The Worship Quote of the Week for (09/07/2004):

Words for Worship
How important are the words we use in corporate worship? Today’s WORSHIP QUOTE is another from the prologue of a fantastic new resource for pastors and worship planners. Author John D. Witvliet is director of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship.

Worship is much more than words, of course. And often worship features too many words. We may long for worship that breathes with silence and meditation or for instrumental music that transcends words. Still, worship depends on words. God’s revelation to us is given not only in creation but also in words that communicate all we need to know about God, ourselves, and our salvation. Our communal worship is made possible because we have words to speak to each other, to call each other to worship, to speak common prayers, and encourage each other in the faith. . . .

Perhaps the largest challenge for the language of worship is that one set of words—usually spoken or prepared by a single person—needs to somehow embrace, express, and elicit the worship of a whole group of people. From the perspective of a worshiper, PUBLIC worship always involves using words that come from someone else. One skill for worshipers to hone is the skill of “learning to mean the words that someone else gives us,“ whether those are the words of a songwriter or prayer leader. This skill requires a unique mix of humility (submitting ourselves to words given to us by the community of faith), grace (willingness to offer the benefit of the doubt when those works may not have been well chosen), and intention (to actually appropriate those words as our own).

—John D. Witvliet, from the prologue of THE WORSHIP SOURCEBOOK, edited by Emily R. Brink and John D. Witvliet (Grand Rapids: CRC Publications, 2004), p. 21. ISBN 1-56212-867-1. (also Baker Book House, ISBN 0-8010-9172-1). Highly recommended! This is an amazing resource. For a full description, please look at these two websites:

[Choose your words carefully and prayerfully. In general, our corporate worship is enriched when our prayers and songs appropriate the language of Scripture—pray the Bible, sing the Bible, read the Bible, preach the Bible.]

Have a great week.

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

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