Dr. David W. Manner is the Associate Executive Director for the Kansas-Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists. He blogs at http://kncsb.org/blogs/dmanner . You can follow him on Twitter: @dwmanner.
Why are churches that so zealously defend the Bible rarely reading its text in public services of worship? Does its limited use convey a lack of trust in the very Word professed to be foundational to faith, doctrines and practices? And by limiting its text to a single reading prior to the pastoral exhortation are leaders implying that a higher level of credibility is found in the exhortation than in the Word itself? Can’t it stand on its own or must we always attempt to prop it up with our own words and actions?
Robert Webber in Ancient-Future Worship wrote, “We are nourished in worship by Jesus Christ, who is the living Word disclosed to us in the Scriptures, the written Word of God. In spite of all the emphasis we evangelicals have placed on the importance of the Bible, there seems to be a crisis of the Word among us.”
Congregations continue to struggle in their understanding of spirit and truth worship by maximizing music and depending on it alone to negotiate the worship impasse. At the same time those congregations minimize the very foundational text from which those songs must spring forth.
John Frame offers two truths that highlight the value of God’s Word in our worship: “First, where God’s Word is, God is. We should never take God’s Word for granted. To hear the Word of God is to meet with God himself. Second, where God is, the Word is. We should not seek to have an experience with God which bypasses or transcends His Word.”
The dialogue of worship is formed when God’s Word is revealed. This revelation causes worshipers to respond through the prompting of the Holy Spirit (I Cor 2:12-15; I Thess 1:5). The result is a vertical conversation with God and horizontal communion with others. This dialogue develops a community that congregations have been desperately trying to create through their worship actions.
Scripture must be foundational to our songs, sermons, prayers, verbal transitions and even announcements. It must be frequently and variously read and allowed to stand on its own. And when the biblical text organically yields our sermons and songs rather than serving as fertilizer for our own contrived language, we will leave in here worship with the text in our hearts and on our lips for continuous worship out there.