Thursday, July 05, 2007

The Conversation of Worship - Response through the Message

When the word of God is communicated whether through preaching, teaching, reading, or singing, worship is bound up in the appropriate response—the response of the spirit to the truth of God’s word. This response should not be separated from worship; it is a part of worship. When the word calls us to do something, we must respond in obedience.

The worship of preaching must make clear what the biblical response is to the truth that has been presented. It is not enough for the preacher to simply tell what God has said. He must also tell what God expects the hearer to do with what has been said. 1 Timothy 1:5 gives an example of what we might call Paul’s philosophy of preaching: The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” Here, we see that Paul’s preaching is for the purpose of drawing forth love from inner change. In other words, Paul’s preaching was intent on changing lives from the inside out. The goal of preaching is not first to effect outer change. It must address the heart, the conscience, and the faith of the listener.

When such a call has been made, the unbeliever who may be present in worship can be exhorted to complete his first act of worship—confessing Christ as Lord and receiving the salvation that is found only in him. It is true that unbelievers cannot worship in the music. However, they can worship God in the preaching by listening and responding to the call of God to salvation.

While evangelism is not a necessary part of the corporate worship, neither should it be regarded as an unbiblical part of corporate worship. When the church proclaims the truth of God in music and preaching, it is with a view of calling all men to a next right step from whatever place in life they are at. For the unbeliever, the next right step, indeed the only proper response, is calling on Christ for salvation. For the believer, the next right step may vary based on spiritual maturity and life context. The preaching of the Word must call people to take this step based on the message of the text.

Time should be given for this response, whether through time of silence, the selection of appropriate songs, or a public invitation to seek counsel and prayer with someone. The call for public response through “walking the aisle” is a matter which an individual church and pastor must decide. Such a public invitation is not a mandate of Scripture, and churches that do not have one are not disobedient. The practice may even vary from week to week. It would be wise for the preacher to announce the availability of an “inquiry room” or mature believers who are able to take time to talk with individuals about their personal questions or struggles with their faith or the claims of Christ on their life.

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