Tim Keller on Worship

June 14, 2010

Sitting in the midst of a very long meeting my mind is wandering.  Thankfully, having my laptop, and access to wifi, I am free to roam.  In my wanderings I found this wonderful article on worship by the Tim Keller.  Enjoy:

Not everything we feel Sunday morning can be labeled true worship. Several emotions can be mistakenly associated with true worship.

Nostalgia. Some people are moved to tears by listening to “The Old Rugged Cross” and others by “The Wind Beneath My Wings.” But those feelings are not necessarily worship. They could also be merely a sentimental connection; the song reminds people of a warm memory. This is one reason why people will say, “I can’t worship if I don’t sit in my pew,” or “I can’t worship because you rearranged the furniture,” or “I can’t worship if I don’t know the hymns.”

That’s nostalgia, a fond sentiment that people often need because everything else in life is changing. But that feeling isn’t worship, and there is no resulting impact on their whole lives.

Conscience clearing. Some people feel guilty because they haven’t gone to church for a while, or they haven’t been praying, or whatever. So because they’re in church, singing a hymn and putting something in the offering plate, they feel better. Their consciences are clear. Perhaps that feeling is better than the sentimental feeling, but it’s still not worship.

Aesthetic experiences. Other people may have only an aesthetic experience, which is still not worship. Even people hostile to the gospel can weep while listening to Handel’s Messiah. C. S. Lewis said that his imagination was baptized when he was still an atheist because of excellent Christian art.

Our emotions become a legitimate part of worship when, in response to a truth about God, we give something back to God: our money, our sin, our praise. Again, the three elements must be there: mind, will, emotion.

As it relates to worship, I’d rather use the word moved than the word emotion. If we don’t find that our affections have been moved from earthly idols toward God, we haven’t worshiped. Our affections are more than just our emotions.

Some of us, myself included, are not emotionally expressive. That’s just who I am. However, if I leave Sunday morning having had no emotional connection whatsoever, I haven’t worshiped. I must allow my heart to be touched to worship.

Read the rest.

5 responses to Tim Keller on Worship

  1. Having been in long meetings myself from time to time & finding myself w/o a laptop with which one can roam, long meetings either need to be eliminated or laptops supplied at the door. I enjoyed the Keller article.

  2. Tim Keller has God-given wisdom–I am encouraged and motivated to draw nearer to the Lord whenever I listen to one of his sermons.

  3. Enjoyed the post on worship!

  4. The full article really seems to be two pieces smashed into one: what worship really is to each individual and what a pastor should keep in mind about a worship service. I’m glad you posted an excerpt from the first part, because that’s the piece that resonates with me and is really relevant to me.

    Often I have found myself in church expecting a particular emotional response and not having it. Or a few weeks ago I came to church not wanting any emotional response and just wanting to get through with the service, because I had too much on my mind. God wouldn’t have it, though, and I’m glad I left the service connecting with God.

    I also like that Keller indicates that the whole person must be affected for this to be true worship. He says, “in order for us to worship, our mind, will, and emotions have to be moved. They’re all organically connected.” This is really a restating of John and Charles Wesley’s notion that true Christianity is defined by orthodoxy, orthopraxis, and orthopathy. As I understand the story, John was good at the first two but, like a good worship leader, Charles kept him grounded in the third.

    What I don’t like is Keller’s formal definition of worship: “I define worship as a private act that has two parts: seeing what God is worth and giving him what he’s worth.” While I’m generally the type of person who prefers singing songs in second person (“to God”) rather than in third person (“about God”), I think this definition strongly favors the first form.

    Lastly, something I’ve heard Tom Conlon mention more than once is that the Greek word proskyneo can be thought of as “to kiss, as a dog kisses its master”. Whenever my dog does something, she is always looking back at me to make sure I approve. And in the evening before bed, she comes and licks me before lying down for the evening. I wish I had that kind of attitude all the time in my worship for God!

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