Before offering some more quotes from Harold Best’s book Unceasing Worship: Biblical Perspectives on Worship and the Arts, I should say something about his major premise. After a LONG stand with this heady, soulful book, I’m not sure I yet completely understand his notion of “continuous outpouring.” Best theorizes that God is a continuous outpourer, and we, in His image, are also continuously outpouring. It is our job, then, I’d say, to outpour well, and to outpour with cognizance and spiritual awareness of offering everything to Him–whether mopping the floor or outstretching our arms in praise.
Conceptually and linguistically, I resist the notion that everything is worship, because I think that concatenation waters down both worship and service. Put in terms of “outpouring” and not worship per se, though, Best’s whole philosophy is rather palatable. C’est vrai: our lives must be seen as sacrifices; these sacrifices take many forms, including the vertical and the horizontal.
Worship leaders and preachers do a lot of public praying. This area of public worship can often be careless, cliché-ridden and theologically thin. It can turn into a daisy chain without much thought to overall flow, biblical precision and word beauty. Were the Scriptures themselves muddled this way, we might have a case. Public praying should not only be scriptural as to content but also scriptural as to loveliness of style, richness of expression and fullness of truth. (102)
I’ll add a little to Best’s mention of “biblical precision.” I often find prayers (and comments in Bible classes) to water down distinct ideas by generalizing and stringing things together that really aren’t connected. Heard a prayer like this before?
“Thank you for your grace, your abounding love, and your forgiveness, Lord, because it is in giving that we receive, and you taught us to love, and love is giving. And forgiving comes out of giving, so thank you for giving and for forgiving. And now, let us give with a cheerful heart, because, knowing of your grace, we can do nothing but give.”
Now, there’s nothing particularly alarming there, but neither is a precise biblical use of language espoused in the prayer. Love almost becomes grace, and grace becomes forgiveness, and giving is aurally related to forgiving, so it somehow leads to giving money, which has very little to do with love or grace, except insofar as they are all spoken of in scripture. Ack. Moving on….
Even though it is the personal responsibility of all Christians to grow up into the stature and fullness of Christ, as if there were no preachers, it remains the responsibility of the pastoral staff to preach as though there were no other way to get the full truth of the gospel across. (104)
I like this. It’s the dilemma of dual viewpoints, both of which are valid. I would suggest, as a tagalong to Best’s well-worded statement here, that the problem is more often with the “all Christians” side. Preachers, by and large, take their sermonizing duties seriously enough. The problem is that those of us in the pews don’t take primary responsibility for our own spiritual development.
As to the relation of preaching to the rest of the liturgy, it is to be seen as an offering of worship among the many offerings of the corporate gathering. Preaching is not the high point of worship to which all prior actions are meant to point or for which they prepare. it is not a chosen oracle or an automatic apex that towers in importance over the Word, the sacrament or the simple singing of a hymn, because, in fact, truth is at stake in all these actions. (106)
On this point, I think Best and I (and my parents and grandparents) are soulmates! Even some of the words are almost the same! In case you can’t tell, I’m thrilled to be validated by the likes of Harold Best in terms of the place of preaching in the scheme of things.
More to come …