Wineskins Archive

December 20, 2013

AfterGlow: Transforming Worship (Sept-Oct 1997)

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by Phillip Morrison
September – October, 1997

28A preacher who influenced me in boyhood years would not allow us to talk about “going to church.” Arguing correctly that the church is not a place but a people, he preferred that we talk about “going to the meetin’ house.” It took me some years to realize that was a distinction without a difference. He was still talking about a place; he was just hung up on calling it church!

Going to worship is neither going to occupy some place nor observe some performance; it is going to do something, to offer something, to feel something, to become something. As Robert Webber put it so well, worship really is a verb.

I have preached sermons chastising people for the presumed inadequacy of their giving (“Give of your best to the Master”) when my own life was certainly not without spot or blemish. I wanted the sacrifice offered by the people to be more acceptable than my own.

Many churches are giving more thought to worship planning. Gone are the days when song leaders dog-eared their favorites five minutes before service time and the main qualification for prayer leading was being present and willing.

Worship in our tradition has been too preacher-centered. A proper emphasis on evangelism has led to an improper combining of evangelism and worship. Singing, praying, even remembering our Lord at his Supper have often been hasty preliminaries or hurried afterthoughts. Our emphasis on pattern theology has somehow failed to note that the early church assembled to worship and went out to do its evangelism.

The sermon, if carefully prepared and delivered, can be a vital part of worship. But it must be, in the words of John Killinger, “a real Word, and not something compounded in fever on Saturday night to be delivered in spasms on Sunday morning.”

“This is the sum of the matter,” said Martin Luther, “that everything shall be done so the Word prevails.” And Karl Barth held the preacher responsible for creating “an expectancy that something great, crucial, and even momentous is to happen.”

C.S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity, has Christ saying to us, “Give me all. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want YOU. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good … Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked – the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you myself; my own will shall become yours.”

Then we will be able to truly worship.Wineskins Magazine

Phillip Morrison


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