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Monday, January 27, 2014 | Comments (5)

by John MacArthur

The modern evangelical quest for relevance has created several rifts in the church, perhaps none more visible than the divide over worship. Deep, biblical understanding of God’s Word and His character is routinely pitted against the euphoria of a vibrant musical experience. But that false dichotomy is a great injustice to the church, as it obscures the massive impact the Bible has on the reality and genuineness of true worship.

I often tell young pastors at the outset of their ministries, “You have to go down if you’re going to lead your people up.” In other words, the degree to which your people will experience transcendent worship is directly related to the depth of their comprehension of divine truth. Those who understand the gospel the deepest are the ones who worship with the greatest exaltation and exhilaration. 

Sadly, most churches are content to live in the flat land. The preacher never goes deep in His preaching so the people never go high in their worship. As a result, churches cannot express real worship that rises from a soul filled with the glory of the truth, so they replace it with emotional manipulation, smarmy tunes, and superstition. They call it worship, but it’s really more an expression of feelings than an expression of true adoration rising from the mind that has grasped the depth of profound doctrine.

For me personally, the most important element in worship music is the lyrical content. The appropriate musical accompaniment should be suitable and memorable, but the words carry the truth. When the words are teeming with rich theological life and biblical accuracy, they inform the mind, and that launches a legitimate experience of glorifying God. But your people will not appreciate that type of profundity without the biblical background needed to understand the depth of the great realities about which they are singing. They have to be taught if they are to enjoy and express the true worship which God seeks (John 4:24).

Teaching the Bible expositionally protects God’s people from the theological errors and the carnality so deadly to true worship, as well as guards the purity of their Christian walk. In some churches, pastors get up each week and do little “sermonettes for Christianettes,” which are essentially short God-talks about self-help and positive feeling. But they do nothing for their people to protect them from error, sin, or temptation.

The Bible speaks very pointedly about so-called shepherds who fail to protect their sheep from spiritual harm (cf. John 10:12–13). Those who leave their sheep vulnerable to wolves are unfaithful shepherds. They have failed to impart any true knowledge of God; no doctrinal foundations have been laid; no deep soul work has been accomplished. Their communication style may be enjoyable and their meetings may be full, but those pastors who do not faithfully proclaim the Word of God to their people are failing their sheep where it matters most. One day they will give an account to the Chief Shepherd for why they took such poor care of their flock (cf. 1 Peter 5:1–4).

(Adapted from The Master’s Plan for the Church.)


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#1  Posted by Jim Brazel  |  Monday, January 27, 2014 at 5:31 PM

I will be posting this to my FB Timeline and encourage others to read the whole blog...maybe this will stimulate them to seek pastors who preach the Bible in depth or to inform their shepherds that entertaining and telling feel good stories is not what is needed from the pulpit to the flock.

#2  Posted by Sharlene McKelvey  |  Monday, January 27, 2014 at 11:57 PM

Dr. MacArthur, you are so very right about all of this. I see these changes happening in my own church, as well as churches of some of my friends; and also, as you rightly put it,"sermonettes for Christianettes." I recently wrote to my church, being concerned about the music and the many changes that I found objectional; I find it is no longer is a place of worship. The hymns we once sang were words from Scripture; those words we sang from our hearts because we recognized the true worshipping content. Further, we know the words so well we could remember to sing such praise througout the week; we remember the words simply because many ARE taken from straight from the Bible. Although there are less than a handful of contemporary music I hear now being 'performed' in our church that I enjoy, and the same now being played 24/7 on Moody Radio (a station I once enjoyed), I cannot sing one of such songs; nothing is etched in memory. I'm saddened Moody Radio has made changes to a constant barrage of contempory music; I used to keep the station playing in my car and in my home; now I don't. There is nothing to hold me there, except for a handful of programs I enjoy because they've continued to remain faithful to teaching true Christian doctrine or bring to light issues going on in the world that secular media does not report; but I must say that some of the programs being broadcast and/or pastors who put together 'sermonettes' for Moody sound like utter nonsense to me and/or are seemingly simply 'thrown together' for the purpose of thought-provoking themes from THEIR point of view and not that of Biblical doctrine. Therefore, I learn all that I am able to absorb from Grace to You Ministry and the results has greatly improved my knowledge and understanding, strengthened my faith, trust and hope in God and has helped produce a love as well as a sense of worship in me for God, The Lord Jesus and The Holy Spirit that is strong and meaningful, so much so that there are few words to describe the strength and solidity of this foundation being laid in me. I am lost if I miss one night of listening to sermons being taught by you, all in great detail and in complete truth. When I wrote to my church, explaining I do not go to church to be entertained, listen to jokes, hear a pastor's 'story for the week related to something going on in his life or in the lives of others or the world', I explained that I want to worship, fellowship, and be taught the meaning of God's Word, nor do I want to feel like I have spent a night in a nightclub even though it is only morning. The response fell flat; the responder wrote our church still teaches the Word of God. Since I fail to see it and I fail to hear it, I remain faithful to listen intently to your teaching, thanking God He raised up a Pastor-Teacher who is faithful to God's message and His calling upon you to teach all who will hear and will listen, and put into practice the abundance of God's Word being taught at GCC.

#3  Posted by Lanre Olagoke  |  Monday, January 27, 2014 at 11:58 PM

Thank you John, I've been transformed by all, not one but all your messages. You speak the truth all the time,I am happy that God has given you to us in our generation, I wouldn't have known about the Bible as I have known now if I haven't been exposed to your teaching. I have been listening to your messages for about 2years.May God continue to blessing your knowledge in HIM. Thanks

#4  Posted by Sharlene McKelvey  |  Tuesday, January 28, 2014 at 12:15 AM

Wishing to add to my earlier message, I think one of many advantages to singing gospel hymns taken directly from Scripture is that we have the privilege to sing with love, adoration and praise for our God by singing His precious Words back to Him... I wonder how delightful He might find His words being sung back to Him in a true and heartfelt manner of praise for Him and words that exhalt Christ, our Lord... ... I would think it would bring God honor and glory He so richly deserves...all of this and so very much more.

#5  Posted by John Mullally  |  Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 8:57 PM

The last words Christ recorded in the Gospels are in Mark 16:15-18. Jesus says verses 17 and 18 apply to believers. I believe that verses 17 and 18 are vital because they not only follow in progression - they are also joined to verses 15 and 16 through the 'And' clause. John as much as says that anyone that practices these verses is worse than an unbeliever - having blasphemed the Holy Ghost. Obeying Christ is not to be confused with Blaspheming the Holy Spirit. I believe the direct teaching of Jesus over whatever John MacArthur - even though John is a very intelligent man.

The real problem is that John MacArthur is a Cessassionist. Once you swallow that - huge swaths of scripture are no longer applicable to today and that leads to distortion. I would like to see John debate someone knowledgeable on the Cessassionist topic - but I do not think that will ever happen because it is not scriptural defensible.