Saturday, July 09, 2005

The Eclipse of God...

For those concerned about the all too frequent over-emphasis on experiential worship that we find in the evangelical community, there are some excellent lectures, by R. C. Sproul, J. Ligon Duncan, and Mark Dever, over at Ligonier Ministries. They are based on a seventeen-part series from a pastor's conference titled Overcoming the Eclipse of God. Also addressed is the aspect of evangelism and whether or not there is a dichotomy between our responsibility to evangelize and our responsibility to make disciples. In other words, should our focus on Sunday morning worship be that of evangelizing and catering to the needs of the non-Christians in our midst, or should our call to worship be centered on the worship of God and the building up of the saints? Consider these comments from R. C. Sproul in his message, The Eclipse of God (part 1 & part 2):

One can’t be brought into the presence of the living God and be bored; one can’t be brought into the presence of the living God and walk away convinced that it was irrelevant. …And what I plead, with my comrades in the ministry, is to resist the seduction of entertainment. All of us are judged in our job for how much the church is growing (in numbers). We know there’s a formula out there by which we can build the church and get people there.

But what we have to ask is: What is it that pleases God?

When you have the solemn assembly of the saints, are we designing worship for the lost? Evangelism is at the heart of the Great Commission, but it’s not at the heart of corporate worship on the Sabbath Day. The purpose of worship on the Sabbath Day, is the edification of the saints, and that they may bring their sacrifice of praise into the House of God.

It’s for them to worship.

Or take the lecture Target Audience (part 1 & part 2), from J. Ligon Duncan:

If we're the assembly of the living God. If we're the household, the family of God... the place where discipleship is going to occur... then what is our goal in preaching? What is our target audience?

In our day and time... the idea is so often proposed that worship and preaching need to be aimed at unbelievers. That what you do in the church's services, if we are going to be effective in drawing people in, is not to use the language of Zion, which is unknown to those who are not members of Zion; and not to use the weighty substance and content of Christian truth and theology because that would offend those who are not party to that code language; and not to preach to the choir, as it were, but to reach out to those who don't know the Gospel. And thus the whole of the service and the whole of the preaching is to be crafted for those who are not members of God's people.

And of course, that's utterly upside down from the standpoint of the New Testament.

...Preaching evangelistically and expositionally are not options that are mutually exclusive to one another. That's what we ought to be doing every Lord's Day!

...Let's reject this dichotomy between evangelistic and edificational preaching. Those two things are always to go together... And so as we think of our target audience, surely we want unbelievers to come to faith in Christ, but we do not want to starve the sheep as we do that, nor do we want to bring unbelievers into the kingdom under misapprehensions about what life in the kingdom is really like.

And, finally, take a listen to Expository Preaching (part 1 & part 2), by Mark Dever:

Expositional preaching is exposing God's Word to God's people, and exposing God's people to God's Word. ...Expositional preaching is making the point of a particular passage of scripture the point of your message. ...At its best, in doing so, showing people how this is so, that is, how the point you've taken from it is in fact the point of that passage, so that you're training them in reading and understanding the Bible; and applying its truths to their lives individually, and corporately as a congregation.

And brethren, we should want people to grasp God's Word. ...We should want people to know the Word of God, not so that they can pass theology exams, but so that they can follow Christ!

...We get to teach people the wonderful truths of God's Word. And we should want them to know the truths of those different books of scripture. ...Do they know what Ruth is really about? Do they understand the point of Ezekiel? When there are troubles in the church and people are falling into factions, do they know to turn to the book of James? Do they know what the books of the Bible are about?

...we are the front-line of teaching God's people God's Word. ...that is our calling when we enter the pulpit. It is to instruct God's people in God's Word, to feed them by God's Word. We should want people to grasp God's Word, and we should want people to be grasped by God's Word.

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