Sermon Illustrations

TRUE WORSHIP

I want to read to you an excerpt from James Montgomery Boice’s book, "Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace?" to preface my opening statements.

This is from his chapter entitled, "Reforming Our Worship". In it he cites two sources from which he got his information. I cite my resource, which is Boice’s book. If anyone wants to know what his sources were I would suggest that they procure his book and look his sources up in the chapter notes at the back. In the meantime, it would be wise to also read the book.

Here is how Boice began this chapter:

"Several years ago I was invited to take part in a worship service in Geneva, Switzerland, that was about an hour and a half long. Four English-speaking congregations had combined to hold this service, and it had been promoted as a time when the congregations could all worship together, which was good.

About half of the service was music led by a youthful worship team. They used overheads, and we sang choruses, most of them repeated three or more times. There was even one hymn. My part, the sermon, was about forty minutes long.

"The service was not bad, as services like this go. But what struck me about it was its lack of traditional worship elements, especially since it was on a Sunday morning and had been promoted as a united worship service. There was no invocation, no confession of sin, no pastoral prayer, and although there was a Scripture reading, it was there only because I had chosen it as the passage from which I was to teach later.

"I say again: This was not a particularly bad service. But it was part of a contemporary trend which shows how far most churches have moved from an older, better worship style that was thoughtful and genuinely God-centered, as all true worship should be.

"Of course, some services are much worse. The Los Angeles Times Magazine reported on a church in southern California that advertises its service as ’God’s Country Goodtime Hour’ and promises ’line dancing following worship’. Their band is called the Honkytonk Angels, and the pastor takes part. The Wall Street Journal described a church in America’s Bible-belt that calls itself ’The Fellowship of Excitement.’ It ran an advertisement for a Sunday evening service that read:

Circus! See Barnum and Bailey bested as the magic of the

big top circus comes to The Fellowship of Excitement!

Clowns! Acrobats! Popcorn! What a great night!

"The same church once had the pastoral staff put on a wrestling match during a Sunday service, having hired a professional wrestler to train them how to throw one another around the ring, pull hair, and kick shins without actually hurting one another.

"What are we to think of these sad trends? Whatever they are, they are not worship. How can they be if they have abandoned the use of Scripture, in which God speaks to us, and have eliminated prayer, in which we speak to God? True worship is praise of God for who he truly is and for what he has done, and if that is not the very center and heart of what we are doing, our so-called worship is not true worship at all."

Source: From James Montgomery Boice -- WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE GOSPEL OF GRACE? -- Crossway Books, 2001. From a sermon by Clark Tanner, "If Truth Be Told" 2/19/2009

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