Preaching As Worship: Meditations on Expository Exultation -- By: John Piper

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 16:1 (Spring 1995)
Article: Preaching As Worship: Meditations on Expository Exultation
Author: John Piper

Preaching As Worship:
Meditations on Expository Exultation

John Piper*

[Editor’s Introduction: We are pleased to present to our readers Dr. Piper’s impassioned plea for worshipful preaching, originally given orally as the Bernard H. Rom Lectures in Preaching at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, November 2–3, 1994. While edited slightly to suit them for this written format, the article retains much of the flavor of the original oral addresses. Putting the lectures into a more “academic” style, we felt, would have detracted from their impact and message.]

I. The Worship That Comes By The Word:
Satisfaction in the Greatness of God

I want to begin by posing a question about the relationship between contemporary worship songs and preaching. I think most of us would agree that the last twenty years have seen a phenomenal explosion of “contemporary worship music”; songs like Jack Hayford’s Majesty and Graham Kendrick’s Shine, Jesus, Shine and dozens of others—Thou Art Worthy; Father I Adore You; Open Our Eyes Lord; We Worship and Adore You; Thou, O Lord, Art a Shield about Me; You are Lord; and on and on. The common vocabulary of contemporary worship songs today is astonishing in evangelicalism and beyond.

Some of them are grammatically, poetically, and musically deplorable (which we shouldn’t make too much of if we grew up on the likes of Do Lord, Oh, Do Lord …). Every explosion has its fluff. But one thing is unmistakable as a trend in these songs: they are, by and large, and in a new way, God-ward. All the ones I mentioned address God in the second person. They are sung to God directly, not merely to each other about God. Therefore they force the issue of worship as a God-ward act—an engagement of the heart with the living God as the song is sung. Add to this that these contemporary tunes are emotionally moving. They are composed in such a way as to awaken and carry affections. They are not excessively complex or intellectual or demanding, but catch the heart up into their mood.

* John Piper is Pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

So two things happen in the best contemporary worship songs: the mind is brought to focus on God with words that are usually biblical (much more so than the spiritual choruses of previous generations); and the heart is moved by the music with a mood of tenderness or devotion or enjoyment (at least this is true for millions of ordinary Christians).

So as we look at the “worship awakening” over the last twenty years or so, what stands out to me as astonishing is that its cont...

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