O Come, Let Us Worship

O Come, Let Us Worship: Corporate Worship in the Evangelical Church, by Robert G. Rayburn★★★★★

The author of this text was the founding president of Covenant Seminary, and a leading person in the formation of the denomination that I currently am a member of. He is also the father of my past pastor for about 25 years. Rayburn’s son seems to have followed almost completely the advice his father gave to many young seminarians going out to serve in PCA churches throughout the world. Though the book was primarily intended for pastors, the author notes that all readers would find value in the advice given. I agree.

Rayburn first emphasizes the importance of corporate worship, in that it should be the high point in a person’s week, where worship to the Almighty God is done in a corporate fashion with fellow believers. In order to establish a Biblical theology for worship, Rayburn first examines how worship was performed in the Old Testament, and then the New Testament. To my surprise, there is a wealth of information in Scripture on how God expects to be worshipped. Rayburn discusses the theology of what true worship comprises, as the Scripture is not silent to this. Though Rayburn never mentions the regulative principle of worship as was common among early Scottish Presbyterians, he is quick to note that Scripture has much to offer in the manner in which we worship. A number of chapters discuss the order in which worship should be performed, as well as advice as to how the pastor can most effectively draw his parishoniers into true worship of God. Rayburn devotes a full and lengthy review of church music and the hymns that we sing. He is NOT a strict Psalm-only advocate, and notes the value of various hymns from both the German liturgy, as well as that of Isaac Watts, the Wesleys, and a bevy of other English hymn writers from the past. The author then discusses the rituals of the sacraments and their most effective administration, without engaging in controversies that might be raised about the sacraments. Most notable is his view against the Zwinglian notion of the sacraments being simply symbolic, to the Reformed notion that they are a means of grace, a true sign and seal of the covenant, and thus vital for every believer. The book ends with the discussion of proper conduct of weddings and funerals.

I found this text most interesting, in that it was this type of service which was dutifully administered by his son (Robert S. Rayburn) which in part attracted me to the Reformed faith and Presbyterian worship. It is also totally and completely absent from the worship service that I now experience in another PCA church. The adjustments in worship style are for me most challenging to adjust to. Even when we attended Moody Church and our Amish-Mennonite church in Portland, Oregon, the worship had a much more meaningful and worshipful approach, with meaningful hymns and a liturgy that gave honor and dignity to the Almighty God of heaven. It is odd that though many members and elders in our current church have a deep respect for RC Sproul, his Sunday worship seemed to follow the principles of Rayburn to a “t”; why do they not see that?

I have written previously how contemporary worship is an insult and dishonoring to God. It is an entertaining performance meant to attract people to church, while losing God in the process of doing that. The praise ditties are practically meaningless, though sentimentality with the singing of these tunes can evoke a sense of contentless worship to a contentless God. Occasionally, hymns are used, but then the traditional tunes are changed to an upbeat hip-hop melody that attracts more to the music rather than to the words of the hymn. If only more pastors would be attentive to the advice of Rayburn in selecting hymns that support either the sermon or the moment in worship (confession, the sacrament, etc.) that is occurring. Without a true focus and true worship of a true God, church meetings degenerate into nothing more than a delightful social club gathering. The focus is on the self (“I” just want to praise you, “I” lift up your name, I, I, I…). The purpose of the church has switched from the worship of God to the marketing of the Almighty.

I don’t think my wife and I will be able to influence the present church that we attend sufficiently to give it a worshipful service. I feel like David in Psalm 42, as he recalls his past “These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival.” and then his present sentiment; “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” There is hope, hopefully for my wife and I on this side of glory.