When your car has broken down for the umpteenth time, you ask yourself the question: do I fix it or replace it? That kind of choice confronts us with kitchen appliances that break, computer gadgets that fail, and never‑ending household repairs. Is it better (and cheaper) to fix what we have or to replace it altogether?
In some ways, that’s the choice which confronts the pastor or spiritual leader when he looks at the worship of the church. The worship of the evangelical church has been ravaged by the triviality and banality of popular culture, the unanswerable appeal of pragmatism, and the ubiquitous presence of entertainment. The pastor who cares about offering God the worship He deserves faces the same question: Is it too broken to fix? Do I start over? Do I steadily repair what is broken?
More than likely, every pastor knows the answer. Much as one might wish for it, no one can start from scratch or introduce pristine, biblical worship out of thin air. We must begin with what we have. We are called to particular local churches, with their particular blend of traditions, expectations and understandings of worship. It is not some ideal church with ideal saints that we shepherd, but real people with very real, and often very incorrect, views of worship.
The pastor goes to work in the church to which he is called, looking to God for wisdom for what changes need to be made and at what pace that change must come. Like a craftsman, he hammers here a little and there a little. He judges what must be amputated and what must shrivel by itself. He judges what must be brought back in a hurry and what must be gently cultivated. In some churches the situation is so bad that his repairs will be a near-replacement. In others, he will have to steadily chip and plaster. All along, he seeks to persuade, explaining the reasons for biblical worship, pointing to the beauty of biblical worship, and urging submission to biblical worship. As he does this with meekness and patience, he trusts in God to grant acknowledgment of the truth in his hearers.
In this booklet, I hope to highlight the benefits of certain worship practices that are sometimes missing from the free-worship traditions. I do not mean to patronize those already doing so; I hope to show how a wise use of these practices can only improve the worship we offer God.
My goal is simply to provoke the thinking of pastors and leaders regarding some of these oft‑neglected worship practices. I hope it might encourage those approved and diligent workmen to continue their steady, patient, and rewarding work of shepherding God’s flock to worship God appropriately.