Tuesday, September 4, 2007

More on Sermon-Centric Worship

Sweetness from Ligon Duncan, from the Gospel Coalition's workshops: "Preaching Q&A with Ligon Duncan and Crawford Lottis."

Duncan begins by relating an anecdote shared by Mark Dever, who recalled a woman's incredulity when Dever mentioned that the Puritan preachers occasionally sermonized for 2 or 3 hours (at the behest of their congregations!).
She said, "Dr. Dever, if they preached for 2 or 3 hours, . . . what time was left for worship?"

Ooo, don't ask Mark Dever that! Mark's response was something like, "Ma'am, understand that from the Puritan's standpoint, the sermon was the apex of worship, because the conscionable hearing of God's word from the mouth of God's servant was the ultimate act of worship."

Because you are hearing, you are sitting under the searching judgment and the comforting promise of God's word spoken into your heart. It's the greatest act of worship as the people of God gather together . . . It is the culmination of worship.
Remember, that many of (them) would have been able to remember the smell of burning flesh in their nostrils, for the people who had died at the stake so that they could hear the Word of God read to them and preached to them in their own language . . . They knew the great cost, so they didn't care how long their preacher preached.

I think one reason that our people are oftentimes so lackadaisical about the privilege of preaching is that they don't understand the cost that has been born for the word of God to be brought to them in their own language, and they don't understand the magnitude of what it is to have an encounter with the living God which is word-based, facilitated by the servant of God preaching the word of God to their hearts, speaking that truth into their lives.

Previously: 5 Reasons for Sermon-Centric Worship

6 comments:

Travis said...

"to have an encounter with the living God which is... facilitated by the servant of God"

Am I the only one who sees huge heresy in that statement? It just flies in the face of the book of Hebrews (specifically chapter 10). Encounters with God facilitated by a [human] servant--that's totally the Old Covenant.

I just found this article yesterday--can you give it a read (even if you disagree with it)? http://www.edgenet.org.nz/ideasfromedge/problemwithpreaching.htm

Jared said...

Huge heresy? Well, I don't see it.

I don't see the conflict with Hebrews 10 either, unless you understand Duncan/Dever to mean the preacher atones for us. I don't understand them to mean that.

I think he is poetically explaining that when we hear Scripture, we are hearing from the living God, and that is a weighty, awesome thing. So the preacher who preaches Scripture facilitates that encounter. In the same way, perhaps, Moses reflected the glory of God.

Do you think it is heresy to say of leaders of musical worship that they are ushering people into the presence of God?
It may not be theologically precise (as God is everywhere and we may approach him on our own, thanks to Christ), but it makes sense in a biblically appropriate way.

Will check out that link . . .

Jared said...

Okay, didn't read it word for word. Read the intro and the main points and their explanations.

Obviously I disagree. I think the writer makes one big fundamental error (monologue preaching is extrabiblical) and quite a few errors of logic and based on bad examples.

He says preaching in the Bible is about the kingdom and the Gospel, which is odd, since that's what I and others say also, and our conclusion is not that we should therefore do away with preaching. There is an error in that approach he appears blind to, which is that the Church needs Gospel and kingdom preaching also. Desperately so these days.

He says preaching is ineffective. Well, much of it is, but that's not preaching's fault.
He says preaching isn't open to debate, as if debate is what we need in gathering to worship. Truth by consensus is even more dangerous.
I disagree with just about all of his other points, based as they seem to be on the abuses and misuses of preaching. It's like arguing against the charismata by citing Benny Hinn.

I have a post planned on the "conversational preaching" idea. May get to that sooner rather than later.

Travis said...

Okay, that's fair enough. =)

The reason I said it's heretical to say that (as Duncan's remark heavily implies) a pastor reading the Scriptures is an "encounter with the living God" in a way that non-preachers' reading of it is not. That does turn the pastor into a sort of mediator between God and man, because we cannot have such an "encounter" without the preacher.

"...the Church needs Gospel and kingdom preaching also."

Hence most of the epistles, yes. I agree. However, I wouldn't say the Church needs Gospel and kingdom preaching; preaching (as that author pointed out) is intended for declaring news. The Great Commission is one to teach disciples, which doesn't happen well via monologue. (Even schoolteachers let kids raise their hands.)


He says preaching isn't open to debate, as if debate is what we need in gathering to worship.

Has a pastor ever been wrong in what he said? Didn't the Apostle Paul himself command that all prophecies be tested by other men during the assembly? What sets a pastor's words above such scrutiny?

"Debate" isn't a synonym for bickering--it's about working through different presuppositions and mindsets to (hopefully) arrive at a real agreement. And the people in a congregation won't (unless it's a cult) simply forget everything they've ever believed at one man's say-so. Encouraging discussion is how you learn where the congregation's coming from, what hang-ups they may have with the teaching, etc.

A pastor may have spent a good deal of time crafting a sermon, but it's irresponsible to merely assume that God's speaking through your sermon. You need to dialog with your people both to learn if they're being equipped (which is the pastor's job, after all) for their God-assigned service by what you've shared, and also to protect yourself from falling into error (and dragging others with you).

If "truth by consensus" among men truly was more dangerous, then why would Paul command the testing of these things? Or, to put it another way, the testing of hermeneutical messages is Biblically-mandated, so how could it be more dangerous than disobedience?

Jared said...

Let me ask you this: Why did Paul write letters? Did he do so under any authority?

Why didn't he just let the churches figure it out for themselves?

I also disagree that churches don't need kingdom and gospel declaration. I need people to proclaim the gospel into my life all the time.

I don't see a valid difference, really, between teaching and preaching, particularly as I don't advocate a worship service as the totality of community life. It is not the only outlet for the work collective discipleship.

What you are advocating (if I'm undestanding correctly) ought to be done as supplements and parts of the greater life of a church. Small groups, home groups, mentoring relationships, discipleship training programs, whatever.
But the greater gathering of all believers, I believe, should maintain proclamational preaching.

Moses did it. Nehemiah did it. Jesus did it. Peter did it. The Reformers did it. The Puritans did it.
We should do it. IMO

Travis said...

Why did Paul write letters?
Hmm... that's not a question I've really ever thought of before. It's a good one, though! I mean, usually what I'll hear is more like "why did Paul write [insert specific letter here]?"

I suppose he wrote letters (and as far as I know, nobody claims the N.T. canon includes every letter Paul penned) for the same reason(s) our contemporary church planting missionaries write letters: to update their prayer/financial partners on their work, to ask for continued prayer/financial support, to reconnect with faraway friends they wish they could see, and to respond to letters they were sent.

Did he do so under any authority?
Is that a real question? =p (2 Corinthians 13:10)

Why didn't he just let the churches figure it out for themselves?
Because they had asked for his input?

I also disagree that churches don't need kingdom and gospel declaration. I need people to proclaim the gospel into my life all the time.
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. -- Heb. 5:12-14 (ESV, emphasis added)

How can we mature without constant practice? And since when is "hearing and receiving without 'debating'" practicing discernment? Here's what I'm saying: a congregation cannot mature (in the Hebrews 5 sense) by being lectured to.

What you are advocating (if I'm undestanding correctly) ought to be done as supplements and parts of the greater life of a church. Small groups, home groups, mentoring relationships, discipleship training programs, whatever.
Except that it's explicitly mentioned in the New Testament as one of the things that's done "when you come together." Meat isn't supposed to be "supplemental" to milk.

But the greater gathering of all believers, I believe, should maintain proclamational preaching.
In spite of the model consistently presented to us in the New Testament?

Moses did it.
The people begged him to, because they didn't want to interact directly with God.

Nehemiah did it.
Nehemiah forced men to divorce their wives, too.

Jesus did it.
Rarely! His tendency was to teach and then field questions, even with unbelievers. Wait, that sounds familliar...

Peter did it.
To believers or unbelievers?

The Reformers did it.
The Reformers in Geneva did a few things I don't think you would condone, though.

"If they were forced to grant that as many of us as have been baptised are all priests without distinction, as indeed we are, and that to them was committed the ministry only, yet with our consent, they would presently learn that they have no right to rule over us except in so far as we freely concede it." -- Martin Luther

The Puritans did it.
They baptized infants, too.

We should do it. IMO
But what is your opinion grounded in? Because you don't even differentiate between regular practice and special one-time events (such as the rededication of the Temple in Nehemiah's time). Where is the Scriptural evidence for what you're advocating? If you appeal to tradition, then what makes you different than the Papists?