Editor’s Introduction -- By: John H. Armstrong

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 09:3 (Summer 2000)
Article: Editor’s Introduction
Author: John H. Armstrong

Editor’s Introduction

John H. Armstrong

For nearly nine years I have traveled across North America, preaching and visiting churches of various styles, sizes and affiliations. My sojourn has brought me face-to-face with a wide variety of worship services, musical tastes and liturgical expressions. I have to confess that what I have seen, on the whole, distresses me.

First, it seems that very few evangelicals think deeply or profoundly about worship at all. We argue about drums and guitars, casual dress or formal attire, and choirs versus praise bands. At the same time we give little or no attention to the actual meaning and purpose of congregational worship. I suspect the reason for this state of affairs is not hard to locate—theology is currently held in very low esteem. As a result we also hold the relationship of theology to what we actually do in worship in even lower esteem. Simply put, when pragmatism reigns theology loses. And when theology loses what the culture wants is what we are ready to provide. I cannot tell you how many times I have asked pastors the question: “What connection does the theology of your congregation (or staff, elders, deacons, etc.) have to do with what your people do in worship each Lord’s Day?” More times than not the answer I get is either a blank stare or a shrug of the shoulders.

Second, preaching, though still alive to some extent, has been reduced in both time and content. Few pastors in large churches want to talk about preaching. This response sends signals to the whole church scene. And pastors, if they do care about preaching, find it harder and harder to compete with the visual arts. People have shorter and shorter attention spans and demand more than ever that the preacher give them a lot more in a much shorter period

of time. What people want is “feeling” communicators (that’s the in word for preachers now) who tell lots of personal stories about how to “fix” family problems, make their marriage sizzle, or just get more out of life in general. Doctrinal preaching is out, lifestyle experience is in. We have created what one minister has called “the homiletics of consensus.”1 The problem, of course, is that sound doctrine is absolutely essential for an authentic Christian lifestyle. With a theology focused on self-fulfillment the results will always be therapeutic, not biblical.

My friend, Kent Hughes, once put it this way: “People worship at their work, work at their play and play at their worship!”2 How sadly true.

Third, we want to fee...

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