Theme: Our Man-Centered Age
In this week’s lessons, we learn about the importance of worship, and the responsibility of pastors to lead us in it.
Scripture: Psalm 134:1-3
Why is so little of the worship that characterized past great ages of the church seen among us? One reason, as we noted in yesterday’s study, is that ours is a trivial age and the church has been affected by this. We look at two other reasons in today’s study. 
2. Ours is a self-absorbed, man-centered age, and the church has become sadly, even treasonously, self-centered. Worship is being concerned with God and his attributes. It is knowing, acknowledging and praising God for being who he is. We cannot do that if all we are thinking about is ourselves. 
We have seen something like a Copernican revolution in the evangelical church’s understanding of worship in our lifetimes. In the past, true worship may not have taken place always or even very often. It may have been crowded out by the churches “program,” as A. W. Tozer maintained it was in his day, nearly fifty years ago. In 1948 Tozer wrote, 
Thanks to our splendid Bible societies and to other effective agencies for the dissemination of the Word, there are today many millions of people who hold “right opinions,” probably more than ever before in the history of the church. Yet I wonder if there was ever a time when true spiritual worship was at a lower ebb. To great sections of the church the art of worship has been lost entirely, and in its place has come that strange and foreign thing called the “program.” This word has been borrowed from the stage and applied with sad wisdom to the type of public service which now passes for worship among us.1
Yet in Tozer’s day, worship was at least understood to be the praise of God and worth aiming at. Today we do not even aim at it, at least not much or in many places. 
R. Kent Hughes, Senior Minister of the College Church in Wheaton, was exactly right when he wrote, 
The unspoken but increasingly common assumption of today’s Christendom is that worship is primarily for us—to meet our needs. Such worship services are entertainment focused, and the worshipers are uncommitted spectators who are silently grading the performance. From this perspective preaching becomes a homiletics of consensus—preaching to felt needs—man’s conscious agenda instead of God’s. Such preaching is always topical and never textual. Biblical information is minimized, and the sermons are short and full of stories. Anything and everything that is suspected of making the marginal attender uncomfortable is removed from the service…. Taken to the nth degree, this philosophy instills a tragic self-centeredness. That is, everything is judged by how it affects man. This terribly corrupts one’s theology.2
And worship too, of course. For we cannot focus on God and his attributes, praising him for them, if what we are really thinking about is ourselves and if what we are coming to church for mainly is to have our needs attended to, whatever they may be. 
3. Our age is oblivious of God, and the church is barely better to judge from its so-called worship services. The tragedy here is not that Christians in our time deny basic Bible doctrines, certainly not the nature and existence of God. They are not heretics. The problem is that although they acknowledge Bible truth, it fails to make a difference. 
This is the burden of that profoundly disturbing book by David Wells, No Place for Truth: Or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology?3 His point is that American evangelicalism is either dead or dying as a religious force. It is not dying as a sociological presence, since it has money and numbers. But it is dying as a significant religious force because it no longer cares about truth. Because it does not care about truth it is drifting along with the surrounding secular culture and is mostly indistinguishable from it, which is what George Gallup has been telling us for years. 
The symptoms are all there. The decline is everywhere apparent. What is the cause? The answer is the inconsequentiality of truth in our lives or, as Wells maintains, the weightlessness of God on our experience. We do not reject God. He just doesn’t matter very much. We live as if God were nonexistent. And what that must mean ultimately is that we really do not know God at all. If we do not know God, how can we possibly begin to worship him? 
1A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (Harrisburg, PA: Christian Publications, 1948), p. 9. 
2R. Kent Hughes, Disciplines of a Godly Man (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1991), p. 106. 
3David F. Wells, No Place for Truth: Or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1993). 
Copernican: of radical or major importance or degree. 
Study Questions: 

How does a man-centered lifestyle affect worship? 
What is wrong with the expectation that church should make you feel good? 
Why does Dr. Boice say our age is oblivious to God? 

Reflection: Examine your own church’s worship service. How much is focused on God and how much is focused on man? Are there aspects of it that might need to be re-evaluated?
Key Point: Worship is being concerned with God and his attributes. It is knowing, acknowledging and praising God for being who he is.

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