17 Quotes on Worship

The next two Sundays, I’m preaching on the subject of worship as part of a larger series on the church. Yesterday, I was paging through a binder of quotes from past reading and was again blessed and challenged by words from others. As you prepare to worship the Lord with other believers, tomorrow, be sure to take some time, today, to prepare your heart through prayer and Bible meditation (If you don’t know where to start, try Psalms 90-100).

Worship Matters: Leading Others to Encounter the Greatness of God by Bob Kauflin; every worship leader should read this book several times.

“Good theology helps us keep music in its proper place. We learn that music isn’t an end in itself but rather a means of expressing the worship already present in our hearts through the new life we’ve received in Jesus Christ….When we’re dodgy about our theology, we’re really saying we want our own Jesus.”

“Our varied skills should function like a frame around a classic painting. If the frame is too bold or extravagant, we’ll hardly notice the picture it displays. On the other hand, if the frame is cheap, shabby, or marred, we’ll wonder why such a masterpiece is surrounded by junk. The right frame complements the picture in all the right ways, directing our eyes to the brilliance of the artist, not the frame.”

“Every time we lead the church in worship we’re doing more than singing songs. We’re leading believers in a battle for the truth.”

Real Worship: Playground, Battleground, or Holy Ground? by Warren Wiersbe is a practical look at worship for every believer.

“When you consider all of the words used for worship in both the Old and New Testaments, and when you put the meanings together, you find that worship involves both attitudes (awe, reverence, respect) and actions (bowing, praising, serving). It is both a subjective experience and an objective activity. Worship is not an unexpressed feeling, nor is it an empty formality. True worship is balanced and involves the mind, the emotions, and the will. It must be intelligent; it must reach deep within and be motivated by love; and it must lead to obedient actions that glorify God.”

“We are not refugees who are looking for escape; rather, we are wounded and weary soldiers who need rest and rehabilitation so we can go back into the battle. People who worship for ‘escape’ do not know what true worship is, and they are wasting their time. True worship should lead to personal enrichment and enablement, the kind of spiritual strength that helps the believer carry the burdens and fight the battles of life.”

“It is unfortunate that we have minimized the importance of feelings in our experience of worship. We preach about presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice (Rom. 12:1, 2), but then we want to anesthetize our nervous system and eliminate normal emotional responses.”

Singing and Making Music by Paul Jones is a theologically rich assessment of worship and music from a church musician.

“Since the gospel can be preached through music, and since biblical teaching can be recalled through music and appropriated, then there is an obligation to ensure that this is done well. When music is like a sermon, it follows that it must have responsibilities and characteristics similar to those of a sermon. Many of the same criteria we use to define great preaching and teaching can be employed to define great church music. Church music needs to be well prepared and presented. It requires unity and coherence. It should make sense to the listener. It should evidence thought and skill. Church music should feed the people by teaching the Word of God. It is a work of the Spirit of God.”

“Music clothes the Word of God with sound and also reinforces its message with meaning beyond the realm of words. It communicates with our souls as a metaphysical force.”

Give Praise to God: A Vision for Reforming Worship, edited by Philip Graham Ryken in celebration of the legacy of James Montgomery Boice.

“The single greatest obstacle to the reform of worship in the evangelical church today is evangelicalism’s general belief that New Testament Christians have few or no particular directions about how we are to worship God corporately: what elements belong in worship, what elements must always be present in well-ordered worship, what things do not belong in worship.” [Ligon Duncan]

“If worship does not spring from gratitude for God’s grace, if it is not the heartfelt response to who God is and what he has done, then it is hollow.” [Ligon Duncan]

“Acceptable worship is instituted by God in accordance with his own will and for the purposes of advancing his own glory….The way we worship reflects our theological prejudice one way or another, for good or ill, and, more importantly, reflects on the very character of God.” [Derek Thomas]

Tozer on Worship and Entertainment is at times a scathing critique of man-centered worship, i.e. entertainment. I appreciate A.W. Tozer’s emphasis on the role of the emotions and human affections in worship.

“Worship is to feel in the heart and express in an appropriate manner a humbling but delightful sense of admiring awe.”

“We can admire without worshipping, but we cannot worship without admiring, because worship is admiration carried to infinitude. In the same way, we can honor what we do not worship, but we cannot worship the one we do not honor.”

Authentic Worship by Herbert Bateman, IV gives much attention on a crucial matter, that is, the heart that we bring to worship.

“Authentic worship always involves obedience and sacrifice. It involves obedience because God desires worship from us, and such worship involves sacrifice because it is the subjective, expressive, and spiritual attitude that demonstrates our willingness to approach and encounter our Infinite-Creator-Redeemer God.”

“Authentic worship is not about satisfying specific generational likes and fixations on individual want. Authentic worship is about finite beings entering into the presence of the Infinite, it is about created beings encountering their Creator-Redeemer, and it is about a corporate community of professing believers who participate in expressing their feelings and celebrating the triune God in both Spirit/spirit and truth regularly.”

“…authentic worship is not a commodity; it is not a preoccupation with luring people into our service; and it is not a preoccupation with satisfying or appeasing generational likes and dislikes. Authentic worship is first and foremost about God.”

A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities and Prayers by D.A. Carson is actually a book about the prayers of the apostle Paul, the author makes a good point about intentionally keeping the glory of God at the center of our worship.

“…the fundamental difference between ‘Amen!’ and applause must be noted: the ‘Amen!’ is directed at God, even if it serves to encourage the person who is ministering, while applause in our culture signals approval of the performer. God is left out, and the ‘performer’ may the more easily be seduced into pride. This is one of the several ways by which the rules of the entertainment world have subtly slipped into corporate worship and are in danger of destroying it from within.”

This is just a small sampling of thought-provoking quotes on worship. Of course, there are so many more good books to read. I encourage you to include books on worship (personal and corporate) in your reading diet.

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