Saturday, December 11, 2010

Something to Think About

Here's something to think about:

Most church families in our country will gather together sometime today or tomorrow. As this happens, the high point for most will be the worship service. The high point of the worship service will be the sermon. If you doubt that this is the case, just ask most of the people present.

There are two troublesome aspects to this. First, scripted worship services are completely foreign to the New Testament church. Second, the preaching of sermons to saved people is completely foreign to the New Testament church.

This is extremely significant. This means that what occurs during the spiritual high point of the week for most Christians is something that we don't see anywhere in the bible.

Please let me point this out in a different way (and forgive the redundancy). Christians believe in, trust, and love the triune God who has revealed Himself in the bible. As His church, we come together as saved people because of what He has done for us and continues to do for us. We know these things because of the testimony of the Holy Spirit to the truths of scripture. In the bible, we see all sorts of expectations that God has for His church. We even learn about what God desires from church gatherings.

There is a significant problem, then, when the main gathering of the church and the high point of that gathering are not found anywhere in the bible itself. This is mind-boggling to me. It is stunning.

Scripted worship services cannot be found anywhere in the NT.

Preaching of sermons to the church cannot be found anywhere in the NT.

As we know, most churches that meet tomorrow will nevertheless take part in both of the above.

Is there a better way? Yes there is. The bible itself shows us. The scriptures describe for us church gatherings that are unscripted, free-flowing, and expect and encourage group participation. There may be teaching of scripture, but there is no preaching of sermons (everywhere we see preaching of sermons in the NT it is to lost people). Everyone is invited to use his/her spiritual gifts for the mutual edification of the body.

So I have to respectfully ask, if you are planning to take part in a scripted worship service this week, why?

If you are going to listen to a preached sermon, why?

I encourage you to look to the scriptures to inform your church gatherings. We all, including myself, fall short of the biblical ideal for gatherings. For example, my speech, attitudes, and actions during gatherings are not as Christlike as the bible expects. My hope is that this improves as I walk the path of sanctification.

We all have areas where we can grow in godliness in our lives. How do we know what we should look like? The only place of authority in this must be the scriptures. We must strive to become more biblical people.

Let's all ask how our lives must change in order to come more fully in line with what God has for us and expects from us. This applies to us individually and as church families. As we gather tomorrow, will our meetings look like what we see in the bible, or will they be dominated by man-made traditions? We should at least be willing (and brave enough) to ask the question and see where this leads.


Bad Catholic said...

Merry Christmas! Here's a comment from the Heathen Papist perspective:

Until the Protestant Reformation the center of all Christian worship was the celebration of the Eucharist.

The celebration of the Lord's Supper each Sunday by the early Church is the reason that Christians were accused by the pagan Romans of being cannibals.

The Mass has two parts: The Liturgy of the Word, where the Bible is read and the Priest or Deacon preaches, and The Liturgy of the Eucharist, where the Body and Blood of Our Lord is made present on the altar.

Although some Anglicans and Lutherans maintained the entire structure of the Mass in their worship, the "radical reformers," (Puritans, Anabaptists, etc.) jettisoned the Liturgy of the Eucharist and made the Liturgy of the Word the central event of worship. The primary event in the Liturgy of the Word is the Homily or Sermon.

I submit that the real New Testament Church is a Church which celebrates both the Word of God and the Body and Blood of the Lord each Sunday.

Eric said...

Bad Catholic,

It's good to hear from you. Merry Christmas to you as well.

When I discuss what church gatherings should look like, I'm looking back past the Protestant Reformation and back even further past the Roman Catholic Church.

I'm taking this information from passages such as I Corinthians chapters 12-14 that discuss church gatherings. Since the apostles where alive at that time, we can know they either gave approval to their practices or gave correction as to how they should come together.

When the church does gather, I would like to see a celebration of the Lord's Supper and discussion of the word, along with other aspects. I would imagine that you and I think of these things somewhat differently, but at least we can agree that both word and supper should be a part of it.

Steve Scott said...


Allow me to be, shall we say, "transparent" here. I was taught all you said here, and the sermon was the high point of the week. But with everybody supposed to sit down and shut up while the preacher preaches, what is the congregation to do? In all my churches we were taught that active listening was a form of worship, and note taking was the best form of that.

So, here it was, my highest form of worship in the whole week was taking notes on the sermon. I became the most skilled note-taker in the kingdom, and I would even submit that I took better notes than the preacher wrote to deliver his sermon. Well, this type of thinking can lead to spending the rest of your week listening to sermon tapes, or now on-line, etc.

But then real life hit, and I had children and we had quite a few illnesses and injuries. We were exhausted. The Sunday sermon became the time of the week most likely to fall asleep, and coffee and other such things became necessary. I find it very odd that one's highest expression of worship could be so greatly affected by normal things in life like fixing a bottle or taking care of another person.

All the churches I have attended, by the way, have been heavy bible driven churches that hold to sola scriptura. I think note taking is in Hezekiah 3:16.

Eric said...


I've heard a great deal about the "active listening" too. The whole thing puts the preacher at the center of the show. The fascinating aspect of all this is that no one can show preaching to the church taking place in the bible. I guess that's just not that important to today's churches.

Tryg said...

Great post! Fantastic questions!

I agree that church should be more open and free-form, with scriptural involvement and input coming from all participants, however, to say that the modern "sermon" has no precedent in the New Testament is perhaps a little disingenuous in the sense that all of Paul's (& pseudo-Paul's) letters were read aloud before his planted churches by the church leadership. This practice could very well have been the genesis of the modern sermon?

Colossians 4:16

16After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea.

1 Thessalonians 5:27

27I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers.

Eric said...


Thanks for your comment. You bring up an interesting issue.

While I see what you are saying, I also see a huge difference. Paul was an apostle and the reading aloud of his letters would have been a one time happening. Additionally, these were words of scripture.

As for today's sermons, they happen all the time, given by men who are not apostles. Sermons might be based on scripture, but they are hardly the word of God.