Tennessee Baptist Paper Reflects Emphases Over the Years
Over the weekend I joined my siblings going through items at Mom and Dad’s home in Jackson. Dad went home to be with the Lord in 2005, but we are just now getting to sort through some things. Opening the door to the closet in Dad’s study was a shock and yet began an interesting journey through Tennessee Baptist history, and said a lot about how much Dad cared about Baptist life in our great state. In his closet were stacks of Baptist & Reflector papers, the news journal of Tennessee Baptists. I spent a number of hours pilfering through more than 30 years worth of the B&R. What started as a laborious task turned into an informative and sometimes quite humorous journey through time. There were recurring themes that seemed to dominate Baptist life over the years: need for revival, prayer emphases, involvement in missions, encouragement for pastors and caution related to their termination of employment. I was hyper-sensitive to any news regarding music ministry and/or worship. There was an ocassional article here or there, but they were few and far between. Even so, I found the time spent scanning these Baptist journals quite informative as to a repeated rhythm rehearsed by Tennessee Baptists over the years. It was surprising how often our convention has returned to the same kinds of emphases. Even those themes that occupy our attention in present day have been oft-repeated in days past. What does this repetition have to say to and or about us? What does this have to do with worship or with those who seek to lead our Tennessee Baptist churches in worship? Let me venture some conclusions.
The repetition of certain emphases or themes among Tennessee Baptists indicates to me that we are either thick-headed, are off the mark, are simply slow to respond, or all the above. Calls for renewal through prayer, witnessing, mission partnerships, appreciation of leadership, and of course unified giving efforts are all oft-repeated refrains in these journals. It seemed to me that reports of and/or calls for renewed worship were strangely scarce in the journals, except of course inasmuch that worship is part and parcel of all that we do in Jesus’ Name, and thus included in the items listed above. In fact, most of us would say that a full-orbed understanding of worship includes all of the above. My concern, however, in this ever-so-quick review of the B&R over these many years, is that we tend to project and emphasize becoming workers above becoming worshipers. Understanding of the church as ekklesia (“called out”) surely helps us see both of these engagements; work and worship. It is probably more a matter of order than competition of “work” and “worship.”
A.W. Tozer in reflecting upon the Nicene and Apostles creeds points to the need for proper ordering of worship and work in mind and heart, though each informs and participates in the other. Tozer states:
The supreme reason the Lord was born of the Virgin Mary to suffer under Pontius Pilate to be crucified, die and be buried; the reason He overcame death and rose again from the grave is that He might make worshipers out of rebels. We are recipients of a grace meant to save us from self-centerdness and make worshipers out of us.
Our participation in God’s work; His Kingdom, is no less than grace. Seems crucial to me that we spend our time together in assembly of the ekklesia lifting up Jesus, reflecting His light by singing, speaking, and fellowshipping to point to Him. Far too often gathered worship seems focused on what we are doing, are going to do, and need to do. Certainly we need biblical admonition for Christian living, but let us take care to position that living and working within the Spirit-breathed posture of worship before a worshiped Triune God and place our ultimate full devotion and priority upon Him. As Tozer pointedly reminds us, “A worshiper can work with eternal quality in his work, but a worker who does not worship is only piling up wood, hay and stubble for the time when God sets the world on fire.”
Lord, help us to bow before You in greatest humility
In response to Your invitation for us to come into Your Holy Presence.
Let us faithfully confess our sins and fully trust Your provision of forgiveness
Renew us through the power of Your Holy Spirit that we may see and reflect Jesus as we worship when we are gathered and when we are sent
Let us seek the clear leadership of Your Holy Spirit
And let us go trusting the Spirit to lead us and empower Your
Mission in and through us.
In Jesus’ Name