Saturday, May 05, 2007

A.W. Tozer and Worship in the Church

It is cinco de Mayo. For those of us at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, this means the official last day of classes for the semester, and the looming dread of finals week which begins on Monday. I probably should be studying, but I am at work, where I can only concentrate in spurts, so I generally read blogs or short prose. I am reading a collection of sermons by A.W. Tozer entitled
Whatever Happened to Worship? It has been a blessing. In a sermon entitled "Born to Worship God," Tozer preaches from Genesis 3 on the fall of Adam and Eve. In it, Tozer characterizes the world as a man with amnesia who can't put his finger on who he's supposed to be. He moves to revelation and the Gospel and makes an interesting statement about the Church's purpose. Below is the quote in context:

"Yes, worship of the loving God is man's whole reason for existence. That is why we are born and that is why we are born again from above. That is why we were created and that is why we have been recreated. That is why there is a genesis, and that is why there is a re-genesis, called regeneration.
That is also why there is a church. The Christian Church exists to worship God first of all. Everything else must come second or third or fourth or fifth."

I think that nearly everyone would agree with this after a few moments thought. I am a worship leader, studying worship and thinking always about corporate and private worship, so I agree quickly. But I think that, while we all may agree that this is the reason the church exists, we all live a different existence . I wonder if our children and teens were asked why the church exists, whether their immediate response would be that the church (Christ's body) exists for all eternity to worship and give glory and praise to God.
I wonder how many church members think that the church exists first for evangelism and baptisms? As a Southern Baptist I have heard more than one sermon that would not hold up to Tozer's assessment.
I wonder how many Christians think that the church exists PRIMARILY to alleviate the pain and suffering of others? Or how many people think that the church FIRSTLY exists as a means of grace for other Christians to be strengthened and girded up in their struggle against sin?
The thing is that it is so easy to be led by this kind of thinking. The truth is that the worshiping church, those who worship the the great and mighty and awesome God of the Bible WILL do all these 2nd and 3rd and 4th priorities. Feeding the poor isn't left out because it's not first. John Piper is famous for, among other things, writing that "the reason why missions exists, is that worship doesn't."
Worship is our motivation for evangelism, our motivation for caring for our brothers and sisters, for caring for the sinner, for loving the orphan.
SO...Sunday morning, before you go to church, how will this effect you?
When you're showering and getting ready to go to your Sunday Gathering, how will this reality shape your thoughts?
How will it shape the planning of our public gatherings?
How will it effect our programs, our ministries and our outreach?
How will this reality change what our choir anthem will be this Sunday?
Should I even have a Choir anthem?

As a worship minister how does this effect the lengths I will go to to preserve and strengthen worship in my church?

"Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." 1 cor. 10:31