8.11.2010

HOW TO SPOT FALSE WORSHIP--The DIALOGICAL PRINCIPLE AT WORK

I was recently asked to re-post the worship charts from a blog series I wrote earlier this year: Going Off Roading With God--(See the Worship Service Description HERE , PART I, PART II )
Hear also some recent RADIO Interviews on the Series:
THE STATE of the EVANGELICAL CHURCH IN THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST (1)
THE STATE of the EVANGELICAL CHURCH IN THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST (2)

Protestants believe worship is to be a dialogical. Our response flows from what he has declared through his servant in the written Word. We are called to separate these as two distinct aspects of worship. Notice the dialogical principle demonstrated below in a standard Protestant liturgy (what we do in worship):

God

People

Call to Worship (Scripture text)

Prayer

God's Greeting (Scripture text)

Song of Praise

God's Will For Us in His Law (Scripture text)

Confession of Sin

(prayer / song)

Assurance of Pardon
(Scripture text)

Response of Gratitude:

Prayer (first part)

Tithes / Offerings

Song of Gratitude

The Word of God spoken (Preaching)

The Word of God displayed (Sacraments)

Song of Response

Doxology of Praise

Benediction (Scripture text)




God speaks in calling us to worship, we respond with prayer; he speaks in greeting us with a word of blessing, we respond with song; he speaks by instructing us in his will for us, we respond in confession and repentance; he speaks by assuring us of forgiveness, we respond in prayer and by giving our offerings; he speaks to us in Word and Sacrament, we respond with gratitude in song and he sends us out, not with a mere dismissal, but with his benediction as his pilgrims. Through and through, there is dialogue, and our responses are only appropriate to what the LORD has already conveyed to us in his Word through his appointed messenger. This is why the Lord constantly instructed his prophets to speak, "only what the Lord has commanded" (Ex. 7:2), as worship begins and ends with Word of God. The same is true for the pastor today.

Now consider the Saddleback model:

God

People


Ready to Worship? Worship Leader

Praise Music -20-30 Minutes

Welcome by Praise Leader

Prayer

Video #1

TOPICALLY DRIVEN MESSAGE DETERMINED BY THE PASTOR, NOT the TEXT

Word of God Forced into Pastor's Topic --->


Video #2

Offering

Praise Music

Dismissed




Now who is absent here? The one element on the God-side if often manipulated by the pastor as he imposes his topic on the text. The Saddleback model claims to have a real worship experience in which we actually meet God. Does the above order of worship show this? An honest assessment of the service shows that Word and Sacrament, the primary means of grace, are not central. The man-side is full with practices more appropriate to the theater than the worship of a holy God.

When a church begins worship with the first twenty minutes of praise music, all you have done is falsely elevate the people's emotions; there has been no place given to have the truth "as it is in Jesus" be our guiding light. Our singing is not a means of grace. Music is a response from us to the grace given to us. We often begin worship with the wrong assumption that real uplifting worship elevates us to God first through music, instead of God graciously condescending to us in Word and Sacrament. This is wrong; this is backwards. Our praise is a response to his nearness to us in the Word spoken.

So, what are you receiving every Sunday?

14 comments:

  1. from John Zylstra: -> The dialogic principle for worship is great! However, it should be noted that in the 20 to thirty minutes of praise in some other churches, some of this dialogic principle, where God speaks to us, comes through in the songs. For example, "Come, now is the time to Worship" is a common song which is often sung at the beginning, and m...any of the songs (not all) are also an almost direct derivation from some scripture passages (God's word). In some reformed services, both the confession of sin, and the assurance of pardon, both are read as scripture passage quotations. So on the one hand, it is God's word describing the confession of sin, and on the other hand the congregation is not personally or verbally confessing, but merely listening, unless a song is sung in which they are proclaiming their confession. In the dialogic principle, we should be aware that it is not about taking turns, as if we were equal to God. It should be about listening to God, even while we are praising Him.
    Adam Zylstra comments:-> Yes and No
    3 points.
    Absolutely scripture should be used throughout the service as this is God's word to us (even if prophecy still occurs it must be in line with the Word), however his (Gordon's) view of the sermon seems a little ungracious, I pray the pastor's notes do not contain a reminder to "force God's word into my message"
    second, is it really the church's responsibility to create the correct series of events so that worship is possible? Isn't it the Christian's responsibility to maintain a heart of worship? We should always be in a worshipful state as we recognize our position in the world relative to God.
    The Word is useful to remind us of God's work on our behalf and his grace to us, however the Holy Spirit was left as our comforter and provides us with a heart that is very aware of God's mercy and grace to us even if we were left on a deserted island and therefore we should always be capable of a worshipful heart.

    The formulaic method to "true worship" will always fail if the beleiver does not seek God and strive to be in relationship with him always.

    Finally, I am disturbed by the title "How to spot false worship". Actually I am angry, the title claims an intimate knowledge of the hearts of the leaders and followers of another Christian church and condemns them. Don't we have enough denominations and splits without condemning people over the order of worship? How about pointing out the potential downfalls of the order of worship and asking, "how do you prepare your congregation for worship?"

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  2. from John Zylstra: -> The dialogic principle for worship is great! However, it should be noted that in the 20 to thirty minutes of praise in some other churches, some of this dialogic principle, where God speaks to us, comes through in the songs. For example, "Come, now is the time to Worship" is a common song which is often sung at the beginning, and m...any of the songs (not all) are also an almost direct derivation from some scripture passages (God's word). In some reformed services, both the confession of sin, and the assurance of pardon, both are read as scripture passage quotations. So on the one hand, it is God's word describing the confession of sin, and on the other hand the congregation is not personally or verbally confessing, but merely listening, unless a song is sung in which they are proclaiming their confession. In the dialogic principle, we should be aware that it is not about taking turns, as if we were equal to God. It should be about listening to God, even while we are praising Him.
    Adam Zylstra comments:-> Yes and No
    3 points.
    Absolutely scripture should be used throughout the service as this is God's word to us (even if prophecy still occurs it must be in line with the Word), however his (Gordon's) view of the sermon seems a little ungracious, I pray the pastor's notes do not contain a reminder to "force God's word into my message"
    second, is it really the church's responsibility to create the correct series of events so that worship is possible? Isn't it the Christian's responsibility to maintain a heart of worship? We should always be in a worshipful state as we recognize our position in the world relative to God.
    The Word is useful to remind us of God's work on our behalf and his grace to us, however the Holy Spirit was left as our comforter and provides us with a heart that is very aware of God's mercy and grace to us even if we were left on a deserted island and therefore we should always be capable of a worshipful heart.

    The formulaic method to "true worship" will always fail if the beleiver does not seek God and strive to be in relationship with him always.

    Finally, I am disturbed by the title "How to spot false worship". Actually I am angry, the title claims an intimate knowledge of the hearts of the leaders and followers of another Christian church and condemns them. Don't we have enough denominations and splits without condemning people over the order of worship? How about pointing out the potential downfalls of the order of worship and asking, "how do you prepare your congregation for worship?"

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  3. Hi John, thanks for the interaction. The DP is not such much about taking turns as it is responding to what has descended upon us from above. The grace given, heavenly speaking, is received by faith. But the response, earthly speaking, is something distinctively appropriate to the category of thanksgiving for the grace already given since it becomes a fruit of a believing heart. In other words, thinking God's thoughts after him is a distinctively different act than the declarative function of the vox dei. Yes, this principle is great!

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  4. Adam,

    Appreciate the interaction also. You write,"is it really the church's responsibility to create the correct series of events so that worship is possible?

    The answer to this is, yes, in so far as the church receives the direct commands of Scripture that expressly regulate what we do in worship. You are making it sound as if our worship is simply a matter of what our hearts decide, as long as what is done has good intention. There is a reason this approach has been condemned in historical Protestantism, namely because, as Calvin observed, "our hearts are idol factories" and are capable of justifying anything in the name of the Lord.

    Painful as it is to say, there is false worship across the board today in Christian churches. The worship manipulation I see by pastors and leaders today demonstrates that our thoughts of the LORD are completely unworthy of his holiness.

    So if there are worship leaders doing things directly against God's Word, promoting "will worship", self-imposed worship, and worship that profanes God's holiness, contrary to "reverence and godly fear", then to state that such worship profanes God's holiness does indeed say something about their hearts. They have created idols in their hearts that need to come down--again, our hearts our idol factories.

    I don't say this proudly, but only as fulfilling the responsibility of Ezek. 33, and calling people back to conformity, not to their own ideas, but to the Word of God--there we find regulated true "heart" worship.

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  5. To respond to your comments to myself: I have no problem with "God speaking" and then our response. What I have problems with, is assuming this can only be done in one way. That somehow it is invalid to hear God speaking to us in the songs we sing, for example. That somehow, the songs we sing cannot be declarative, or that listening to someone else speaking God's thoughts after him is the same as making your own confession; it isn't.

    I had ignored the question of "false worship" treating it as one of those catch phrases, but my son Adam was hugely offended. I think he was offended not because he believes there is no such thing as false worship (he knows there is), but because the judgement of false worship was made on such a pretense of superficial derstanding.

    While the church should do its best to create the proper attitude and atmosphere of communal worship, it cannot create true worship which must exist in the individual believer. Nor is a formula the identification of true or false worship. Our hearts are also capable of making idols out of this dialogic principle or any other formula or order of worship.

    The problem with your assessment of "will worship" or "profaning God's holiness" while they are valid concepts, is that it is not solved by a formula, or an order of worship, but by the attitude of the heart. If pride rules in this order, or if conformity to an "order" becomes more important than conformity to God's word, then there is failure to worship.

    David was very displeased, and rightly so, when his wife thought he was being irreverent and undignified in his dancing and singing before the ark of God. His worship of God was directly related to the gift that God had given him in allowing him to bring the ark back to Jerusalem.

    Our definition of worship is often incredibly narrow, stunted, and limited. God's word does not limit it so.

    In the old testament, God prescribed many of the ways that the people should worship with sacrifices. But ultimately, it was all in vain, if their hearts were not dedicated to God, and if they were not obedient in their daily lives. God did not want the sacrifices that He himself has prescribed. This gives us a clue as to what true worship really is.

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  6. Hi John!
    You Write, “What I have problems with, is assuming this can only be done in one way.”
    I’m not sure I have argued for it being one way. Since the Reformation, there have been a variety of liturgies that faithfully demonstrate the dialogical principle. See Horton Davies work on the Worship of the English Puritans as he has some of these liturgies in the appendix.

    You write, “While the church should do its best to create the proper attitude and atmosphere of communal worship, it cannot create true worship which must exist in the individual believer. Nor is a formula the identification of true or false worship.”
    John, please reread my last reply, you seem to be missing the point. The church honors what it has in fact received in the commands of the LORD for our worship. This is why Reformed churches, historically speaking, have held to the Regulative Principle—namely, that we do only those things in worship that God has explicitly commanded. See Belgic Article 32, we reject all human inventions…we admit only that…which keeps all men in obedience to God.” I’m suggesting that anything that is contrary to the expressed will of God, regardless if the heart means well, is will-worship. It has nothing to do with a formula, but what is commanded by God himself.
    You write,
    “David was very displeased, and rightly so, when his wife thought he was being irreverent and undignified in his dancing and singing before the ark of God. His worship of God was directly related to the gift that God had given him in allowing him to bring the ark back to Jerusalem.”
    Umm, John, if you want to run down main street in an undignified way, that’s up to you (the civil authorities may not like it). But I assure you that David never danced like that in corporate worship, he just witnessed a friend (Uzzah) incinerated for profaning God’s expressed commands with regard to the ark. Further, the tabernacle was being erected for the ark, do you think he did this before the ark once it was placed behind the veil? We should learn this since we are now before God's face in worship--the same principle is restated in Heb. 12.

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  7. You write, “Our definition of worship is often incredibly narrow, stunted, and limited. God's word does not limit it so.”
    I would argue the exact opposite, that those who feel that they have to add their inventions into the worship of God are trying to “put him into a box”. There is a real paradoxal inconsistency here. To disregard the law of God in speaking directly to how our worship should be regulated, actually forces church leaders to create their own inventions and impose their own ideas on the people (i.e. conversations with God, videos, dramas, liturgical dancing —the list is really endless here). We think of Isaiah’s words, “Who has required this from your hand, to trample my courts.” So the one making the charge of legalism, narrowness, etc, should be very careful in criticizing those who are sincerely trying to honor the Lord’s expressed will. Disregarding the law of God, and imposing ones own inventions upon people in worship is de facto doing what Jesus condemned in Matthew 15, “in vain they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” Now who borders on legalism here? The freedom that we have is freedom within the bounds of the law of God to honor it as a way of gratitude. People today are making the assumption that freedom is freedom to live outside the law of God—and that, it seems to me is where you end up when you make the previous assertion.
    John, no one is arguing for mere ritualistic formalism. Sure the heart has to be circumcised and born again to worship properly. But that new birth is most evident when we in fact show our love for the LORD by keeping his commandments, after all, we are expressly commanded in Hebrews to worship with reverence and godly fear for he is still a consuming fire.
    I also think we should think more in terms of what might be hugely offensive to our Lord, he is the one, after all, who knows how he should be worshipped.
    Again, thanks for the interaction.

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  8. While Hebrews 12 talks of worshipping with reverence and awe, it does not talk of corporate worship (is that term even found in scripture?). It talks of an attitude, our attitude towards God.

    The context of that sentence is this: "22But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, 24to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel."

    I am glad you agree that there are a variety of ways of worshipping God, including different liturgies and different orders. I think a larger picture of the dialogic principle that overrides or provides context for what happens in a formal worship service, is that God is speaking to and providing for us all week long, and in the special service, we acknowledge and respond to that. We are not just responding to a few words here and there in the service.

    I understand that your like the regulative principle. The two sides or approaches to life and worship: 1. do only what scripture prescribes. 2. do everything except what scripture forbids. But these two approaches are extremes and can still be differently interpreted when we get to specifics. What does scripture say about an organ, a guitar, cymbals, a harp, or harmonized singing after all. What does scripture say about church buildings, or even about worship? Who pays attention to having two or three prophets speak, rather than just one, or everyone taking turns when we gather together? Yet scripture speaks of these things, which we seem to be happy to ignore.

    Perhaps the order of worship is a human invention which we have not rejected???

    When you say talk about things that are contrary to the expressed will of God, you are not thinking of the fact that God was contrary to His own expressed will, at least superficially, when he told the Israelites that He did not want the sacrifices that He had expressly commanded them to give to Him. His expressed will is that true worship can only be expressed in love and trust and obedience. His expressed will is that following forms and procedures are only acceptable if the heart is right. So which comes first then? If we had to do without either the form or the heart, which could we do without first? Remember, God said this.

    I'm not sure what "will worship" is, nor self-imposed worship. It is not something I have encountered in my readings of scripture.

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  9. " David and the whole house of Israel were celebrating with all their might before the LORD, with songs [d] and with harps, lyres, tambourines, sistrums and cymbals." 13 When those who were carrying the ark of the LORD had taken six steps, he sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf. 14 David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the LORD with all his might, 15 while he and the entire house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouts and the sound of trumpets.

    16 As the ark of the LORD was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD, she despised him in her heart.

    17 They brought the ark of the LORD and set it in its place inside the tent that David had pitched for it, and David sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings [f] before the LORD. 18 After he had finished sacrificing the burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the LORD Almighty."

    I am not arguing for freedom outside of the law. The law is the law of love of God and neighbor. And loving God means to worship Him in spirit and in truth. But our ideas of worshipping according to certain guidelines and orders and formulas often lead to an idolization of these formulas. Do the best you can, but do not criticize David for his worship, and do not idolize a particular idea of the dialogic principle, and do not assume that people who are using a different formula or method of worship are automatically worshipping God falsely. No one on this earth will worship God perfectly; we are all sinners. And if an order of worship is useful, remember that Worshipping in spirit and in truth (which scripture demands) means that the heart must be true and right.

    Matt. 15:8" 'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.
    9They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.'[d]" Again, Jesus emphasizes the heart of men is more important than their teachings. Those teachers were more concerned about washing of hands, keeping the sabbath, and giving to the church/temple, than they were about caring for the needy, realizing that the sabbath was made for man, and caring for their parents. This is what Jesus was referring to. Jesus was not referring to an order of worship.

    I agree we should be careful about what may be offensive to God. He has clearly given us evidence that He wants our hearts. Without that, we have offended Him no matter what else we may do. And particularly in the New testament, since the ceremonial laws were largely no longer followed, since Christ had fulfilled the law, we do not get an indication of the dialogic principle as if we were taking turns with God. I'm not saying that it is a bad thing, but we have added more than what scripture seems to give us, so we should be careful about giving it more honor than it deserves.

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  10. By the way, Chris, I appreciate your method of responding and the attitude I detect in your sincerity.

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  11. You made me want to look up the Saddleback church. Here is what they say:

    "Saddleback Church
    Saddleback Church serves the Southern California community through more than 200 ministries, eight worship venues, a variety of counseling and support programs, Bible studies and seminars, local and global outreach programs, and a broad network of small groups meeting in local homes. Its purpose is to lead people to Jesus and membership in his family, teach them to worship the Lord and magnify his name, develop them to Christlike maturity, and equip them for ministry in the church and a mission in the world.

    "About Salvation
    Salvation is a gift from God to man. Man can never make up for his sin by self-improvement or good works – only by trusting in Jesus Christ as God’s offer of forgiveness can man be saved from sin’s penalty. Eternal life begins the moment one receives Jesus Christ into his life by faith.

    Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:8, 9; John 14:6, 1:12; Titus 3:5; Galatians 3:26; Romans 5:1

    "About The Bible
    The Bible is God’s word to all men. It was written by human authors, under the supernatural guidance of the Holy Spirit. It is the supreme source of truth for Christian beliefs and living. Because it is inspired by God, it is truth without any mixture of error.
    2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20, 21; 2 Timothy 1:13; Psalm 119:105,160, 12:6; Proverbs 30:5

    "About Baptism
    Baptism by immersion symbolizes the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus and is your public declaration that you have accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior. Baptism does not save you, but shows the world that you have already been saved. And while baptism is not required for salvation, it is a biblical command and demonstrates your love and obedience to Christ.
    Colossians 2:12; Acts 2:41; Ephesians 2: 8-9; Matthew 28:19-20

    "About Communion
    Communion, or the Lord’s Supper, is an ordinance given to all believers by Jesus Christ to remember his sacrifice for us and to symbolize the new covenant. The elements of bread and wine or juice are symbols of Christ’s broken body and shed blood. Communion is not a means of salvation. Rather, it is a testament of a believer’s faith in the atoning work of the cross."


    (I think they mean that communion does not save you.)

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  12. I never responded to your Ezekiel 33 ccmment. I have now looked up Ezekiel 33, and tried to find the relevance to what you are saying. In general, it is saying that we must turn from our evil ways, that God is just and fair, that we cannot be saved by our previous actions, nor condemned by them,

    ""As for you, son of man, your countrymen are talking together about you by the walls and at the doors of the houses, saying to each other, 'Come and hear the message that has come from the LORD.' 31 My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to listen to your words, but they do not put them into practice. With their mouths they express devotion, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. 32 Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice. " This is in the context of doing detestable things and defiling your neighbors wife and unjust gain. Not sure how this fits with singing songs for twenty minutes, anymore than with not singing songs at all, or only singing one song. Attributing this passage to a particular method of worship completely misses the message God is sending here.

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  13. I don't know if you have a maximum of 12 comments per article, because I tried twice to say something about your reference to the passage in Isaiah 1. I was glad to read it again, since it combines the refusal of God to accept the prayers and sacrifices of the people who have their hands full of blood, who are commanded instead of sacrifices, to seek justice, encourage the oppressed, and take care of the widow and the orphans. Without obedience in daily living, formal worship ceremonies are detested by God.

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  14. Hi Chris. I wonder if you would care to comment on having a theme run through the service? As in the main theme of the sermon is evangelism.. so the call to worship, the moral law, and whatever parts are centered on aspects relating to evangelism.

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