Skip to content ↓

Worshipping Worship

This evening I began reading Worship by the Book which is edited by D.A. Carson. Just thirty pages in I found a great quote that I thought I would share. Carson is talking about (obviously) worship and expanding on a rather lengthy definition he provides of the term. I should point out that he is not condemning contemporary worship any more than he is questioning what is right and wrong in traditional worship. What follows is from Carson:

“In an age increasingly suspicious of (linear) thought, there is much more respect for the “feelings” of things – whether a film or a church service. It is disturbingly easy to plot surveys of people, especially young people, drifting from a church of excellent preaching and teaching to one with excellent music because, it is alleged, there is “better worship” there. But we need to think carefully about this matter. Let us restrict ourselves for the moment to corporate worship. Although there are things that can be done to enhance corporate worship, there is a profound sense in which excellent worship cannot be attained merely by pursuing excellent worship. In the same way that, according to Jesus, you cannot find yourself until you lose yourself, so also you cannot find excellent corporate worship until you stop trying to find excellent corporate worship and pursue God himself. Despite the protestations, one sometimes wonders if we are beginning to worship worship rather than worship God. As a brother put it to me, it’s a bit like those who begin by admiring the sunset and soon begin to admire themselves admiring the sunset.

This point is acknowledged in a praise chorus like “Let’s forget about ourselves, and magnify the Lord, and worship him.” The trouble is that after you have sung this repetitious chorus three of four times, you are no farther ahead. The way you forget about yourself is by focusing on God – not by singing about doing it, but by doing it. There are far too choruses and services and sermons that expand our vision of God – his attributes, his works, his character, his words. Some think that corporate worship is good because it is lively where it had been dull. But it may also be shallow where it is lively, leaving people dissatisfied and restless in a few months’ time. Sheep lie down when they are well fed (cf. Psalm 23:2); they are more likely to be restless when they are hungry. “Feed my sheep,” Jesus commanded Peter (John 21); and many sheep are unfed. If you wish to deepen the worship of the people of God, above all deepen their grasp of his ineffable majesty in his person and in all his works.

We do not expect the garage mechanic to expatiate on the wonders of his tools we expect him to fix the car. He must know how to use his tools, but he must not lose sight of the goal. So we dare not focus on the mechanics of corporate worship and lose sight of the goal. We focus on God himself, and thus we become more godly and learn to worship – and collaterally we learn to edify one another, forbear with one another, challenge one another.”

Tim here again. What really jumped out at me was “worshipping worship.” Wow. I have to wonder, do I ever admire myself admiring the sunset? Carson has given me much to think about.


  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    Weekend A La Carte (June 8)

    A La Carte: Fighting for faith when doubts abound / The incredible blessing of my father’s final months / Why you can’t let yourself feel content / The means of doing much good / Bible translations are for people / Kindle deals / and more.

  • Free Stuff Fridays (TWR)

    This giveaway is sponsored by TWR, also known as Trans World Radio, whose mission is to reach the world for Christ by mass media so that lasting fruit is produced. TWR is looking for engineering, IT, maintenance and finance specialists to help us tell the story to God’s glory. Explore these and other opportunities here. …

  • The Way You Walk

    The Way You Walk

    You can tell a lot about people by the way they walk, can’t you? You can tell a lot about their physical health, their emotional state, and perhaps even their spiritual condition. You can often tell at a glance whether they are healthy or ill, joyful or sorrowful, delighting or despondent. Consider a company of…

  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    A La Carte (June 7)

    A La Carte: Feminism as critical social theory / Lessons from a Job season / Was the woman at the well married to any of the five men? / Holy haggling / The other D-Day / The problem with livestreams / and more.

  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    A La Carte (June 6)

    A La Carte: Toward a Protestant pronatalism / The rise of hyperpleasures / Why only pastors can baptize / Fighting the “respectable” sins of gossip and slander / Can we forgive when the offender doesn’t repent? / 10 questions a Christian man should ask himself before making a marriage proposal / D-day / Kindle deals…

  • The Least of My Childrens Accomplishments

    The Least of My Children’s Accomplishments

    I know what it is to be a father and to take pride in the achievements of my children. I had not been a father for long when I learned that the least of my children’s accomplishments by far outshines the greatest of my own. Their smallest victory generates more delight than my largest and…