First Baptist Church, Paris, Tennessee
Monday, May 20, 2013
Hearing the Word of God, Part 2
In our last article we considered some of the ways that God reveals himself to us in our corporate worship services. We determined that God makes himself known not only through the preaching of his Word, but also through the reading of Scripture and through the texts in hymns and choruses. In this week’s article we will think about some of the least understood ways that we hear God’s Word in our worship.
Silence has long held an important role in Christian worship. "It’s presence implies the fulfillment of a biblical admonition: ‘The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him’ (Habakkuk 2:20)." However, like the public reading of Scripture, silence has all but lost its inclusion in Baptist worship. Either out of a fear of becoming "too liturgical" or because of the appearance of silence being "dead time" to a radio or television audience, many evangelicals have abandoned this historic biblical practice.
"To the contrary, appropriate moments of silence contribute to the rhythm of revelation and response in worship by providing ‘waiting space’ for the revelatory work of God’s Spirit." During a time of confession, silence is often most appropriate because it allows us to specifically confess our individual sins, rather than pray a corporate prayer that may or may not be suitable for a particular worshiper. Furthermore, considering the great variety of individual backgrounds of worshipers at any given worship service, it is impossible to include worship elements that are uniquely suited for each individual worshiper. During a time of silence, each worshiper may receive a "Word from the Lord" that is directly suited to the individual’s needs.
"The presence of symbols in a place of worship acknowledges that the eye can be an important instrument to receive God’s revelation." Scenes depicting Old Testament stories and the early church worshiping were found on the walls of Roman catacombs. Furthermore, the stained-glassed windows in medieval cathedrals served to remind the worshipers of biblical stories, as the majority of the congregations were illiterate and unable to read the stories for themselves.
No doubt, the over proliferation of symbols in some church settings has caused many to overreact against their inclusion in a house of worship. Evangelicals certainly do not want to foster idol worship or the use of icons. However, evangelicals can still make use of symbols in their houses of worship today. An empty cross, the communion table, stained-glass windows, a centered pulpit, and an open Bible all symbolically communicate a great deal about our beliefs as Christians and what we hold dear to our faith.
A service of worship is planned in its entirety to provide opportunity for God to reveal himself to the church and then for the worshippers to respond. May we always be conscious of God’s Word as it is revealed to us in Scripture, song, sermon, silence, and symbol. Then we will be ready to respond as a people transformed by the power of God’s Word.
1. Furr, Gary A. The Dialogue of Worship: Creating Space for Revelation and Response