The Worship Quote of the Week for (03/30/2004):

Personal Piety and Corporate Worship
What do you think? Is the “worship whole” greater than the sum of the “worship parts”? How does my personal Christian piety relate to what happens when my local church gathers for Sunday worship? Today’s provocative WORSHIP QUOTE is from the preface to a great new book about the heritage of Protestant hymnody in America.

Many Christians are formed to think of their own private prayer life as primary and to consider Sunday worship as effective to the extent that it ignites or deepens their personal piety. In this way of thinking, the question “what did worship do for me?” is completely natural, even if it is a bit self-centered and individualistic.

Yet it may be more profound and more spiritually healthy to think in precisely the opposite way: that corporate worship—in which the whole is greater than the sum of the parts—is our primary and most essential form of prayer, one that gathers up and completes necessary forms of personal piety. This is especially true in times when our individual mental or emotional reserves are depleted. At minimum, this more corporate vision of piety provides a new way to think about and experience the unmistakably corporate language that the Bible gives us for the church as the people of God, the body of Christ, and the temple of the Spirit.

—John Witvliet, in the preface to WONDERFUL WORDS OF LIFE: HYMNS IN AMERICAN PROTESTANT HISTORY AND THEOLOGY, edited by Richard Mouw and Mark Noll. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004, p. viii-ix. ISBN 0-8028-2160-X. Highly recommended.

Have a great week,

Chip Stam
Director, Institute for Christian Worship
School of Church Music and Worship
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Louisville, Kentucky

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