And let’s end gospel pep rallies and Sunday morning variety shows.

For the past decade I have made it my business to sample various services of worship and to ask pastors, students, and lay people to define worship for me. Occasionally I have come across some people with extraordinary insight into the subject. But more frequently the answers are groping, tenuous, and even muddled. Recently a student who knows of my interest in worship renewal caught the frustration many of us experience by saying, We are working against 400 years of neglect.”

Unfortunately, there is more truth than fiction in that statement. The fact is that we have not continued the interest in worship demonstrated by the Protestant Reformers. Rather, we have allowed worship to follow the curvature of culture.

I contend that there are at least four substitutes for worship in our contemporary culture, substitutes shaped more by the culture than by biblical teaching.

The first may be aptly called the lecture approach to worship. The cultural source that gave rise to the “classroom” church is the Enlightenment. The emphasis on the mind, learning, and education to the neglect of the senses and the inner spirit has resulted in a worship mentality that views the sermon as the be-all and end-all of worship. All else is lightly dismissed as “preliminaries.”

A second substitute for worship is evangelism. This approach to worship resulted when evangelistic field preaching replaced worship in some quarters. It turned the church into an evangelistic tent. In churches influenced by such preaching, Sunday morning is seen as the most propitious time to get the unconverted saved. All else is made subject to this overriding theme. The climactic point of the service is the altar ...

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