Saturday, June 18, 2011

A Call for Faithfulness: the Responsibilities of Ministers and Elders in the Church's Worship

Allen P. Ross makes a comment that I have thought was true for quite some time now.  Ross writes, in his wonderful book that looks at worship from Genesis to Revelation:
"The serious problems that have developed in worship are largely due to the failure of the leaders or to the leaders' turning worship leadership over to those who may play an instrument but are not qualified to do all that is required."
The tendency of ministers, today, even solidly Reformed ministers, is to let those who are musical plan the liturgy and pick the psalms, hymns, or spiritual songs we sing.  In so doing, a fundamental error is made, namely, the failure to see that all of the liturgy involves the ministry of the Word, and therefore, only the minister/elder is qualified (or should be qualified) and given the authority to make faithful decisions about the service of the Word.

Ministers and elders are failing to see the connection between theology and worship planning.  Most sound ministers would agree that Scripture is authoritative for faith and practice, yet they seem to forget that worship is the most important part of our practice in our life together as believers.  Worship must be guided by the theology we glean from God's Word.

The problem is particularly acute in Reformed churches that believe in the five points of Calvinism and the solas of the Reformation, but then worship in a Charismatic or Evangelical form that conveys very little Reformed theology and piety.  Sadly, many Reformed churches are training their young people to leave the Reformed faith for the Evangelical and Charismatic churches they are trying to imitate in worship.

It is time for the ministers and elders of our churches to realize their awesome responsibility before Jesus Christ for the worship the church brings to the Father through the Son in the very presence of the angels in heaven.  What we do on Sunday mornings is more awesome than the big game on Saturday and more important than the business meeting with an important client during the week, both of which require lots of preparation, for in our worship we "come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel" (Heb. 12:22-24). 

May the Lord give us wisdom and a reformation that begins, as all reformations begin, with a reformation of worship.  But if the Lord gives us this change, it will require more study than we currently give to liturgics, i.e., the history and theology of worship.  Many seminaries are not training their ministers in the area of worship.  We take six classes on systematic theology but none on worship!  We need, not only our pastors and elders to take worship more seriously, but also our best theologians, who also tend to punt on the issue of worship whenever the specter of music is near!

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