Monday, July 21, 2008

Experiencing the Presence of God

We are currently in a series on Worship by the Book at our church here in Atlanta. Along this theme, here is an excerpt from the chapter on Biblical Worship from Experiencing the Truth:

It is amazing to me that so many churches have implemented two distinct worship services. In this approach, the church hopes to appeal to the often conflicting worship styles of the parishioners. For those of an older generation or taste, they offer what is known as the traditional worship. The other service is geared toward those of the present generation or who have a more contemporary taste. This is referred to as the contemporary worship service. More and more churches are implementing this two service approach in the hopes of attracting, or better yet, keeping more people. While this is not a particularly prevalent occurrence among predominantly Black churches, we should be weary of this modern trend and seek to head it off before it reaches our doors.

How deprived we are if all of our songs and forms are contemporary and new. And yet how shallow and inadequate is our worship if all we have are contemporary music and lyrics. We must remember that Christianity is a “forward remembering” faith. In other words, while we are always looking forward to what God has promised us in the grand consummation, we are always remembering what He did for us at the cross. While we are always proclaiming the glories of the returning King, we are also remembering the glories of the resurrected King. Therefore, let us not jettison the past in favor of the present, and let us not neglect the present in favor of the past. Rather let us embrace them together, even in our worship. How enhanced our worship would be if we made sure that we included such songs as Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee sung to the magnificent arrangement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, as well as Fred Hammond’s Bread of Life, with its irrepressible urban beats. How glorious and worthy of our God and reflective of heavenly realities would our worship be if we were more diligent in making sure we have something old, something new, yet always careful to maintain all things true.
Admittedly, this is no where near an exhaustive treatment of the subject of worship. The Bible has a lot more to say about the who, what, why, and how of worship than most of us realize. Nevertheless, I do hope you have been able to get a glimpse into how Reformed theology could and should impact a worship service within the predominantly African-American context. I remain convinced that Reformed theology and the African-American Christian experience are not irreconcilable or antithetical. When properly understood and applied together they can form a vision of Christianity, even Christian worship, that would call the angels down to investigate these God-exalting, soul-stirring, hands-lifting, mind-renewing, life-empowering, grace-enabling, sin-overcoming, mercy-receiving, humility-mongering, servant-leading, righteousness-hungering, Bible-believing, Christ-worshipping, eternity-anticipating Christians, who happen also to be Black (p. 104-105)


Anonymous said...

OK Pastor Carter - this is an excellent and timely post.

Worship seems to be the biggest hang-up that most black folks have when it comes to taking a closer look at reformed theology (that's the essential thread I see in the comments on my blog). Thank God through Jesus Christ that you penned this article - it further dispels the notion that reformers "want to avoid all manner of emotion" when worshipping God.

I'll have to link over here yet again :-)

Donald said...

I dig this post as well. Our culture still has a battle ensuing for the truth. I think it's good. Currently there is some thinking among blacks that we need to tone down the preaching/teaching of doctrinal issues. Bowing at the altar of relevance.

I like many of your points in this post Tony.

I've been trekking with the cyrene/bart/council of reforming churches crew for the last 5 years online.

It must be said that you all have been keeping pace and there's some growth among our people, I've seen an explosion in the 5 years I've been following online.

And the ETT book being on Lifeway's website is a good step in the right direction for blacks in RT to gain more exposure.

Keep fighting the good fight.

ajcarter said...

Thanks Donald. Let's keep fighting together.

Anonymous said...

Have you seen the critique at Reformed Blacks of America? What do you think of their critiques?