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Worship By The Book – Quotes

Over the past few months I’ve been reading books assigned to me for my doctoral studies. Worship by the Book by D.A. Carson (editor) with contributors Mark Ashton, R. Kent Hughes and Timothy Keller is one of those books. I finished it this evening and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was thought-provoking and challenging concerning what happens on Sunday during corporate worship. Here are some quotes I found stirring:

  • The notion of  a “worship leader” who leads the “worship” part of the service before the sermon (which, then, is no part of worship!) is so bizarre, from a New Testament, as to be embarrassing. (Carson, 47)
  • The New Testament does not provide us with officially sanctioned public “services” so much as with examples of crucial elements. We do well to admit the limitations of our knowledge. (Carson, 52)
  • There is no single passage in the New Testament that establishes a paradigm for corporate worship. (Carson, 55)
  • Corporate meetings of the church, however much God is worshipped in them, have the collateral responsibility of educating, informing, and transforming the minds of those who attend, of training the people of God in righteousness, of expanding their horizons not only so that they better know God (and therefore better worship him) but so that they better grasp the dimensions of the church that he has redeemed by the death of his Son (and therefore better worship him) – and that means, surely, some sort of exposure to more than the narrow slice of church that subsists in one particular subculture. The importance of intelligibility (in music, let us say) must therefore be juxtaposed with the responsibility to expand the limited horizons of one narrow tradition. (Carson, 56)
  • Quoting J.I.Packer: an attitude of “unwillingness to shape the Church in a way that either needlessly cuts loose from the past or needlessly cuts out Christians who would be part of it in the present.” (Ashton, 74)
  • The person leading the service must seek to achieve a balance between gripping the interest and attention of the congregation, and communicating the seriousness of what is happening. (Ashton, 96)
  • On my worship tradition, moving from the freedom to follow God’s Word to the freedom to do what worked: In short, Free Church biblicism deteriorated into Free Church pragmatism. (Hughes, 147)
  • Corporate worship has taken the form of something done ‘for’ an audience as opposed to to something done ‘by’ a congregation. (Hughes, 148-149)
  • Calvin wrote that corporate worship must “omit…all theatrical pomp, which dazzles the eyes…but deadens their minds.” (Keller, 209)
  • Sloppiness drains the “vertical” dimension out of gathered worship immediately. (Keller, 211)
  • Transcendence is served best when both delight and awe are evident in the leaders’ demeanor and heart. Then the congregation will sense that it is being ushered into God’s presence. (Keller, 213)
  • In summary, if the Sunday service aims primarily at evangelism, it will bore the saints.  If it aims primarily at education, it will confuse unbelievers.  But if it aims at “praising the God who saves by grace,” it will both instruct insiders and challenge outsiders. (Keller, 219)
  • On leaders of corporate worship: We shouldn’t be too charming, cute, or folksy, drawing attention to ourselves. Instead of folksiness, there should be dignity and a sense of wonder. (Keller, 223)
Picture of Yancey Arrington
Dr. Yancey C. Arrington is an eighth generation Texan, Acts 29 Network and Houston Church Planting Network fan, and Teaching Pastor at Clear Creek Community Church in the Bay Area of Houston. He is also author of Preaching That Moves People and TAP: Defeating the Sins That Defeat You, and periodically writes for Acts 29 and The Gospel Coalition.

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