Does Worship Reflect Biblical Literacy?

While out on my walk this morning I was listening to a certain teacher’s podcast. He made an interesting observation that got me thinking. I don’t know if the observation is original to him, but it is an interesting one. It went something like this.

Many of those in the emergent church movement (ECM) have gone back to a style of worship, or have incorporated elements of worship from a time when most people were Biblically illiterate (referring to times when there were no Bibles in the common language, or there was limited access, and people had to rely in the priesthood for the Biblical edumacation). The ECM also has a very low view of scripture (doesn’t hold it in high esteem or authority) and therefore doesn’t rely on it or use it in such a way that where it can meet the need it is supposed to meet. Are the two connected?

In other words, people back in the day, before the Bible was so easily accessible and therefore the average individual couldn’t read and investigate it for themselves, people generated things like icons in order to have an experience of God and worship. In other words, people got their experience through those things, and were to a large degree not taught rightly.

Today, we do have access to the Word. We can read it for ourselves. And as we do (hopefully) read it for ourselves, the Holy Spirit speaks to us, teaches us, empowers us, and lights us up in such a way that worship is one of the fruits. We no longer need a thing like an icon in order to experience worship because of our Biblical literacy.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I certainly believe that there are things and times to use things to enhance one’s worship experience (referring specifically to the coming together and singing expression of worship). At this point we could even get into a thing on manipulation vs. enhancement. Sometimes people and ministries use things to manipulate people into worship. That’s wrong. I’m talking about people who are already able to be in a worship mindset, and there are some things that, for them, enhance that experience, make it more meaningful for them, however you want to express that. I don’t see anything wrong with those things because those are inside-out kinds of a things, while things like icons and things designed to manipulate (not icons) are outside-in kinds of things.

What I’m primarily curious about at this point is if there is a connection between one’s Biblical literacy and this regression into ancient forms of worship. I’ll save the rest for another time.

  1. If we’re to worship in spirit and in truth, it stands to reason that Biblical literacy would most definitely have an effect on worship.

    Hey Corby, UGM on FB.

  2. Actually, I am usually more surprised how divorced worship is from teaching. Some of the churches that are well known for their song writing are not as highly respected for their doctrine (e.g. Vineyard, Hillsong, Joel Osteen’s church).

  3. Pilgrim – Great connection. I think it’s another way of describing the same concept, just a different manifestation. Those you mentioned can be (or just plain are in the case of Osteen) not doctrinally sound, but be very passionate. Many of the songs that come out of those movements are “Jesus is my boyfriend” kinds of songs. Lots of love, lots of passion, but not much soundness to them. So the worship can feel very strong and powerful, but is still disconnected to the teaching. The worship is still the basis for the experience while the Biblical illiteracy remains.

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