This review, by Dr. Nicholson, has been provided courtesy of Desert Bible Institute http://www.desertbibleinstitute.com.
How Then Shall We Worship? by R.C. Sproul is one of those books that needs to be read by both new Christians as well as ones that have been in His service their whole lives. In our modern, entertainment driven society, we often forget what the Bible says worship really is. We loosely use terms like “worship leader” and “times of worship”, but what does it truly mean to worship and how do we go about it? Sproul systematically walks the reader through the various elements of worship pointing out elements that are clearly spelled out in Scripture but often given no more than lip-service in the modern church.
He makes numerous, powerful statements about what worship is, why we worship, and who God says he is. He does this by starting his book addressing the secular mindset that we bring to the church. He explains that congregations are bored and that many of their members find the services to be an “exercise in irrelevance”. Due to the edgy, fast-moving standard of the entertainment industry, Western Christians have come to expect to be entertained or they quickly lose interest. In reaction to this, many churches are experimenting with worship in an attempt to draw people back into the church.
Sproul, in traditional fashion, lends credibility to his position through his advanced use of language and extraordinarily organized, formal thought. This makes it difficult for those who oppose his position to ignore his points or claim them to be outdated. His major premise is that we fail to worship as God tells us to since so little prevalence is given to how the Old Testament shows us how to worship.
He starts his thorough and methodical examination of this topic by tying the two testaments together with a quote: “You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: `This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me.'” (Matthew 15:7-9a) Sproul uses this verse (and many others) to keep coming back to the idea that many modern Christians embrace the Old Testament in theory and as history but not in practice. He further substantiates his case by briefly examining several historical figures that illustrate his point.
He asks tough questions like: What role does sacrifice (personal, not animal) play in worship? How much does congregational prayer take part of worship? Can liturgical worship offer signs of God and that which is holy? Sproul never gets goes off on merely personal feelings (though he offers them) but rather steadily gives biblical background to explain and/or remind us what worship really is and how far our practice has deviated from that ideal.
The only negative to this book is that some of the later chapters (about two-thirds the way through the book) seem to be a bit of a rabbit-trail since Sproul doesn’t tie them into his main theme of worship clearly. This problem is resolved at the end of the book as he ties all his loose thread together however. Ultimately, his only flaw is breaking his pattern of methodical clarity. Sproul creates a very well-rounded, well thought out explanation of potentially one of the most damaging (and ironically most accepted) flaws in the modern church service. After reading this, it seems to me, that this flaw spans across most, if not all, Christian denominations and threatens to make modern worship more like that in church of Ephesus than that in the church of Philadelphia (Rev 2:1-7, 3: 7-13).
Trent Nicholson, Ph.D., D.Min.
Desert Bible Institute, President
Dr. Nicholson is a member of the christianaudio review program. To learn more, visit their website at: http://www.christianaudio.com.