August 10, 2008

A Primer on Reformed Worship Part 1

Today for church, we listened to Part 1 of a series by Terry L. Johnson called "A Primer on Reformed Worship." Terry happens to be my uncle as well, but he is a published writer and the senior pastor at Independent Presbyterian Church in Savannah, Georgia.

Part 1 of this 3 part series was more a background of his studies and how he came to believe the way he does. A quick overview of his philosophy of worship, from this first part of the series is to Sing the Word, Preach the Word, Read the Word, Pray the Word, and Administer the visible word – Communion. The focus being on worship of God through the Bible. It is such a simple plan with such a deep and powerful outcome. What better way to worship God than to use the living and active Word of God?

Again, this was part 1 of the series and was a background of how my uncle came to believe this is such a powerful way to worship God. Having first learned of the reformation in a Reformation History class at USC and reading such great books as J.I. Packer's "Knowing God", Terry decided to go to Trinity College in England to study under Packer and his faculty. During his college years, Terry also went to Scotland. He learned a great deal about the history of the reformation and Covenantal theology.

He watched and learned how churches in both England and Scotland were using the Bible in all parts of their worship services. One church sang from a book of Psalms which were rhymed and metered back in the 1650s. It was the whole book of Psalms but to music. They were singing the Word.

At one point in his studies he learned under John MacArthur at Grace Community Church in Southern California. John taught verse by verse through the Bible, also known as expository preaching. Terry said it was powerful and he felt like a new person every time he left one of John's sermons. John preached the Word.

Another time while in England, Terry attended a church where scripture was read during the service. Not part of the preaching, but it was a different passage of scripture read in a slow and deliberate manner. The comparison between lectio selecta vs. lectio continua was made, meaning the practice of selecting passages vs. reading verse by verse through the whole of scripture. Terry found this to be much more powerful and said, the whole Bible is the whole character of God. They were reading the Word.

Finally, Terry attended a prayer meeting were he was impacted by the deep and powerful prayer meeting he was part of in Scotland (I think). He said the prayers of these men were God centered, God dependent, scripture rich prayers. Use scripture in prayers. The language of scripture is God's centered, God glorifying, and more powerful than anything man could ever say on his own. These men Prayed the Word.

Sing the Word, Preach the Word, Read the Word, and Pray the Word. This is the method to a God centered worship service, rather than a man centered service. The church services I've been to lately are not God centered. They are man centered and can not be called worship services. The fact that the Word of God is not the center focus of a church worship service is a frightening thing in what is called the church today.

Even in my own life, I see myself looking for a church that has all the things I want. Instead, I should be looking for a church that has what God desires/demands from our lives. We are here to worship God, to glorify Him. That is our purpose and our design. Church should NEVER be about what we are getting out of it, but what we are giving God through it. Church should be a place to publicly and corporately worship God.

Praise God for His Word.
Sing the Word. Preach the Word. Read the Word. Pray the Word.