Worship and the Glory of God

By Ron Man
Pastor of Music and Worship, EXW Contributor
September 11, 2018

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INTRODUCTION

When I was in college studying music, I worked for a while in the choral department of a large music store. The manager of the choral dept. was as secular and ungodly a man as they come, yet he was an expert on sacred choral music-- I didnít think much about it at the time, because I wasnít a Christian then. But on thinking back on it years later, I thought how sad that was.

Youíve probably known others as well for whom sacred music was merely an area of specialization, a field of expertise in which their interest was merely academic or aesthetic-- talk about missing the forest for the trees! If I may reverently paraphrase the apostle Paul: "If we have
focused on sacred music in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied!"

Two years ago I attended an excellent one-day seminar on choral vocal technique sponsored by a well-known music school. It quickly became apparent, however, that perhaps the overriding value of that teacher and that institution was the production of beautiful, pure vowel sounds-- that, regardless of whether the literature was secular or sacred, the ultimate goal was to achieve vowels of true excellence. And I thought, how tragic-- this is really what they live and work for! They groom the trees so carefully and never step back and see the forest in all of its grandeur.

But, before we get too smug, let us admit that all too often we can get caught up in the details of church music ministry and forget about what should be the true focus of our endeavor-- not to the absolute sense that these men Iíve mentioned have done, but nevertheless it can be a very real problem for us.

In fact, that was my first inclination when I first started thinking about this talk. Hence the original title: Worship Trends, Traits, and Troubles. My projected subject matter would have to do with very important, but decidedly second-level, concerns.

In the months since choosing the title, I have come to the decision to head in a little bit different direction in this talk. Rather than just deliver a sort of "State of the Union" address on worship in the church, I would like to try to cast a vision for you of the immensity and grandeur of worship, the centrality of worship to all of life and to all that we are and do as Christians. Iíd like to share a little of my own personal pilgrimage in this regard, and relate how God has enlarged my view of and
appreciation for worship.

I. THE BOTTOM LINE

A. The Goal of Worship

We must never, ever forget that church music is a means to an end; indeed, the most glorious of ends at that: the worship of Almighty God. That is the forest which give all of the trees their meaning. Thatís why Don Hustad calls church music a "functional art." The ultimate goal of our ministry is not to make great music, itís not beautiful tone or perfect balance, not pure vowels; our goal isnít even excellence. Our goal is to encourage and facilitate and enhance the worship of the people of God. And while we cannot make that happen by our own efforts, yet if it is not happening it doesnít really matter how good the choirís balance or vowels are-- weíre just
specializing in sacred music.

I would like us to focus for these minutes this afternoon-- in the midst, I should hasten to add, of a day of very good and very practical seminars which I hope we will all benefit from-- I would like us
to focus right now on some very foundational issues which underlie--which MUST underlie--everything that we do in church music if itís to be more than just an area of specialization for us.

Iíd like us to consider the fundamental importance of worship in our ministries-- but also have us take several steps back so that we can take in the wider horizon, and see the fundamental importance of worship in the whole life of the church and in our whole lives as individuals.

B. Where I Started

As a jumping off point Iíd like to get autobiographical for a moment. I was brought to my present church by a pastor who was looking for a man with theological as well as musical training; he also had a real desire to see worship as a vibrant part of the churchís life. Well, I had the training in music and the training in theology, but the twain had never met, had never been integrated or related to each other in any way for me or by me. When I came to Memphis, I didnít have a clue about worship: I didnít have an appreciation for it, didnít have a philosophy of it, didnít have a strategy for trying to revive and reform it at First Evangelical Church. God graciously has caused us to grow together as a congregation in our understanding of and appreciation for worship.

But what really made the light start to come on in my own heart and mind happened just a few years ago. A turning point in my understanding of worship came when the missions pastor of our church showed me the introductory sentences of a book on missions, entitled Let the Nations Be Glad, by Dr. John Piper, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. This was simply not your usual introduction to a book on missions, because it emphasized the secondary importance of missions, that it was the second most important activity of the church. Not how one would normally seek to convince oneís readers of the importance of the subject at hand: talking about how it is of secondary importance!

This is what Piper wrote, three little sentences which revolutionized my thinking about worship:

"Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn't." [Let the Nations Be Glad, henceforth referred to as LNBG, © 1993 Baker Book House, p.11]

That is a profound statement! And one which, as I reflected on it, began to change forever the way I think about worship. Far from putting down missions, Piper is holding forth the supreme importance of worship-- now and for eternity. This is how he goes on to develop this idea:

"Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more. It is a temporary necessity. But worship abides forever." [LNBG, p.11]

Worship, Piper says, is the ultimate goal of the church; in fact he says that:

"All of history is moving toward one great goal, the white-hot worship of God and His Son among
all the peoples of the earth." (LNBG p.15)

Piper is not alone in this assessment of the importance of worship. Many others have come to
similar conclusions on the basis of their examination of Scripture. For example, Dr. John
MacArthur has written a book on worship, and in his foreword he relates how he was far into his
ministry before God taught him to appreciate the centrality of worship. His book is titled,
significantly, The Ultimate Priority.

II. THE CHIEF END OF GOD

Now the thing to do at this point would probably be to give you about an hour to meditate on these
thoughts-- they really deserve and need to be mulled over. But I hope you will choose to do that at
a later time. For now, we want to try to understand the enormous significance which these men,
and many others, attribute to worship. To do that, we need to step back even more and try to take
in what the Scriptures say about the primary goal, not of the church, but of God Himself.

Piper, drawing on the insights of Jonathan Edwards, develops and demonstrates from Scripture that
Godís overriding purpose and priority is the display and furtherance of His own glory.

Now "the glory of God" is one of those theological catchphrases that which the mind of man can
consider. Godís glory speaks of His utter and absolute holiness, His magnificent splendor, the
perfections of His character. "God is light; and in Him there is no darkness at all." (1 John 1:5)
"His name alone is exalted; His glory is above earth and heaven." (Ps. 148:13) "Holy, Holy,
Holy, is the Lord of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory."
(Is. 6:3)

His glory is absolute and unique; therefore He declares in Isaiah 42:8: "I am the Lord, that is My
name; I will not give My glory to another."

God pursues His own glory tirelessly throughout biblical history:

(Isaiah 43:6-7) "Bring My sons from afar and My daughters from the ends of the earth, Everyone who is called by My name, And whom I have created for My glory, Whom I have
formed, even whom I have made." (He created us for His glory.)

(Isaiah 49:3) "You are My Servant, Israel, In Whom I will show My glory." (He established Israel for His own glory.)

(John 1:14) And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as
of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.

(2 Cor. 4:6) the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.(the glory of
God seen in Christ)


(Ephes. 1:13-14) In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your
salvation--having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who
is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God's own
possession, to the praise of His glory. (the purpose of salvation is to magnify His glory)

(1 Chron. 16:24) Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the
peoples. (Godís glory is the centerpoint of the missionary mandate)

(Isaiah 66:18) the time is coming to gather all nations and tongues. And they shall come and
see My glory. (the climax of history is the glory of God)

(Phil. 2:10-11) so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven
and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is
Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (the purpose of summing up of all things in Christ is to
glorify God)

(Rev 21:23) And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of
God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. (the essence of heaven is the glory of God)

(Psalm 72:18-19) Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, Who alone works wonders.
And blessed be His glorious name forever; and may the whole earth be filled with His glory.
Amen, and Amen. (the purpose of creation is to display Godís glory throughout)

The astounding fact is that everything that is, and everything that happens, has as its ultimate goal
and end the glory of God. God in his power and sovereignty created the universe so that His glory
might be displayed (might be "clearly seen," as Paul puts it in Romans 1:20); Psalm 19:1 puts it this
way: "The heavens are telling of the glory of God". God made man in His own image, and
though man rebelled and sinned, He provided a way for His own glory and love and justice to be
vindicated through the work of Christ. Even His righteous judgment of the lost will demonstrate the
infinite value of the glory of God, by showing "the infiniteness of the sin of failing to glorify God."
(Piper, LNBG, p.22)

Piper also says: "The biblical vision of God is that He is supremely committed, with infinite passion,
to uphold and display the glory of His name." (LNBG, p.22-23)

Now, we are conditioned to consider that anyone who pursues always and only his only glory is
rather self-centered. But thatís because we as sinners choose to glorify ourselves rather than God,
who is infinitely greater (cf. Rom 3: 23: "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God").
But, as Piper points out, for God there is nothing greater than Himself to seek to glorify. In His
perfection He seeks the greatest good for Himself and for His creatures, and that greatest good is
simply God Himself and His glory!

Youíre familiar with the Westminster Shorter Catechismís statement that "the chief end of man is to
glorify God and enjoy Him forever." The astounding fact is that the chief end of God is also to
glorify God! There is no greater thing for Him to glorify. He, and He alone is worthy of all glory.
Amen!

So the glory of God is really the greatest of all subjects, and is indeed the subject and the
motivation and the goal of worship.

III. THE CHIEF END OF MAN

God has an inexhaustible passion for His glory, and by application thatís what godliness must
involve for men and women: we must come to share His a passion for the glory of God; we must
learn to cherish Godís glory. And to cherish Godís glory is what it means to worship. Worship is
expressed in many different ways, but in it broadest understanding it comes down to cherishing
the glory of God.

To go back to the Westminster statement: the chief end of man-- as well as of God-- is to glorify
God and enjoy Him forever (those are really two sides of the same coin) and ultimately that is a
statement about worship.

Let us consider briefly three NT Passages which demonstrate-- in quite different ways-- the utter
centrality of worship as mankindís highest goal and reason for existence.

A. Romans 1

In Romans 1 Paul deals with the issue from the negative side as he describes the fate of fallen man
because of his rejection of God.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and
unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that
which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to
them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal
power and divine nature [His glory] have been clearly seen, being understood
through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.

For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give
thanks [a good summary of worship], but they became futile in their
speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. [Now we see the downward
spiral] Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the
incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and
four-footed animals and crawling creatures.

Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that
their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of
God [about His glory] for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather
than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

Now of course Paul, in these early chapters of Romans, is portraying sin in all of its blackness so
that the light of the gospel might shine all the more brightly in contrast as he expounds is beginning in
chapter 3. But he has also already hinted at the glories to come in 1:16-17, where he speaks of the
gospel being "the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes."

That salvation through faith in the power of the gospel will in effect reverse the downward spiral of
sin which Paul describes in chapters 1 &2. Looking again at Paulís words indicting fallen humanity,
we can recast them and reparaphrase them and see something of Godís purposes in redeeming and
restoring lost men and women:

(Paraphrase of Romans 1:18-25)

For the grace of God is revealed from heaven to fallen and sinful men who have
accepted the truth of the gospel, to those whom God has drawn to Himself. For
now not only is the power and the majesty of God evident through what has
been made, but He has also revealed His love, mercy, compassion and grace
through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ His Son, so that men may be
saved.

And now they not only know God, but they also honor Him as God and give
thanks, their minds filled with thoughts of Him and their hearts filled with
devotion to Him. Acknowledging themselves to be fools, they became wise, and exchanged
images and false objects of worship for the glory of the incorruptible God.

Therefore God indwelt their renewed hearts with His Spirit unto purity, so that
they might present their bodies as living and holy sacrifices unto Him. For they
exchanged a lie for the truth of God, and now worship and serve the Creator
rather than the creature, to the glory of His name. Amen.

This grand reversal effected through the redeeming work of Christ brings forth worship in the lives
of those who find new life in Him. The foundation of sin is the failure, actually the refusal to
worship God and give Him the honor and thanks He is due; itís a refusal to glorify Him. But as the
culmination of His saving work He returns believing people to an attitude and lifestyle of worship.

God intended for the revelation of His glory in creation and in redemption to issue forth in a
response of worship on the part of those enabled by grace to do so.

B. Revelation 5

Let us now make a rather drastic shift from Paulís dark picture in Romans to the glory of the throne
room of heaven in Revelation 5. Here we see another picture of the centrality of worship.

(By the way, these scenes of heavenly worship in Revelation 4 & 5 are not just instructive for us; in
a very real way we have the privilege in corporate worship in the church in joining our hearts and
our voices with that of the heavenly host, taking part in their worship-- we have that right and that
privilege because, as Paul tells us in Philippians 3:20, "our citizenship is in heaven"-- we are citizens
of heaven, and enjoy the rights and privileges of that citizenship even while we are sojourners and
aliens living in a strange land.)

Here is the scene in heaven which the apostle John portrays for us in Revelation 5: God the Father
on the throne, along with the Lamb, in the center; the four living creatures around them, then the 24
elders, outside of them "myriads and myriads of angels," and then John says every created thing in
the heavens, on the earth, under the earth, on the sea-- all saying:

"To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and
dominion forever and ever."
(v.13)

And then we read:

"And the four living creatures kept saying, "Amen." And the elders fell down and
worshiped"
(v.14)

In this grand scene of worship the centerpoint is of course God the Father and His Son--
everything else gathers around, and fans out from, that centerpoint; But the focus is of course
inward, the focus is on that center; the exclamation of that entire throng is that God is worthy of
blessing & honor & glory and dominion forever and ever.

WORSHIP is the business of heaven, the preoccupation of heaven, we might almost say the
obsession of heaven: all its inhabitants focus on God and proclaim His supreme value and worth
and glory. All is focused on worship. And, as citizens of heaven, that should be our focus as well.

In heaven there is no other focus, there are no side conversations or announcements or
interruptions of any kind. As Piper reminds us, there is certainly no missions either-- only
WORSHIP. All attention is on God, all glory is given to Him. He alone is worthy of that worship--
He is the Creator (as Revelation 4:11 emphasizes); everything else which is gathered around has
been created. He is the uncaused cause, the self-existent one; all others are dependent on Him for
their very existence. They recognize His unique worth and majesty and splendor and so heap their
praises on Him and on Him alone. Amen!

C. John 4

Now we reluctantly set our feet back on the earth, and move to John 4, where we see Jesus in
conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well. From the lips of Jesus Himself we hear what
God most wants from His creatures: the Father seeks worshipers. Those who will worship Him in
spirit and in truth.

The Samaritans apparently had a certain degree of enthusiasm and devotion in their worship on
Mount Gerizim-- but Jesus said they were worshiping that which they did not know (v.22). The
Jews, on the other hand, worshiped according to Godís revealed truth (Jesus says in v.22
"Salvation is from the Jews"), but for the most part it had become cold, lifeless ritual. Jesus tells the
Samaritan woman that "an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you
worship the Father" (v.21), but rather "an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will
worship the Father in spirit and in truth" (v.23)-- true worship would no longer tied to a place, but
rather to the attitude of the heart and the understanding of the truth. And both these aspects must
be present in order for true worship to take place, for Jesus said: "those who worship Him must
worship in spirit and truth" (v.24). Worship must be genuine and from the heart (worship in spirit)
and must be in accordance with Godís ultimate self-revelation and self-giving in Jesus Christ
(worship in truth). This is the worship which the Father seeks; these are the kind of worshipers the
Father seeks. As we saw in Romans 1, these will be those who have drunk deeply of Godís grace
and who respond with grateful hearts to exalt His name and His glory.

Nowhere else does the Bible speak of God seeking anything from man-- He seeks worshipers.
That is an amazing thought! In His glorious condescension He has made us and sought us and
redeemed us that we might glorify Him and enjoy Him forever-- in worship.

This is true "seeker" worship, if you will: the Father seeks worshippers, those who will worship
Him in spirit and truth. All worship is a response to His gracious initiative. That is a crucial point:
worship is our gift to God-- the only thing He seeks from those to whom He has given everything--
but we must always realize that the idea of worship, the inclination to worship, the desire for
worship, and the ability to worship only come as a result of Godís gift to us: His saving initiative in
our lives and the enabling work of the Holy Spirit.

So we see in Romans 1 the appropriate response of redeemed and renewed humanity to the
greatness and glory of God: to honor Him and give Him thanks, to worship the Creator.

In Revel. 5 we see God in His glory as the central focus of all the created order; and we see
worship as the fitting preoccupation of all citizens of heaven.

In John 4 we see what God seeks from us whom He has made: our worship.

The chief end of God is to glorify God-- to manifest and display His perfections and His glory.

The chief end of man is likewise to glorify God, through worship. Worship is mankindís highest
goal and loftiest endeavor. He was created for that above all else.

IV. THE CHIEF END OF THE CHURCH

That a rather breathtaking panorama which Scripture lays out for us. But we need to take deep
breath and move on to talk about the church.
For not only is the chief end of God to glorify God, and the chief end of man to glorify God in
worship -- but likewise the chief end of the church is to glorify God through worship.

A. Disclaimers

Now, lest that sound a little arrogant, for a worship pastor to come in and say "worship is the
ultimate goal of the church"-- after all, you might go to a C.E. conference and hear that C.E. is the
most important thing the church does; or a preaching seminar and hear that the exposition of the
Word is the top priority for the church; or a youth leadersí rally and be told that youth ministry and
outreach is the lifeblood of the church; or an evangelism training course where you are told that the
church is here primarily to fulfill the Great Commission, etc., etc.

Let me respond by pointing out several things:

1. Going back to Dr. Piperís statement: "Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is.
Missions exists because worship doesnít."

a. Remember that this statement is in a book on missions, a book on missions by a man who is
very passionate about missions.

b. Also remember that Dr. Piper is a preacher, a senior pastor, not a worship pastor!

2. We must also realize that worship in the sense we are speaking of it is far broader than the
Sunday morning worship service. It is perhaps a misnomer to call someone a "pastor of worship",
because worship is something which is so big (as we have seen) that is encompasses and
permeates our entire lives-- everything we are and do. Paul said, "whatever you do, do all to the
glory of God" (1 Cor. 10:31; cf. also Romans 12:1).

So itís not a question of what department of the church is more important than any other;
but rather, whatís it all for? Whatís our common purpose as a church? What is our
ultimate mission, our goal?

B. The Great Commandment Greater Than the Great Commission

1. The Great Commission
Many churches hold that the mission of the church is found in the Great Commission, as Jesusí
words to His disciples recorded in Matthew 28: 19-20 are called, where He says "Go therefore
and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son
and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.
" Such churches
rightly see that the Commission not only includes the work of evangelizing the lost, but also of
discipling believers and teaching them to obey the commands of Christ. This understanding of the
churchís ultimate purpose and reason for existence is reflected in many of these churchesí mission
statement, such as these examples of actual such statements:

1. "Our Mission: To cause God great joy by sharing His love with others
as we have seen it in Jesus Christ."

2. "Our Mission: Developing fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ."

3. "[First Church] exists in order that we may glorify the Lord God
through the means He has established in His Word: Evangelism
(introducing people to Jesus Christ) and Edification (building believers to
maturity in Jesus Christ)."

4. "For Godís glory, [Second Church] is committed to developing
disciples in our area and throughout the world so that in all things Christ
might have the preeminence."

5. "To the glory of God: to win, build, and equip disciples of our Lord
Jesus through loving, Bible centered ministry at home and abroad."

Several of these statements do express a desire to do all that they do for the glory of God. But the
means are left at evangelism and edification, which by their very nature are man-focused in nature.
Are the evangelization of the world and the edification of the saints the ultimate expressions of
Godís purposes in creating us and saving us and calling us into His service? Does the Great
Commission encompass all which we are to be about as a body of believers? Surely not, in light of
some of the themes we have been talking about.

2. The Great Commandment

And surely not even in light of Jesusí own words. He says in the Great Commission that we are to
learn to obey all that He commanded. And elsewhere He makes very clear what the most
important command of all is. It is so reminiscent of things we have seen already:

"One of the scribes . . . asked Him, ĎWhat commandment is the foremost of all?í
Jesus answered, ĎThe foremost is, "Hear, O Israel! the Lord our God is one
Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all
your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength."í" (Mark
12:28-30)

The Great Commandment tells us that, above all else, we are to love God with all of our being. Our
primary responsibility is not service or even obedience. We are to be first and foremost lovers of
God; people that glorify Him and enjoy Him forever and express that love through a life and
lifestyle of worship. The connection is obvious: if God made us primarily to worship and glorify
Him; and if the primary thing He requires of us is our love-- then we must be talking about
essentially the same thing. Worship, therefore, is loving God with all of our being, and cherishing
His glory.

God is seeking worshippers; not evangelists, not disciplers, not missionaries, but worshipers--
lovers of God who base their whole existence in exalting Him in all of their endeavors.

3. The Relationship between the Great Commandment and the Great Commission

Notice the purely vertical focus of the Great Commandment; "love the Lord your God," period--
not
show your commitment to God by doing this, that, and the other. The Great Commandment
speaks of worship in that it is purely vertical in its focus; that utter God-centeredness reflects what
we have already seen about how ultimately all that we do should point towards God and His glory.

The Great Commission, on the other hand, by definition involves activities which are more
horizontal, man-focused in nature (namely, evangelism and discipleship). The fact of the matter is
that the Great Commission grows out of and is built on the foundation of the Great Commandment
and the second greatest commandment, which Jesus explains in Mark 12 to be:

"You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (12:31)

The Great Commission grows out of the interworking of these first and second greatest
commandments, to love God and to love our neighbor: if we truly love God, we will follow through
with the love of neighbor which He commands and enables; and the greatest love we can show to
our neighbor is to help him become a lover of God, a worshiper, in his own right.

Even in Matthew 28 we find worship undergirding the Great Commission; we read in v. 16:

"The eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated.

When they saw Him, they worshiped Him."

Then the Great Commission itself begins with a vertical focus:

"And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ĎAll authority has been given to Me in
heaven and on earth
. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations . . .í" (vv. 18-19)

We see that the context of the Great Commission is worship (28:16), and its foundation is the
authority of Jesus Christ )28:18). Our outreach and discipleship must flow out of an appreciation
for the glory of God and out of a heart which is full of worship-- otherwise, as Piper points out,
"You canít commend what you donít cherish." (LNBG, p.11) And our outreach and
disciplemaking must lead ultimately to more worship being offered up for Godís own pleasure. (It
should also be said that a church which genuinely worships will reach out -- for if the people
do not grow to share Godís heart for the lost, we may legitimately question how close they have
really come to Him in worship!)

4. A Proper Emphasis and Balance

While the church mission statements mentioned earlier are strong on the Great Commission and
rightly concerned with the glory of God, yet they are woefully lacking when it comes to
acknowledging worship as the primary and ultimate focus of the church. Here are some mission
statements which come closer to giving worship its proper due:

1. "As a local expression of the universal body of Christ, we desire to
corporately love God with all our being by worshipping Him and loving
others through relevant ministry both locally and around the world."

2. " [Third Church] exists for the purpose of: magnifying Jesus through
worship and the Word; making Jesus known to our neighbors and the
nations; and moving believers in Jesus toward maturity and ministry."

3. "The priorities of ministry of this church flow from the vision of Godís
glory revealed in Jesus Christ. We exist to savor this vision in worship
(John 4:23), strengthen the vision in nurture and education (I
Corinthians 14:26, II Peter 3:18), and spread the vision in evangelism,
missions, and loving deeds (I Peter 2:9, 3:15, 5:16; Matthew
28:18-20)."

4. "The Mission of [Fourth Church] is to glorify God through joyful
worship, to show Godís love to all people, to lead them to faith in Jesus
Christ, to make them His disciples, and to call them to His service.".

These statements put worship in its proper place: first. And I believe thereby God is honored,
because it is clear that when we are putting worship first, we are in fact putting Him first.

C. How it all fits together

What does this perspective then mean for the ministry of the church? How does it all fit together?

1. An End in Itself

To quote from Piper once more: "Of all the activities in the church, only one is an end in
itself: worship.
" (from "Worship Is an End in Itself," a sermon manuscript). This derives from
some of the things we have already looked at.

a. First, it should be clear by now that there is no higher activity than worship for created beings.
Worship is not a means to anything else. We donít worship at church to grow our numbers, to
make people feel better about themselves, even to teach believers or evangelize the lost. Not
primarily. We worship to actively cherish and savor the glory of God, and when we do that, weíve
arrived at the purpose of our existence.

b. Secondly, if worship is the highest goal, than other Christian activities should serve as means to
that all-encompassing goal. In fact, they must serve as this if they are to be honoring to God and in
line with His purposes.

2. The Means to the End

So, as Piper puts it, "Missions exists because worship doesnít."

But not only that: Sunday School exists because worship doesnít-- not to the fullest extent possible.

Youth groups exist because worship doesnít.

Evangelism teams exist because worship doesnít.

Small groups exist because worship doesnít.

Discipleship programs exist because worship doesnít.

Preaching exists because worship doesnít.

The ultimate goal of all these activities is to build more and better worshipersto the glory of God!
Evangelism activities to win more worshipers, and edification activities to build better ones.

Only worship is purely vertical in its focus; all these other ministries necessarily focus on people.
But our goal in working with people is to point them towards God, towards worship!

3. All Roads Lead to Worship

But again, this is not special pleading for the inherent superiority of the worship department of the
church. Quite the opposite-- rather it means that every pastor has worship as the goal of his
ministry! The pastor of worship and music should perhaps be called something like "pastor of
corporate praise," so as not to confuse things, because not only his goal is the worship of Godís
people, but every staff personís goal!! The childrenís and youth pastors have the ministry of
developing young people into worshipers; adult ministries pastors should seek to teach adults to
prize God and His glory above all things, and to worship Him above all other pursuits; the pastors
in charge of missions and evangelism have the ministry of seeking to multiply worshipers for God;
the preaching pastor has the responsibility of publicly cherishing the glory of God and expounding it
and inviting others to share in the wonder of wholehearted, and whole-life, worship.

Every pastor, every staff member, everyone in ministry should have an ultimate vertical purpose to
his or her ministry: a purpose of seeking to reflect and demonstrate and display the glory of God in
the lives of people; a purpose of building into others (as they seek to also build into their own lives)
a preoccupation with God, a loving of Him with all the soul, heart, mind, and strength; a cherishing
of Him and His glory in lives of worship.

That kind of purpose should be conscious and explicit for everyone involved in ministry,
regardless of what that ministry may look like in its particulars. All of ministry, as well as all of life--
as we have seen-- must have that overriding, single-minded purpose if we are to be what we have
been created and redeemed to be.

Ministry is the work of seeking, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to build more and better
worshipers of God.

V. PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS

In closing I would like to come back to our ministries of music and worship and draw a couple of
practical implications for those ministries from the big themes we have been discussing of the glory
of God and worship.

A. Reordering Our Priorities

The first has to do with the pettiness of many of our squabbles over matters of taste and style in
worship. "Worship wars" (as Marva Dawn and others have termed these conflicts) are a scandal
and a travesty to the body of Christ!

If God is looking above else for faces turned heavenwards towards Him in adoration and worship,
how it must grieve Him when to instead see us facing off against one another in our provincialism,
our territorialism, and our narrow-mindedness. We acknowledge that worship is primarily for God;
but then we assume that our particular taste in music just happens to exactly coincide with Godís
taste in music!

The unity of the body of Christ is such a precious thing (see Ephes. 4:1-6); yet today issues of
worship and music are causing more disunity in the body than anything else! If there is anywhere
that the unity of the body needs to be lived out in the life of a local congregation, itís in corporate
worship. How is Godís glory served by disharmony among His children? How can we bring a
sacrifice of praise to God with our hands defiled from mudslinging? How can we love Him with all
our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and still worry like Martha about so many little things?

If worship is our highest calling and our ultimate response to Godís work in our lives, then it should
overshadow all earthly and human considerations as we find ourselves "lost in wonder, love, and
praise," as Charles Wesley put it. And the trivial matters on which we expend so much energy
should pale in significance as we bask the warmth of Godís splendor and beauty.

We must earnestly seek the Lord in a dry and weary land where there is no water, to see His
power and His glory (Psalm 63:1-2). And we must invite our people to join us in that journey, to
thirst and yearn for Him as well, to drink deeply of His glory and be satisfied. Only a grander vision
of God will overcome our nearsightedness, and cause worship wars to cease and be no more.

B. To Be Worshipers

The second implication is the fairly obvious assertion that if we are going to lead and facilitate and
prompt worship, we must be worshipers ourselves. Obviously we cannot lead people where we
have not been ourselves. As Piper wrote, "we canít commend what we donít cherish." (LNBG,
p.11) If we want to be about building more and better worshipers for Godís glory, we must be
worshipers ourselves.

This implication also applies to our congregations: if our congregations are going to join together for
meaningful times of corporate worship, our people must first become worshipers themselves and
come together on Sundays out of a week of worshiping and walking with God.

1. What others have said

a. C.S. Lewis wrote about the intensity of the desire, even appetite for God which one finds
expressed in the Psalms. David and the other Psalmists spoke of thirsting for God, hungering for
Him, yearning for Him; they said things like "A day in Your courts is better than a thousand
outside?" (Psalm 84:10), and "Whom have I in heaven but You?" (Psalm 73:25)

We need to cultivate, or ask God to give us, that kind of appetite for God.

It is not a given. Chuck Swindoll wrote a little book recently entitled Intimacy with the Almighty.
In the introduction to the book he describes how in his own ministry he realized that he allowed
busyness for God to supplant an intimate walk with God. Then he goes on in the book to relate
some of the ways in which he was able to develop that kind of walk.

2. What Paul said

The NT teaching is that all of life is to be a response of worship to God. Paul wrote in Romans
12:1:

"Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God [harking back to all of
the tremendous truths about salvation which Paul has dealt with in chapters
1-11], to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God,
which is your spiritual [or "fitting"] service of worship."

Our appropriate response to becoming a recipient of the "mercies of God" and of the "riches of
His grace"
(Ephes. 1:7) is to regularly offer ourselves to Him as an act of love and worship. The
soul which has tasted and seen that the Lord is good, and has learned to cherish His glory, will be
ready to present himself in this way.

3. Stone Soup

Perhaps you are familiar with the childrenís story entitled Stone Soup.

In this story, three soldiers are returning home from the war. They approach a village, but the
villagers, seeing them coming, scurry to hide all of their food, because there is a shortage and they
do not want to have to share with outsiders. They tell the soldiers that they have no food to give
them.

The soldiers, being rather shrewd fellows, tell the villagers that they will make some stone soup, and
ask simply for a large kettle filled with water. They choose several large, round stones and add
them to the kettle, with the curious villagers looking on. Then the soldiers remark, "This soup should
be excellent; but if we only had a couple of potatoes, it would be even better. One of the villagers
says, "I think I might have a few to spare," and goes off to retrieve some potatoes from her stash.
The soldiers add these to the pot, taste the soup, and say: "Wonderful! Now if we just had a few
carrots..." and someone runs off and gets some. The same happens with onions, and cabbage, and
so forth, until a hearty soup has been prepared. The soldiers invite the villagers to join with them in
their feast, and the villagers are amazed that such a marvelous soup could be made with just
stones!

In our corporate worship, our rituals, hymns, anthems, even our sermons are like those stones--
they are nothing that particularly impresses God: theyíre just a framework, a skeleton.

What makes it special and makes it worship is when our members come and add to the
pot from whatís been stored up in their hearts during a week of worshiping and walking with God,
a week of loving God and cherishing and savoring His glory-- then we are ready to worship God
together. When our corporate adoration is the overflow of many hearts rejoicing in the goodness
and greatness of God, which the Spirit can then energize and transform into something far more
than the sum of the parts-- then our congregational worship will truly be a nourishing and
invigorating feast for the people of God, and-- more importantly-- a fragrant aroma to the God of
glory, who delights in the worship of His people.







Ron Man
Pastor of Music and Worship, EXW Contributor
Read more from Ron Man


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