Friday, July 3, 2009

Worship - a response to a brother

It was not that long ago, that I had an interaction with a dear brother regarding the subject of a saint shouting during our worship services. Like all matter where there is disagreement, there must be communication. At that time I shared with our dear brother the following note, and thought that it would be edifying to include it here in my thoughts on worship. I have removed the names in the note and one or two identifying sentences. I hope that anyone who can receive understanding and/or help from this response will find it.


Thank you for your interest in this matter. I don't wish to debate, so this will be my only response, at least on this for now. That is why I addressed preachers. I didn’t want to bring all of this out for now. Another time maybe, but I am not interested in debating at this time. As with other issues I am tempted to think that you have your mind made up on this issue. But at any rate, I won't judge you and will entertain your thoughts.
You begin by quoting numerous verses on edification. Very well. Since God has called me to give my life for the edification of the saints, I must hasten to agree on the import of this subject. However, the subject at hand is worship, and although you cite these verses and conclude by saying that edification is of “first priority”, I also must hasten to strongly disagree.
In fact, first priority in worship is Godward. First priority is pleasing God, focusing on God, lifting up praises to God, bowing before God. It is all about God. During worship, while edification is important, it is not the most important issue. Teaching the saints to exult in God is the most important issue.
2Sa 6:15 So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet.
1Ch 15:28 Thus all Israel brought up the ark of the covenant of the LORD with shouting, and with sound of the cornet, and with trumpets, and with cymbals, making a noise with psalteries and harps.
2Ch 15:14 And they sware unto the LORD with a loud voice, and with shouting, and with trumpets, and with cornets.
Ps 2:11 Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.
Ps 5:11 But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee.
Ps 32:11 Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart.
Ps 47:1 O clap your hands, all ye people; shout unto God with the voice of triumph.
Ps 132:9 Let thy priests be clothed with righteousness; and let thy saints shout for joy.
Ps 132:16 I will also clothe her priests with salvation: and her saints shall shout aloud for joy.
1Th 4:16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
Brother, shouting is as scriptural as singing. Now, I have seen the charismania in some churches, and would not want the disorder associated with that movement, but would you really think that it was love to censor a brother who was so full of joy over what Christ has done for him that he shouted one time during the service. Would you really be ready to judge his motives and say that that one shout was disorderly? Perhaps you are not comfortable with shouting. Our formative paths and experiences are different brother, and Christian love calls for a largeness of latitude and forbearance when it comes to expressions of praise. As I said to another brother, I will not judge your lack of emotions, and neither should you judge my emotions.
You are judging also whether the church is edified by certain expressions of emotion. I have been greatly edified on any number of occasions when the truth which was being sung or preached impacted a saint so much that that dear saint had to cry out to God. Who am I to judge that dear saint? Isn't it needful for the body to be hospitable and gracious to a saint who gets so stirred by the truth that is being sung or preached that it comes forth in what appears to many, both now and historically in many Baptist churches, to be a response that is quite within the limits of appropriate scriptural response.
Now maybe your background doesn't give you that experience. Perhaps you have never been in a baptist church when someone has shouted, and there are many good, solid, bible-believing churches, with nothing that most believers would classify as disorderly, where shouting sporadically takes place.
I had an older brother in the Lord who used to get moved by the truth often. He was a former alcoholic, and God had gloriously saved him and he never got over it. "Once in awhile old brother so and so is going to shout", was simply the way we handled it. What is so wrong with that? Have we come to the time in our Baptist churches that we are going to attempt to legislate the praises of God's people?
Now I believe in standing against the modern day charismatic movement and all that it stands for, but that is not us brother. Many of the old Regular Baptists, where we Calvinists get our heritage still shout today. Many of the Independent Baptist churches have members who shout. I have never seen it get out of order. And I have never in my twenty seven years of ministering seen people upset because another saint gets excited about the Lord and say that it just ruins the whole service for them. Brother, the whole thing quite frankly sounds ludicrous to me. I am trying to understand but am really having difficulty comprehending what seems to be bitter resistance, when holding it all up to the light of scripture.
Every single believer ought to be growing in grace and learning more and becoming more and more intimate. Brother, in my private devotions, I get so emotional nowadays over what God has done for me, that sometimes I don't know what to do. I waller and holler and thank God that He has saved me. The people in my church have never seen so much self-control, discretion, restraint for the sake of the body, subjection of my spirit and willingness to not be the center of attention, but one or two shouts during a service should be no more distracting than a loud off key singer. ( God give us more who sing loudly as the scripture teaches, even if off key.)
Brother, seriously, we need to be humble and not judge the motives of our brothers and sisters in Christ, especially in an area so clearly spelled out in scripture. You would have to strain at a gnat to say that shouting is not allowed in worship services if you searched the scriptures on worship. I have. Over the years I have taught a series on worship and have carefully studied every single use of anything having to do with worship and praise and every word involved including the Hebrew and the Greek. We are simply not talking about disorder when a saint cries out. Every believer ought to learn the disciplines also, not just of self-restraint, but of not being easily distracted. We ought to be going so hard after God and worshiping with all of our might that it would be very difficult to get our attention off of God. All too often though, many are simply watching others. That is why so many, who really want to just lift up their hands and worship God don't. They are afraid what others will think of them. Shame. (And you really have to strain to say that the scriptures teach that the raising of the hands in worship is anything but that.)
Ps 28:2 Hear the voice of my supplications, when I cry unto thee, when I lift up my hands toward thy holy oracle.
Ps 63:4 Thus will I bless thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in thy name.
Ps 134:2 Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, and bless the LORD.
Ps 141:2 Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.
Here is Spurgeon’s Quote –
“When I lift up my hands toward thy holy oracle: which holy place was the type of our Lord Jesus; and if we would gain acceptance, we must turn ourselves evermore to the blood besprinkled mercy seat of his atonement. Uplifted hands have ever been a form of devout posture, and are intended to signify a reaching upward towards God, a readiness, an eagerness to receive the blessing sought after. We stretch out empty hands, for we are beggars; we lift them up, for we seek heavenly supplies; we lift them towards the mercy seat of Jesus, for there our expectation dwells. ‘I will lift up my hands in thy name.’ For worship the hands were uplifted, as also in joy, in thanksgiving, in labour, in confidence; in all these senses we would lift up our hands in Jehovah’s name alone. No hands need hang down when God draws near in love. The name of Jesus has often made lame men leap as a hart, and it has made sad men clap their hands for joy.
The New Testament is absent of many things about worship Bro. I believe that the particulars in the New Testament are not strangely absent, but purposefully absent, because the gospel was going out into all the world and there would be a wide variety in styles of worship throughout the nations and the ages. Thus there are precious few guidelines for worship in the New Testament. What we get from overall principles are from the Old Testament. Now I am not a dispensationalist and understand the ramifications of that theology. I believe that Old Testament saints were saved by grace just like today, and if they had something to shout about with the types and shadows, we New Testament believers who no longer have figures, but Christ Himself, and His shed blood have much more of a reason to shout. I'm about ready to shout right now.
Now is one expression or the lack of more spiritual than the other? Of course not. Whoever thought of such a silly notion? We are all different. You yourself said that most of the responses thus far were subjective, and that the fine line between what may lead to disunity and what is acceptable practice is subjective. Most of your responses have been subjective. Because we are all different. Why is it that the brother who cries out to God because of the enormous truth he is dwelling upon may be causing disunity, but the brother who is opposing him, or judging him is not causing disunity? It all depends on who you talk to in this subjective area.
You said that you like to hear an Amen now and then during the sermon. During the truth being preached in sermon, but not the truth being sung about in the songs? What is the difference? In considering an "amen" during the message, here's my question, "How is that OK and not disruptive (when all is quiet), but an "amen" or "hallelujah" during the singing when all are singing any way is not? Most of the answers are going to be subjective.
Now you said that the model for the church is inward peace, joy and faith. Hmmm. I strongly disagree. You have taken your subjective view of worship and want to use it as a rule. The New Testament model is liberty and freedom. Order yes. Silliness and trivialities no. Gravity yes. Gladness yes. Dull, emotionless worship no. Emotions in worship is another long subject though.
Brother, let's worship together in our church. Let's worship God passionately. You inwardly, me from inward to outward.
If somebody gets out of line with anything stupid like barking, laughing, crawling down the aisles, or speaking in tongues the leaders would quickly address it.
But for God's sake, let's not try to put out fires that God starts in peoples hearts. I haven't seen any wild fires or strange fires and am not going to judge that the passion in another saint is anything but pure.

In Christ’s Magnificent and Awesome Love,

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