Monday, January 28, 2008

Ryle - worship

The first two of these quotes could be seen as heavily critical of the practices of modern conservative evangelicalism...

For another thing, true public worship must be the worship of the heart. I mean by this, that the affections must be employed as well as our intellect, and our inward man must serve God as well as our body.

J.C. Ryle, Knots Untied - Worship

Reason and common sense alike teach the usefulness of the practice of publicly reading the Scriptures.... What safer plan can be devised for the instruction of such people than the regular reading of God's Word? A congregation which hears but little of the Bible is always in danger of becoming entirely dependent on its minister. God should always speak in the assembly of His people as well as man.

J.C. Ryle, Knots Untied - Worship

Whatever man may please to say, the grand test of the value of any kind of worship is the effect it produces on the lives of the worshippers... The best Church Services for the congregation are those which make its individual members most holy at home and alone. If we want to know whether our own public worship is doing us good, let us try it by these tests. Does it quicken our conscience? Does it send us to Christ? Does it add to our knowledge? Does it sanctify our life?

J.C. Ryle, Knots Untied - Worship

Let me add in a criticism of my own, and one which I think many charismatics do much much better than we do. So often in a good sermon I can sense that God is working in people's hearts and convicting them. And so often afterwards, I can hear the same old conversations about football or work or whatever starting up again and sense the Devil snatching away the seed that was planted. Why do we not follow sermons and/or services with extended periods for prayer, alone or with others? Yes - let people talk about ephemera if they want to, but why do we not encourage a culture of prayerfully taking things to God and struggling with them before God?


Anonymous said...

I come from a charismatic evangelical (even open!) theological perspective and background, but would want to say that from my experience your excellent suggestion that we "follow sermons and/or services with extended periods for prayer, alone or with others" and "encourage a culture of prayerfully taking things to God and struggling with them before God" is just as applicable to my tradition as to yours. I hear plenty of ephemera (I've learnt a new word today) after services, and contribute to it, too, much to my shame!

Just one other thing though - I'm a great fan of Ryle's, but I'm not sure I agree with the third quote at all. His test seems to be based upon what worship does for the worshipper, and that, to me, is illogical. I fully appreciate that worship is/can be a wonderful, life and faith-changing experience that draw us deeper and closer into God's presence, enabling us to cooperate more with the Spirit's sanctifying work in our lives.
But... and it's a big but, I see that only as a gracious byproduct of an amazing, wonderful, abundantly over-the-top-loving God. We come to worship Him - and we are blessed in return!
The problem with Ryle's words, to me, are what is wrong with much charismatic worship. It's all about the worshipper. When we do talk about Godly things after services, we talk about how good it was for us - how blessed we were by it.
Shouldn't we, prayerfully, be looking see our Father's delight?

John said...

I know what you mean. I think Ryle is talking longer term though - the kind of things that make people live holier lives rather than just feel good.

And I think that's actually key to pleasing God as well. What pleases God about worship is people being holier - huge thrust in Isaiah, Amos, etc. If people aren't living holy lives as a result, worship becomes an abomination to God.

So looked at that way, it isn't an either/or any more.

Anonymous said...

I like agreeing.
Big points on the Isaiah/Amos/Micah etc. thing, too!

Anonymous said...

One thought is this: some of the problem here might be that Christians in the local church don't see enough of each other outside the service - and consequently the service itself is made less sacred and 'given' to the Lord, and it becomes more of a 'catch-up' with one another. If that's the case, I don't blame people for chatting about football, TV, and trivial things, because it's hard to share deep and solemn spiritual thoughts with someone you haven't seen for 3/4 weeks - that would just be unnatural and weird. Spritual sharing overflows from sharing in all aspects of each other's lives. In other words, our trivial service times reflect the disparate Christians lives that we live - we suffer when it comes to our devoted spiritual times with the Lord. The solution? Live more like the early chapters of Acts!

Speaker for the Dead said...

I agree with Anonymous.

I think this is an area my church does very well in. Most of the members go to church twice a week, have house services once a week, and meet with a "discipling partner" (just someone to talk with about God, basically) once a week. That's in addition to other church events.

The early church truly was a community. In general, we are friends with people who share common interests - music, sports, etc. But isn't God kind of a HUGE common interest?

Anonymous said...

The other side to this is that we could end up in a Christian bubble and know hardly any people who weren't Christians (depending on our jobs) which wouldn't be great.