5 Big Things Missing from Modern Worship

~  Challies

I once paid a visit to one of the most mega of America’s megachurches. It’s a church whose pastor is well-known, a church known for its innovation, a church held up as a model for modern evangelicalism. I went in with as open a mind as I could muster. I left perplexed. I was perplexed not by what was said or done in the service as much as what was left unsaid and undone.

Since that visit I’ve had the opportunity to attend many more churches and, as often as not, they have been similar, missing a lot of the elements that used to be hallmarks of Christian worship.

Here are some of the missing elements of modern worship:

  1. Prayer
    That church I visited all those years ago was the first I had ever attended that was almost completely devoid of prayer. The only prayer in the entire service was a prayer of response following the sermon. “With every head bowed and every eye closed, pray these words with me…” There were no prayers of confession, of intercession, of thanksgiving. There was no pastoral prayer to bring the cares of the congregation before the Lord. This is a pattern I have seen again and again in modern worship services, with prayer becoming rare and minimal instead of common and prominent. Conspicuous by their absence are any prayers longer than 30 seconds or a minute in length.
  2. Scripture Reading
    Another element that has gone missing in modern worship is the scripture reading. There was a time when most services included a couple of lengthy readings, often one from the Old Testament and one from the New. But then it was trimmed to one and then the reading disappeared altogether in favor of mentioning individual verses as they came up in the sermon. But what of Paul’s command to Timothy that he devote himself to the public reading of Scripture (1 Timothy 4:13)? In too many churches this element has gone missing. In too many churches the Word of God is almost an afterthought. If a worship service includes no prayer and no Bible reading, can we even recognize it as Christian worship? Already we do well to pause and ask the question: If a worship service includes no prayer and no Bible reading, can we even recognize it as Christian worship?

More: https://churchleaders.com/worship/worship-articles/301057-whats-missing-modern-worship.html

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A Sober Warning from the Earliest Christians

When I was a kid, my family once watched a movie that included vivid scenes of persecution against the earliest Christians. I remember lying awake at night, terrified by these images of Christians burning in the streets and being fed to the lions. I couldn’t help but imagine myself in the place of those beleaguered believers. At the time, I assumed they were being persecuted simply for being Christians, but as I’ve studied early church history, I’ve come to realize it’s not quite so simple. And as simplicity gives way to reality, I see there are some important lessons we can learn today through that early church persecution.

The earliest Christians lived within the Roman Empire, and, despite what you may have heard, Rome was surprisingly tolerant of other faiths. As they conquered the surrounding nations, they would rarely demand full loyalty to the traditional Roman religion or gods. They would allow people to continue to worship their own gods in pretty much their own way. But still the Christians were persecuted. Why?

The great challenge of the Roman Empire was binding together many cultures, faiths, and nations under a common banner. As their armies conquered lands stretching from Germany to Northern Africa, from Spain to Syria, this challenge became increasingly difficult. What could serve as a kind of bond to hold it all together? The obvious answer was the Emperor. He could stand in as the living embodiment of the empire so that loyalty to the Emperor would be synonymous with loyalty to Rome. And how could such loyalty be displayed? By having every citizen make a sacrifice to him as if he was divine. So Rome did not insist that everyone convert to their religion; they merely insisted that every religion add a small homage to the Emperor, a small act of worship that would serve as a display of their loyalty to the Empire.

Christians refused to do this. Their ultimate and exclusive loyalty to Jesus Christ precluded them from making the offering, and it was this refusal that was the source of so much of the persecution. It’s crucial to understand that from the Roman perspective, the persecution was not primarily about religion, but about politics. The Christians’ unwillingness to add this small element to their worship made them appear disloyal to the Emperor and to his empire. By failing to make their offering to Caesar, they were not failing a religious test as much as a test of good citizenship. They were refusing to participate in the ceremony that signified the unity of the empire. Thus, they were persecuted as disloyal citizens who hindered rather than strengthened their society.

Read more of Tim’s blog at: https://www.challies.com/articles/a-warning-from-the-earliest-christians/

What Happens to Children Who Die?

https://www.challies.com/resources/what-happens-to-children-who-die/

Deadly Doctrines: Facing Evil Like Snakes and Doves

Since its earliest days, the church has been plagued by false teachers and deadly doctrine. Never has there been a period of rest, a time when Christians could relax their guard. Satan has opposed the church since the day of its founding, and he will continue to oppose her until the day of his destruction.

Naturally, then, Paul was seriously concerned about false teachers and deadly doctrine, warning of them in almost every one of his letters. As he comes to the end of his letter to the Romans, he reminds the church to be on guard, since false teachers are skilled at using flattery and smooth words to deceive even believers. Paul loves this church and wants them to be aware of the challenges they will face from predatory teachers. But his solution may strike us as surprising. He tells these Christians “to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil” (Romans 16:19b).

Paul seems to be echoing Jesus here. In the book of Matthew, we read of Jesus sending out his disciples and warning them of impending persecution from enemies of the gospel. He tells them how to behave in the midst of such trials: “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). Jesus and Paul both call for wisdom and innocence. Let’s see how these two passages instruct us on protecting ourselves and our churches from false teachers and their deadly doctrine.

Serpents and Doves

Continue: https://www.challies.com/articles/deadly-doctrines-facing-evil-likes-snakes-and-doves/

Six Reasons Reformed Christians Should Embrace Six-Day Creation

I don’t accept the interpretation of 6 24-hour days, but good reading anyway.

https://www.challies.com/sponsored/six-reasons-reformed-christians-should-embrace-six-day-creation/

The Five Key Factors in Every Christian’s Sanctification

Growth in Christlikeness is a lifelong, active progression. We are holier on the day we die than we were on the day we came to Christ. We are holier on the day we die than we are on the day before we die. Yet this long progression is peppered with seasonal lulls, drudgery, and complacency. We know we are never as Christlike as we ought to be or even as we want to be. Yet while our lack of holiness ought to motivate greater effort in godliness, we often allow it to contribute to discouragement, laziness and apathy. Sanctification is a tricky business.

How does God go about this work of sanctification? David Powlison helpfully narrows it down to five means or five streams through which God pours out his sanctifying grace. These factors work in tandem, each one contributing to our lifelong gain in godliness.

Continue:

https://www.challies.com/articles/the-five-key-factors-in-every-christians-sanctification/

5 Marks of a Good Funeral

https://www.challies.com/articles/5-marks-of-a-good-funeral/