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Sep 28 2006

Evangelistic Worship : Tim Keller

Timkeller1Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Church in Manhattan, writes about worship wars over at The Resurgence:

One of the basic features of church life in the U.S. today is the proliferation of worship and music forms. This in turn has caused many severe conflicts both within individual congregations and whole denominations. Most books and articles about recent worship trends tend to fall into one of two broad categories.1 "Contemporary Worship" (hereafter CW) advocates often make rather sweeping statements, such as "pipe organs and choirs will never reach people today." "Historic Worship" (hereafter HW) advocates often speak similarly about how incorrigibly corrupt popular music and culture is, and how they make contemporary worship completely unacceptable.

He proceeds to build a biblical case for evangelistic worship as an alternative to traditional, contemporary, or blended styles. 

Writes Keller:

If the response to this is "then Christians will be bored", it shows an misunderstanding of the gospel. The gospel of free, gracious justification and adoption is not just the way we enter the kingdom, but also the way we grow into the likeness of Christ. Titus 2:11-13 tells us how it is the original, saving message of "grace alone" that consequently leads us to sanctified living: "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "no" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in the present age, while we wait for the blessed hope–the appearing of our great God and savior Jesus Christ." Many Christians are "defeated" and stagnant in their growth because they try to be holy for wrong motives. They say "no" to temptation by telling themselves "God will get me" or "people will find out" or "I’ll hate myself in the morning" or "it will hurt my self-esteem" or "it will hurt other people" or "it’s against the law–I’ll be caught" or "it’s against my principles" or "I will look bad". Some or all of these may be true, but Titus tells us they are inadequate. Only the grace of God, the logic of the gospel will work. Titus says it "teaches" us, it argues with us.

Therefore, the one basic message that both Christians and unbelievers need to hear is the gospel of grace. It can then be applied to both groups, right on the spot and directly. Sermons which are basically moralistic will only be applicable to either Christians OR non-Christians. But Christo-centric preaching, preaching the gospel both grows believers and challenges non-believers. If the Sunday service and sermon aim primarily at evangelism, it will bore the saints. If they aim primarily at education, they’ll bore and confuse unbelievers. If they aim at praising the God who saves by grace they’ll both instruct insiders and challenge outsiders.

This is a white paper on worship from Redeemer Church Planting Center and is one of the most articulate discussions of worship styles we have encountered.   It really should be considered required reading for worship leaders and pastors struggling with what worship should look like on Sunday morning.

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