Saturday, March 1, 2008

The Importance of Worship

As the Pastor of Berean Baptist Church I have the responsibility to watch over the flock who worship every week together with us. Along with Pastor Stewart and our other elders and deacons we pray that our church will be a spiritual haven on earth for those who walk with God. I am painfully aware, as your pastor, that there is a cultural war raging in our land. That war has many battle fields. One of these battlefields is within the local church. On the battle field of the church there is being fought a war over how we should worship our God. I have written a book entitled, “What The Bible Teaches About Worship.” This book was not written over night. It reflected years of study, prayer, contemplation, observation, and concern over the trends that I had seen develop within the Church of Jesus Christ. I pray that everyone at Berean will read this book and will try to follow the suggestions that I set forth there.

Today, I am putting an article by Elizabeth Eliot on our blog that describes the need to sing the great old hymns of our faith in our worship. Elizabeth Eliot was the wife of Jim Eliot who was martyred by the Auca Indians in Peru many years ago. Anything that you can read by Elizabeth Eliot is worth its weight in gold. I trust this article will be of encouragement to you.


Many of the churches my husband Lars and I visit on our travels seem to know nothing of the great old hymns that have instructed, comforted, and enriched the church for centuries. Hymns constitute a crucial part of worship, but not by any means the whole. In churches which use almost exclusively what are called "praise songs," that part of the service is usually referred to as "Worship," as though prayer, preaching, offering, and listening were something else. May I lodge a plea to those who use overhead projectors to make sure that some great hymns are displayed in addition to the praise songs? Hymns will get you through the night.
In January of 1956, when five women were waiting with bated breath to find out whether our husbands were dead or alive, I lay in bed in Nate Saint's home, my little daughter Valerie sick in a crib beside me. The hymn "How Firm a Foundation," with those magnificent words taken from Isaiah 43:1-2, sustained me, especially stanzas 2, 3, and 6, memorized when I was a child in our daily family prayer time:

"Fear not, I am with thee; O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid;
I'll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.
"When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow;
For I will be with thee thy trials to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.
"The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I'll never, no, never, no, never forsake!"

Everywhere I go I try to point out what a tragic loss is the disappearance of these powerful aids to spiritual stamina. A true hymn has rhyme and meter, a logical progression from the first verse to the last, and I feel like jumping up and down and "hollering" to get my message across, but I try to keep it to merely begging and imploring folks to get their hands on a good hymnbook. Where to find them? they ask. Perhaps they are moldering in the church basement. More than likely they've long since been dumped - "Young folks don't like hymns," we're told. But of course they don't like them - they don't know them. Alas!

But help is on the way. In the USA Try 'Trinity Hymnal,' Great Commission Publications, 3640 Windsor Park Drive, Suite 100, Suwanee, GA 30174 (800-695-3387). May I suggest that you keep it with your Bible wherever you've arranged your quiet time?

Elisabeth Elliot

(I would simply say that every Christian should keep their hymnbook handy and use it every day in their personal devotion and worship to God. God bless you my dear Bereans!)


Scott Schroeder said...

Dear Pastor,

I still remember like it was yesterday, the first time I heard you preach. The reason this is significant to your posting is that when I was walking into the service, Don Freeze was singing "How Great Thou Art" Even being Jewish, I could identify that tune, and remember enough of the lyrics to be able to know that I disagreed with it, although it sounded nice.

By this time I had already attended a more modern service with modern pop culture music. I don't even remember the tunes or the words, and I certainly was not impacted by their message.

Thank you for your leadership and for sharing on the blog.


Ben said...

Dear Pastor,
Thank you so much for this more detailed post on Elizabeth Eliot. "How Firm a Foundation" is one of my favorite hymns and comes to memory quickly. Having read "What The Bible Teaches About Worship" - the church I currently attend rarely uses old hymns - mostly new praise songs - a lot that are used on Christian radio in our area. With the exception of hymns - the church I attend meets all the other areas of "throne-room" worship. Do you have any suggestions on how to approach the Assoc. Pastors of Worship Arts regarding adding more old hymns to the service? Or would you suggest attending a different church?

On another note, I couldn't find the links to your recommended Christian readings - is it still on the allgrace site? If not - is there a way you can post it to your blog? Have you read anything by Steve Marr? If so, would you recommend his "Business Proverbs" book?

Thanks for being the servant you are!