Nashville: Oliver Nelson (1986)
191 pages, paperback, $9.95
In our age of pragmatism, marketing the church, and "seeker-oriented" worship, Warren Wiersbe's book, Real Worship, is a welcome volume. His basic thesis is that the church in America is suffering from a lack of true, God-centered worship. We need to return to worship that is transformational.
The book is divided into four parts. In Part 1, "An Introduction to Worship," Wiersbe cautiously defines worship as something that involves the mind, emotions, will and body. It is a response to all God says and does. True worship is both subjective and objective, as we worship the Lord in spirit and in truth. True worship does not use God to get what we want. It is not cheap entertainment, neither is it a something that allows us to escape from our troubles. Rather, we bring our burdens to the Savior. Real worship also involves the element of mystery, and mystery humbles us. We worship a God who has revealed Himself to us, and yet we fall infinitely short of understanding Him. The fear of the Lord is as important in worship as adoration, for His love is a holy love, He is a consuming fire. Worship involves mystery.
Before entering into the second section of the book, Wiersbe cautions the would-be worshiper that transformation can be dangerous. Transformation changes us from within and often carries stiff consequences; old would exposed, new wounds inflicted, and those who wish to remain in their comfort zones will be offended.
None of these things, however, should stop us from pursuing the worship of God.
In Part 2. "The Wonder of Worship," Wiersbe says the church today doesn't know the wonder of God. The trouble is, we outline, analyze, and chart the Bible; we have tapes, books and study Bibles with application s already drawn for us; we have religious radio and television. There's no room for wonder! Our society, through the miracle of television, has further dulled our capacity to wonder, as we have watched everything from man walking on the moon to the conception of human life. We must regain the ability to wonder.
In chapter five, he turns to the worship scenes recorded in the book of revelation and challenges us to wonder. Wonder at the Creator, the Redeemer, the King, the Bridegroom and the church. This section of the book more than any other caused me to be caught up in the wonder and worship of God.
"When the church gathers to worship," sys Wiersbe, "it also gathers to witness. That witness is threefold: to the Lord, to the church itself, and to the world. . . . Of these three, the most important is our witness to the Lord." This statement opens Part 3, "Worship Involves Witness." In order to witness to God, we must come as spiritual sacrifices bearing praise, prayer, service, giving, and a broken heart. As for our witness to one another, we should worship not only to be edified, but to edify others. This is often overlooked as we seek the face of God in worship.
Wiersbe then discusses the role of preaching in worship. He says that worship suffers when the sermon contents are sacrificed for the sake of an inflexible outline. He offers instead advice to approach preaching as an act of worship. He explains that the pastor is the messenger whose purpose it is to bring the congregation with his homiletical gifts; it is to bring the congregation face to face with the living God. "When the minister's study becomes a sanctuary, a holy of holies," he says, "then something transforming will happen as the Word of God is proclaimed."
As for those under the hearing of preaching, he encourages the worshiper to hear sermons with penance, contrition, faith, self-consecration and vows of new obedience. "If this is not worship in spirit and in truth," asks Wiersbe, "what is?"
The final part of the book, "Worship Involves Warfare," deals with a much-neglected aspect of worship. Wiersbe says that we need to be aware that Satan wants worship for himself. "Our spiritual worship of God," he says, "hinders Satan's work, defeats his plans, robs him of territory, and increases his hatred of God and God's people." He looks at numerous Old Testament examples of the worship of God, and points out that when Israel was right with God, He fought their battles. When they were out of fellowship with God, they were defeated (see for e.g., 2 Chron. 20).
The church is a spiritual army, but Wiersbe warns that we may unwittingly be defeated by our neglect of true worship. He cites the Laodicean church who didn't know they were in a state of defeat, and he says that today's church may be in the same situation. Wiersbe points out that in the book of Revelation, the bridge between Christ's messages to the churches (chapters 2-3) and the conflict between Christ and Satan (chapters 6-19) is the bridge of worship (chapters 4-5). If we are to be prepared for warfare, we must linger at the throne of God!
The last chapter of the book brings us back to Wiersbe's original theme. We need transformation in worship. True worship is commanded of God's people, but obstacles such as the apparent success of the church stand in the way. Some of the greatest churches in America know very little about true worship, but thrive numerically. Real worship also poses a threat to power-hungry pastors, performance-centered (rather than God-centered) musicians, and spectator church members.
What will it take to return to true worship? For one thing, it will take a return to personal worship. It will also take time. Time spent in communion with God, and time spent waiting on the Lord and enjoying Him. It will take real transformation from the inside out. It will require people to come to Christ in humility. It will take a return of wonder. It will take sacrifice and discipline. But it will be well worth it.
Warren Wiersbe's book is one Christian's prayer from the heart for the church to take seriously the command to worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness. May God in His mercy allow us to return to real worship.
Glen Ellyn, Illinois
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