Revisiting the Shelves

In preparation for several projects that range from student lectures, conferences for pastors and worship leaders to church consultations and even a couple of preaching engagements, I turned to some trusted friends to refresh my memory of important growth steps in my own journey of spiritual renewal in worship.  In looking over my library to find books that might have a fresh word or reminder regarding the dynamics of worship I ran across works that impacted my life powerfully and helped shape my mind and spirit regarding what it means to worship God.


One work was Warren Wiersbe’s book, Real Worship: It Will Transform Your Life (Nashville: Oliver & Nelson, 1986).  Wiersbe reflects a vibrant faith rooted in Who God is and what He has done.  He challenges notions of co-opting worship to some purpose other than bringing glory to God.  Wiersbe states, “Evangelism is an essential part of the church’s ministry, but it must be the result of worship, or it will not glorify God.”  He goes on to say, “missions must be a product of worship; otherwise it is only a new gimmick to motivate the church, and the motivation will not last.”  Powerful words among many other quotes and prophetic statements.  For instance, he quotes the former Archbishop of Canterbury, William Temple, who states:


For worship is the submission of all our nature to God.  It is the quickening of conscience by His holiness; the nourishment of mind with this truth; the purifying of imagination by His beauty; the opening of the heart to His love; the surrender of will to His purpose – and all of this gathered up in adoration, the most selfless emotion of which our nature is capable and therefore the chief remedy for that self-centeredness which is our original sin and the source of all actual sin.

William Temple, Readings in St. John’s Gospel (London: MacMillan and Co., 1939)


It was from Wiersbe’s book that I confirmed my belief that preaching was a critical piece of worship, not something separate.  If worship is “an engagement with God” as David Peterson calls it, or communion, or conversation as others reflect and is rooted in the rhythm of revelation and response, then surely preaching the Word of God is central to worship.  I recall reading Wiersbe’s book in my early days of ministry and recognizing that no matter what I thought of a particular preacher or his capacity to preach, the voice I was listening for was the Lord Himself.  Another great revelation for me from this book was the battle of worship.  Wiersbe quotes the great preacher Spurgeon to say, “In this Israel was not an example, but a type; we will not copy the chosen people in making literal war, but we will fulfill the emblem by carrying on spiritual war.” (The Treasury of David Vol 7, Baker Books 1977)  Imagine if our people really caught an understanding of their responsibility as the army of God praying passionately for the salvation of the world, squaring off with the enemy that would distract from the beauty and glory of God and would distort in any way he could the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  In worship we battle.  This concept for me has grown immensely through the influence of Robert Webber and others who have helped paint in my mind a picture of worship that goes far beyond a quiet spiritual interaction with an inner voice to a battle of cosmic proportions where war is waged against all evil by a glorious God Who is all good. “Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword be in their hand.” (Ps 140:6)


Another book of soul-stirring awakening for me was written by one of my heroes, Dr. Don Hustad, my mentor and professor during days at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  The book is Jubilate: Church Music in Worship and Renewal along with its revised sequel Jubilate II.  I read the book prior to seminary days, but most of the proverbial lights that came on for me did so during those formative days at SBTS when I actually heard directly from this giant of Southern Baptist life.  The book and interaction with Hustad opened my eyes to the value of the form of worship in new ways.  Hustad opened the door of understanding the East and West divide in the church and stirred curiosity in my mind regarding how Baptist worship forms found roots in the practices of other faith traditions.  Knowing his history playing and consulting for the Billy Graham teams hastened my reading to find his reflections on congregational song and singing.  In Jubilate he does not mince words in these matters stating:


Congregational singing in evangelism offers many of the same opportunities that it affords in typical services of worship.  It allows believers to join in a united and unifying expression of their worship of God as well as of their common experiences in the life of faith.  It serves to proclaim the gospel to the uncommitted, as well as to witness to the experience which is available in Christ.  It demonstrates the love relationship of the children of God and tends to reach out with “arms of melody” to include those who are not already a part of the church.  To be sure, since the music (like the preaching) emphasizes the ultimate realities of human life, it is replete with emotional expression.  Though some will reject the validity of manipulation, none can deny the emotional impact of music in mass evangelism, especially in the songs of invitation.”


He goes on to recount great texts from a wide variety of hymn writers and modern composers and then recounts experiences such as those of the Welsh revivals where congregations broke into spontaneous song during preaching.  He notes how preachers were surprised to find themselves interrupted by an outbreak of song that “might continue for a prolonged period; sinners were moved to confession and faith more by spontaneous song than by prepared sermons.”


Just imagine.  The message of the Gospel so resonates in the hearts of God’s people that they burst into song out of joyous delight that echoes in their spirit reflecting the praises of heaven and revealing the deliverance of the worshipers who can no longer contain their unction to praise – all in response to the glorious truth of the message of deliverance.  When I think of such occurring in our day, I wonder who would be more nervous, the pastor whose prepared sermon is interrupted or the worship music leader who hears a song he did not select or for which he has no words to flash on the screen.  Would such unrestrained response be anathema to doing things “decently and in order” (1 Cor 14:40) or would it simply indicate a “new song” sung from the hearts of God’s people as the Holy Spirit manifests his presence?  Having been to Wales with our Tennessee Mens Chorale and having seen the tears in the eyes of the Welsh when singing great songs of faith that so many of them claimed helped them remember the work of God among them several decades earlier, makes me wonder what we are missing, and wonder if we are not overplanning worship.  I wonder how a people saved by the deliverance of Christ could have lost their capacity to sing and honestly declare,


I love to tell the story for those who know it best

seem hungering and thirsting to hear it like the rest.


I wonder if we have come to depend on the hook written in the music of our latest song to take the place of the unmistakable change evident in transformed lives. I wonder if we spend too much time searching for the latest and greatest means of novelty to enhance our worship, personally or corporately, when we might be better off revisiting (remembering) those high points in our spiritual journey when the Lord reminded us of His power to deliver and to shape us according to His purpose in Christ.


Perhaps it would be good for all of us to head to the bookshelves to pull back out books, sermons, music, and recordings of inspiration and formation that have spoken into our lives over the years to help us once again get in touch with our own salvation and deliverance and to pick up the sword to wage the battle of worship that never turns on our brothers and sisters, but rather joins them at arms to storm the gates of Hell proclaiming the greatness of God, the Victory of Jesus, and the testimony of presence in the Holy Spirit.


“No power of hell, no scheme of man can ever pluck me from His hand

Til he returns or calls me home, here in the power of Christ I stand.”

In Christ alone,


Explore posts in the same categories: Church Music, Leading Worship, Music Ministry, Private Worship, Singing Worship, Spiritual formation through singing, Worship Leader Relationships, Worship Leaders, Worship Pastors, Worship Reminders, Worship theology, Worship thoughts, Youth Worship

One Comment on “Revisiting the Shelves”

  1. Lisa Huddleston Says:

    Oh yes, we in the congregation do hunger and thirst to hear it like the rest and to proclaim it in return. I love to hear the voices of my fellow worshipers and to join mine with theirs–in unison as well as in harmony. Thanks, Paul.

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