Friday, November 7, 2008

Shouting in the Church (Psalm100:2) by John H. Hill

This article is a chapter excerpted with permission from the author. John has been a good friend to my family (a second pastor in some ways), and I applaud him for his courage to write and publish his devotional thoughts for the church. We no longer live nearby each other, but I can hear his energetic, kind, and loving voice in every phrase I read in this book. John loves the Word of God: he speaks it, prays it, preaches it, and lives it. The title of this book ought not to cause you to think that you will find a radical perspective on simple verses. Rather, John is presenting here a view of passages that are often overlooked. Although we often disagree on minor interpretive matters, we ought to never be discouraged from searching out the Scriptures. More so, we ought not skip over difficult or even common passages. This is a very fun book. John's love for the Word is contagious.

John H. Hill, Uncommon Views of Common Verses. Xulon Press, 2007. Paperback, 212 pages.

Shouting in the Church, Psalm100.2

Different churches exhibit vastly different styles of worship. I am often amused by the attitudes of those who take the opposite sides form each other on the issue of style.

I grew up in a small, rural Baptist church in North Carolina that was subdued in its worship. Once during a morning service a visitor hailed with a hearty "Amen!" and several of the regular attendees turned to see who had broken the sanctity of the moment. Several on the back row giggled because we had never heard anyone show such an animated display of enthusiasm. I believe a couple of sleepers actually opened their eyes for a moment.

Not long ago, I had the opportunity to jam (sing spontaneously) with some dear friends who were not Baptists. On the first evening of this particular conference, my three friends and I began singing some of the old songs during an intermission between services. There were four of us then, but it became a choir by the end of the week; and just the other day a lady who had joined us in singing called to tell me she was looking forward to next year. (None of the conference officials asked us to sing a special and even turned down our offer to do so. Maybe they are just not quite as enthusiastic in their spiritual life as we are.)

Although I suppose my personal preference for services is somewhere on the conservative side of the middle, there is something special about the spontaneous praise that comes from someone who is in love with his Lord and Savior.

Many churches have become so "dignified" that they expect the Holy Spirit to come in, sit down, and not stir things up - after all, what would the visitors think if someone began weeping over their sinfulness or the sinfulness of others. It would be quite difficult to explain how someone could be so full of the love of Christ that they should come to the altar and weep over God's goodness (at least not on Sunday morning - during "worship"). On Sunday mornings we should all ease in quietly, take our place, and begin our meditation so as to not disturb God's Spirit.

It is necessary to maintain order, but there should always be room for God's Spirit to work. I suppose that worked up emotions, in an attempt to give the appearance that the Spirit is involved, is just as distasteful as having no spirit at all. The Bible says "For as many as are led be the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." (Romans 8.14)

The church service should be a time to which we give much consideration and prayer. Anytime there is no room for change, the Holy Spirit's work is hindered. That applies to loud, energetic services as well as quiet, subdued ones.

Every act of worship, however, should express what is in the heart. Psalm 100.1 gives the standard for approach used by the Israelites as they presented themselves to God. They should "make a joyful noise." Many times we suggest that if people cannot carry a tune, they should at least make a joyful noise. The word form which "make a joyful noise" is translated is rua. It is a verb meaning to "shout, or sound a blast." The term occurs thirty-three times in the Old Testament and was used fundamentally to convey the action of shouting or of making a loud noise.

Prior to most services at our church, people gather around greeting each other and often are laughing. They are making a joyful noise unto the Lord. During the worship service each person should engage in enthusiastic singing. This singing refers to a cry of delight over a marvelous event - that of salvation and of being in God's presence. Paul exhorts believers to "Speak to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord." (Ephesians 5.19) The singing, then, should be from a sated heart and spirit and not used to get people "fired up" for the service.

Psalm 100.2 gives two imperatives for approaching God. The second concerns singing and the first service. Part of our service toward God involves giving. Again, Paul exhorts believers to give cheerfully because the Lord loves a cheerful giver (II Corinthians 9.7). Although the Greek word (hilaros) resembles the English word "hilarious" it does not carry the same connotation. The word denotes a happy, glad, or cheerful state of mind and not one overcome with laughter and mirth. It does not indicate someone affected by humor.

The point is that whether you are animated or subdued in your worship, it should be a matter of the heart. When you sing, it should not be for others to see but from a heart of praise. When you attend church, it should not be for what you received but from a heart of praise.

As we enter into our fellowship of praise with God, we should already have a heart filled with praise and singing before the first announcement is made or the first note of a song is played. We should come before His presence with singing - not hoping that something will bless us. The blessing should already be in our hearts and on our lips.

John H. Hill is the pastor of First Emmanuel Baptist Church. He is also the author of Foundations: A Commentary on Genesis 1 - 10. John lives in Summerville, SC with his wife Nancy and two daughters: Lindy and Kaylee.

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