Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Training for Spirit-worship

In Jesus’ discourse with the Samaritan woman, he tells her that God the Father is seeking a certain type of person. A statement like that should cause us to sit up and pay attention because it gives us a pithy description of the type of person all believers should strive to become. And parents should be keen on moulding their children into this type of person. What type of person is the Father seeking? John 4:23 says that the Father seeks “worshipers” and specifically ones who worship Him in Spirit and truth.

Spirit-worship is worship that is in the realm of the Holy Spirit. That is, it is worship like the glory cloud that hovered over the original creation and the tabernacle and that filled the temple. In history, the Holy Spirit takes raw material and glorifies it, from glory to glory. Thus, Spirit-worship is skillful, beautiful, and glorious worship.

Most Western (Prussian) education today, both secular and Christian, operates on the assumption that the goal of “education” is to train the intellect, that is, to manufacture sophisticated homo sapiens. “Spiritual” training is relegated primarily to other spheres, if the person or a parent chooses. Christian education may attempt to develop “character” by means of hard word and discipline.

Yet God is seeking worshipers. Those overseeing the training of Christians must operate with the objective of developing liturgical skills.

Of course, the entire life of the follower of Christ must be characterized by worship. That is, everything a believer does must be, in a general sense, acts of worship and sacrifice to God. But this is not the sense that Christ uses the term with the Samaritan woman. In context, Jesus is speaking specifically of sanctuary worship. Worshiping God around His throne on the Lord’s Day is the great work of the believer. (All other “acts of worship” in the rest of life flow out of the sanctuary.)

What should a church and its parents seek to train in order to produce skillful worshipers? To answer this, I am presenting a partial and undeveloped list of descriptions of Spirit-, that is, skillful and glorious worship. A curriculum for training worshipers must purposefully focus on these features.

First, Spirit-worship involves the whole man. It involves the emotions, the affections, the mind, and the body. It does not despise feelings. It does not focus “primarily” on the “heart.” It is intellectual but does not restrict physical activity. It is sensual and provocative. It is calming and arousing. It involves the whole gamut of human experience. It is deliberate in incorporating as broad a spectrum of earthly and heavenly participation as the Spirit breathed into Scripture, history, and life. Efforts for training for such worship must address the whole man.

Second, Spirit worship is productive of love for God. This is a statement that may sound unfamiliar to many conservative evangelicals in American today. Yet, liturgists have known since the beginning of the church that, stated plainly, one’s repeated external rituals are productive of his affections. Certainly there is a two-way street, but Christians must recognize that the “outward” habits that they incorporate into their lives (and into the lives of their children) produce their “inner” inclinations and desires.

Acknowledgement of this truth results in a worship that is highly structured, planned, and deliberate. It is very precise and predictable. By repetition and ceremony, it creates habits that are productive of heart affections for God and His kingdom. I would, therefore, argue for “liturgical” or “high church” worship. I prefer to think of it, though, as military training of God’s army.

All life is repetitious. It is “liturgical.” Thus, training a child to become skillful in highly liturgical worship should make the specific acts of the liturgy very natural. The typical day of a school child should be structured and predictable. And it should prepare him for the songs, prayers, and sermon in the coming Lord’s Day worship.

Third, Spirit-worship is musical. The Spirit produces music (Eph. 5:18-19). Singing is speech that has been made glorious. Sanctuary music is accompanied by instruments. Musical instruments are the weapons of our warfare.

Music is not just some people’s “thing.” Music is every Christian’s “thing.”

Training for musical worship includes a knowledge of the Psalms and the other songs of Scripture. By rote. All of them. This internalization of the Psalms is essential before we can produce our own songs.

Musical worshipers must be able to sing confidently and enthusiastically as “the sacrifice of praise,” the very “fruit of our lips” (Heb. 13:15). Thus, they should be able to read a part of music. Most people are also capable of developing basic keyboarding skills. And most people can develop some proficiency in another instrument. With this capability, most worshipers will be able to bring a gift of instrumental accompaniment before the altar when called upon to do so.

Fourth, Spirit-worship is Scriptural. Scripture is prayed. It is recited and repeated. It is preached. The dialogue of the liturgy is rooted in the vocabulary and grammar of Scripture. Thus, the minds of worshipers must be filled with Scripture. They must know it thoroughly. It must mould their thought patterns. The more the Christian worshiper exemplifies Scripture in their whole being, the more fully they are able to worship God at His footstool.

Each of these descriptions could be developed at length, and several more could be added. Yet, the point is this: the intention of the entire project of training a child is the fashioning of skillful worshipers who can present their entire being as living sacrifices that are acceptable to God.

No comments:

Post a Comment