With Reverence and Awe, Chapter 1
I want to recommend another resource for study on worship— the book, “With Reverence and Awe, Returning to the Basics of Reformed Worship” by D. G. Hart and John R. Muether. I am going to spend several weeks giving you some highlights from each chapter of this book. I will not even begin to exhaust the great wealth of information in the book, so I encourage those who are interested to purchase a copy to read.
Chapter 1: The Church and the World (all quotes not attributed are from the book)
“What is the relationship between the church and the world in worship? Should the service be a time that makes the church accessible to the world, or should it be one where the church displays her otherworldliness? Should worship be a means to attract the unchurched to the gospel, or should be it an expression of the church’s identity as aliens and strangers in the world?”
In many ways we have forgotten in our world what it means to be the Church and what worship is all about. Many in the evangelical world have turned worship into a mirror of culture in order to attract those in the world, rather than view worship as a time when the Church meets with God. William Shisko, in the booklet Helps for Worship, writes, “Corporate worship is, first of all, a gathering of God with his people.”
We forget this. The world is not reached with the gospel of Jesus Christ by the Church appealing to the common elements of the world, but rather by the Church being the antithesis of the world. Worship, that gathering of God with his people, should reflect something different than what the world offers. The very Greek word we use for Church, ekklesia, means “called out”. The Church consists of those who have been called out of the world and into fellowship with God.
“Just as Israel was called out of Egypt to Sinai, so the church is the gathering of God’s people, out of the world and into fellowship with God. The church at worship is therefore an assembly that is separate from the world, because it is God who separates the church, in order to gather with him, to be in his presence.”
R. B. Kuiper stated, “to be the opposite of the world is not only necessary for the well-being of the church but is essential to its very being. If the church should cease being antithetical to the world, it would no longer be the church.”
It is interesting that we read in Scripture how we are to be separate from the world, we are to not love the world, the world will hate us on behalf of Christ, and also many other statements that show this extreme separation between the Church and the world. For example, as we studied in 1 John, the children of God and the children of the devil. Yet many would make the argument that when it comes to worship, we ought to do things, or act in such ways in our worship that would be appealing to the unregenerate man. In the light of Scripture this is really absurd.
“The very act of worship, of assembling in the presence of God, therefore, is simultaneously the church’s renunciation of the world. Worship is a subversive and countercultural act of an alien people who, forsaking the world, listen to the voice of her master saying, “follow me.” True worship, then, will be odd and perhaps even weird to the watching world.”
Rather than the claim that worship is old-fashioned, irrelevant, and isolated from the “real world,” Hart and Muether state, “the church at worship is the real world.” As we gather with God each Lord’s Day, what a blessing it is that God gives us a glimpse of what is to come. He shows us our true reality, and our future in calling his people to meet with him.