we become “lost in wonder, love, and praise.”

Our singing, preaching, praying, meditating, baptizing, and communing remind us of who we are: the people of God, saved by his grace. It secures our identity.

When a child misbehaves a parent might say, “We don’t do that.” The child could ask, “Why not?” But the better question – and the one that ultimately needs answering is, “Who are we?” When you say “we don’t do that,” who is this “we” being referred to?

Worship offers an answer to that question. It allows us to continually define ourselves, in William Willimon’s words, “as over against the world so that [we] might be truly for the world.”

Renewal in worship, then, isn’t so much about dimming the lights, putting the songs on an overhead screen, or listening to a small group of gifted singers – though all might have their place at times; rather, it is a return to our God, a return to the redeeming, transforming cross of Jesus Christ, a return to Christian love, and a return to kingdom values and living.Wineskins Magazine

Mike Cope

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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1584 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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