I can’t take credit for the title of this article. It’s actually a little nugget I read on Chris Larson’s Twitter feed a couple of years ago, and I’ve thought of it a lot since the first time I read it. His words,”Preaching is not a postlude to worship,” present clearly an idea that I think is applicable to the Church and, more specifically, the way we approach chapel.
What sprung the idea of writing about this topic was actually something that happened during chapel. Here’s the story: Before the speaker took the stage, we were worshipping corporately through song, doing something explicitly commanded in Scripture. In the row behind me, I heard a student singing with a lot of gusto and passion. This is good. I wholeheartedly believe in musical worship, but I was bothered by what happened during the speaker’s talk. The student behind me, who had been singing with such fervor, was sleeping.
This dichotomy of worship, between active musical worship and declining to listen actively to preaching, is, I think, indicative of a problem in a large portion of the Church today. Music receives more and more focus, and it is becoming a larger portion of church services. Its purpose has become, in many cases, to evoke emotion rather than to point to God. After they sing, many people glaze over or mess around on their phones during the sermon. It’s really a problem with the lay person’s attitude toward musical worship and preaching rather than with the style of music. I don’t mean to say that I think Covenant has demagogues leading worship or that I think excellent music in worship is wrong. I mean that, however important musical worship is, the importance of the preaching of God’s Word should be maintained and revered.
Simply stated, the aforementioned student valued the act of worship in singing more than the act of worship in learning about God. That brings me to my main point: The sermon is a way we worship God.
Let me expound. We hear and talk a lot at Covenant about worshipping God by studying general revelation. The other revelation, special revelation, is the focus of a good sermon, and as its name indicates, is special and particular. So if learning about the general revelation is a means of worship, learning about the special revelation is undoubtedly a form of worship. Hearing more about and from God is thus to know Him better.
On to a practical application: As stated above, learning from sermons is a means of worship. Why don’t people treat it as such? I think it is a number of different reasons, and they vary from person to person.
The cause of this problem isn’t my main address; the need for change is. Maybe this isn’t an issue at all for you; many of you have been blessed by your parents’, churches’ and schools’ emphases on God’s Word. But in the future Church, the one peopled by all of today’s young people (including those who sleep during chapel talks), the sermon may be greatly undervalued. This is a problem.
We all need to understand that listening to a sermon, although it’s not a form of worship that involves every person vocally, is still active worship because we come to know God better through sermons. When we make a concerted effort to comprehend, to learn from and to apply them, the principles taught cut us to the core, so acting as though they are irrelevant seems limited in its understanding and effort.
How could a person argue that a sermon is ineffective if he is asleep during it? Maybe people would make excuses about it being easier to stay focused while standing and doing something. That’s a misunderstanding of our role as Christians: We’re not called to do for God only the things that come easily. I don’t dispute that it’s easier to stay awake while standing and singing than it is while someone else is talking, but I think it’s important for all of us to try to overcome ourselves for twenty minutes and pay attention, worshipping and learning to the glory of God.