Worship (Part 2) – Preaching: the Pinnacle of Communal Gatherings

The pinnacle of communal worship is executed in preaching.

Now that worship through music has been tackled, let us move deeper: the life of worship. Worship is more than aesthetic enjoyment; it is a life of joy found in the worth of God. The normal scheme and frame of mind for modern churches is that worship ends once the musicians leave the stage, and then teaching begins. This is not as much a misrepresentation of worship as it is of preaching.

“The original Puritan sermon sought to turn a text into a doctrine, argument, and application” (Larry Witham, A City Upon A Hill). Preaching, in the puritan era, was seen as the primary source of spiritual progression. Further, bland stated truth was viewed as diminishing to its effectiveness. An orator ought to honor the scriptures by speaking it with power, passion and all the means of aesthetic indulgence. For the aim is to stir the affections, and pleasant speech increases persuasiveness. ‘The wise of heart is called discerning, and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness’ (Proverbs 16:21). Moreover, the puritan’s pastor relied heavily on oratory structure borrowed from Cicero’s On the Orator. Cicero’s philosophy, simply put, stated that the duty of an orator was to prove, delight, and stir. All of these elements depend on the circumstance, but the essentials in their absolution are necessary for grand oratory. Key elements of oratory preparation included topic “invention” (which for the puritan pastor meant Biblical text), arrangement, choosing of an oratory style, memorization, and finally the commencement of delivery. Puritan sermons took this model of arrangement very seriously, and molded into a commercial process: 1) an “attention-getting opening,” 2) topic narration 3) the argument’s proof, and 4) an affectionate epilogue to “stir the audience.”

The borrowed principle is seen in the primary establishment of doctrine and truth that led to practical function. The pastor did not on the outset present ethical law, but rather revealed the Scripture’s depiction of God and reality. Once he had presented God in His actuality, all application easily flowed into a powerful epilogue. My simplified thesis is borrowed from Pastor John Piper: Preaching ought to be expository exultation.

Firstly, expository in regards to the truthful exposure of God’s nature and workings. The preacher primarily points to the scriptures and communicates what it reveals about God – showing His true worth. The great error in preaching is the inclination to be immediately practical rather than eternally significant. Christianity is not a mere way of life, it is divine truth that transforms the heart. The truth of scriptures affects the soul which regenerates the Christian’s way of life. Too many preachers have bought into using the Bible as a “how-to book” or “lifestyle instruction manual”. The Bible is not an ends within itself; it is a means to an end – Jesus Christ and His gospel.

Secondly, preaching exults in this truth; it leads the listener to delight in God. God is glorified in the revelation of who He is. Here is where worship makes its climax – glorying in the truth of who God is. This glory naturally entails practical teaching and functional responsibility, which stirs the listeners to Christian obedience: a life of worship. This is why it is absolutely necessary for preaching to be seen as the pinnacle of worship, because if not, Christianity’s worship is limited to a poetic experience once a week.

Therefore, within the parameters of a typical modern church service, a congregation’s worship is not defined by their musicians, but by their preachers. The revelation of who God is and all that entails for His called is the great motion to worship – greater than the song choice. A congregation can only worship as far as God’s anointed leader and teacher within that congregation directs them and makes room for the Holy Spirit to stir them to worship. This is where the deepest impact of worship can take place: the affection of the heart through the teaching of God’s word.

Here is a helpful video:

Is Preaching Still Relevant? from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.



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