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Corporate Worship and Consumerism

May 9, 2012

Here’s a good word on receiving the word through preaching from one of the great preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

The quote is taken from a sermon that was preached on January 14, 1855 entitled The Sin of Unbelief. He is referring to an attitude of ungratefulness toward listening to the gospel preached. He begins with an illustration and closes with the conclusion that this type of attitude indicates a lack of faith.

“I have found Christians, who have grown so very critical, that if the whole portion of the meat they are to have, in due season, is not cut up exactly into square pieces, and put upon some choice dish of porcelain, they cannot eat it. Then they ought to go without; and they will have to go without, until they are brought to their appetites. They will have some affliction, which will act like quinine upon them: they will be made to eat by means of bitters in their mouths; they will be put in prison for a day or two until their appetite returns, and then they will be glad to eat the most ordinary food, off the most common platter, or no platter at all. But the real reason why God’s people do not feed under a gospel ministry, is, because they have not faith. If you believed, if you did but hear one promise, that would be enough; if you only heard one good thing from the pulpit here would be food for your soul, for it is not the quantity we hear, but the quantity we believe, that does us good—it is that which we receive into our hearts with true and lively faith, that is our profit.”

The problem, as Spurgeon estimates, can be helped in the short-term by removing gospel ministry altogether and the genuine believer will want to return to it. With the threat of spiritual emaciation, the believer will be glad to eat this food.

But more insightfully and even more appropriate for us, he argues that the deeper cause of the problem is that the hearers of the sermon do not receive it with faith. We come to corporate worship gatherings as consumers who are ready to get “the best bang for our buck.” And when we approach the gospel as a consumer we can expect to be disappointed. If corporate worship that truly exalts honors God by exalting Christ is disappointing to us then the problem lies not with the worship; the problem lies in us. We seek what we want out of worship and not what God has graciously and sufficiently provided for us in the gospel. Thus, we must treat the deeper issue by cultivating a deeper faith.

So instead of measuring corporate worship by the quantity of material that seemed good to us, let us approach it ready to receive the Word with “true and lively faith” trusting that one promise is more than enough.

From → Quotable

One Comment
  1. Lee permalink

    Spurgeon makes a great point, and James is right on in what he says. Many people come to church just to be fed. These same people want to be fed in a manner that is pleasing to them. They want the music to be their style, they want the preaching to be what they want it to be on and in the style they want. Many times churches get caught up in the “style” and order of worship. Indeed we need to be cognizant of the needs of our congregation as a whole, but we also need to realize if there is something we don’t like its not always about our wants, its about worshipping God with a glad heart. Matt Redmon’s church in England did away with worship music for “a season” and only came back when the people were ready and hungry for that worship music. From this came his well known song (he wrote it anyway) “The Heart of Worship.” In this song the words have a powerful meaning. The following is a small part of that song.
    I’m coming back to the heart of worship
    And it’s all about You
    All about You, Jesus
    I’m sorry Lord for the thing I’ve made it
    When it’s all about You
    It’s all about You Jesus

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