Alive and Active
I asked a class if they knew the alphabet. They responded with answers ranging from “twenty-six letters,” to a detailed description of vowels and consonants. “That’s not really what I meant,” I said, and I asked again if they knew the alphabet. This time was worse than the first: “A phonetical system of written symbols used to communicate abstract thought” was their response. Thinking that I was asking a simple, straight-forward question, I tried once more. “Yes, but do you know the alphabet?” I asked with frustration in my voice. Then I heard it: initially only one voice in the back row, but soon everyone was singing:
In relief, I sang along, too.
Why is God’s Word Reserved for the Sermon?
I asked a pastor if he knew the Word of God. He responded with a ten-minute lecture on exegetical hermenutics. Next I asked a minister of music if he knew the Word of God. He quoted me a chorus and said “I think that’s from the New Testament.” Wandering around, I finally ended up in the Sunday School department where I asked a class of kids whether or not they knew the Word of God. It was like a dam had broken; immediately they were falling all over each other to quote their favorite memory verse. I heard everything from “God so loved the world” to Psalm 19 in its entirety. “I guess you do know God’s Word” I said, and then I left.
Why is God’s Word reserved for the sermon? Granted, there are some pastors who are insecure or have convinced themselves that only they can “rightly handle the Word of Truth.” Most, however, believe that God’s Word is central; too important to be confined to one individual’s “turf” or to one portion of the service. Corporate worship, as well as the sermon, should center around and respond to the Word of God. After all:
- Only God’s Word has God’s guarantee of success. (Isaiah 55:11)
- Only God’s Word can bring salvation to both child and genius. (John 6:68)
- Only God’s Word can sanctify. (John 17:17)
- Only God’s Word reveals both where we are and where we should go. (Psalm 119:105)
- Only God’s Word is effective against the evil one. (Ephesians 6:17)
Do worship leaders know God’s Word? Does God’s Word “richly dwell within us” as we teach and admonish our people using “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs?” (Colossians 3:16) Is the Word of God “very near you, in your mouth and in your heart?” (Deuteronomy 30:14) As leaders we profess to love God’s Word, but by our examples we teach that scripture is not important enough to memorize and/or use in worship.
Yes! I used the word “memorize:” the lost discipline of memorizing God’s Word. How else shall we interpret scriptures that say to hide God’s Word in our hearts (Psalm 119:11) or to meditate on it “day and night” (Joshua 1:8). As worship leaders we need to stop using the Bible to justify our salary and/or behavior, and to begin using it as a roadmap into the presence of God. People will not always agree with our choice of music, but the inclusion of God’s Word in our worship is irreproachable. In His Book The Knowledge Of The Holy, Tozer states that “It is possible to have some truth in the mind without having the Spirit in the heart, but it is never possible to have the Spirit apart from truth.”
It is a powerful thing that happens when you lead your people through David’s confession (Psalm 51) or his song of majesty (Psalm 8) without having to open your Bible. Whether you guide your people into the throne room of God with Isaiah 6:1-8 flowing from your lips, or help them to rejoice in their adoption as you worship through the Ephesian Doxology (Ephesians 1:3-14); your people will learn both to love and to respond to the Word of God. When God’s Word flows naturally out of the abundance of your experience, it will become “living and active, sharper than a two-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12). I would submit that when the Word of God becomes alive and active, so will your worship.
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