Don’t be the Col. Custer of Churches

The mission of every leader in a battle is to win that battle. But it’s not that simple.  In fact, a leader who only has a mission usually won’t be able to complete that mission. The perfect example of this was the most famous battle of the Sioux War of 1876, also known as Custer’s Last stand or the Battle of Little Big Horn.  Lt. Col George Armstrong Custer was intent upon defeating the Sioux Indians, this was his mission.  On the morning of June 26, a day before he had planned on attacking, Custer decided to go ahead and attack.  His decision was based on the information that this was the largest encampment of American Indians anyone had ever seen, and he was afraid that if they waited some might leave (thinking they were afraid of his army) and his victory would be lessened.  So, with little preparation and a day early, Custer attacked.  The result was total defeat:

  • Five of the Seventh’s companies were annihilated;
  • Custer was killed, as were two of his brothers, a nephew, and a brother-in-law.
  • Total U.S. deaths were 268, including scouts, and 55 were wounded.

Custer understood his mission, that wasn’t the problem.  The problem was that he didn’t give enough thought to how to accomplish the mission.  He didn’t know the means for accomplishing the mission.

In recent weeks I have been very clear on our mission as a church.  We are to Prepare individual spiritually for the coming kingdom.  But do you know the means for accomplishing the mission?

Today I want to begin examining the biblically prescribed means for accomplishing our mission.  There is lots that we could do as a church, but if we want to accomplish our mission then theses are to means that we need to focus on.  Today I want to focus on the first means of accomplishing the mission, exaltation.

I. Exalting
The first means by which we are going to pursue our mission is Exalting.  If we are going to fulfill our mission of preparing individuals spiritually for the coming kingdom then we must be an exalting church. True worship of God is the primary activity of the Kingdom, so, if we are going to prepare individuals for the kingdom, we need to make it our primary activity as well.

To be an exalting church we need to know what worship is in order to do this.

Def of Worship:

  • From a biblical perspective, to worship an object is to value that object above any other object.
  • Anything—including self, material goods, status, God, etc.—can become the object of one’s worship.
  • The object of one’s worship can even fluctuate on a regular basis.
  • In general one can identify what they are worshipping based on what they prioritize, and what they use their resources (i.e. money, time, energy) on.  In other words, whatever a person worships will inevitably become the focus of that person’s life.

With this definition in mind, the bible identifies two kinds of worship: idolatry, and worship of the Triune God of the bible.

  • Idolatry is, of course, the wrong kind of worship (Ex 20:3-5).  The bible makes it clear that this kind of wrong worship is not limited strictly to the worship of man-made statues (Ezek 14:1-5).  As it has often been said, an idol is whatever you are willing to sin order to get or whatever you sin over when you don’t get it.
  • In contrast, worship of the Triune God of the bible is not only the right kind of worship , but it is also the very purpose for which man was created. (Ps 86:9)

The scope of worship

Now that we have briefly seen what the bible says about worship it is clear the worship affects every area of our lives.  Due to its nature, worship affects every area of life.

  • Decisions are made on the basis of worship;
  • priorities are set on the basis of worship; and
  • sacrifices are made on behalf of whatever one worships.

This means that with respect to idolatry, wrong worship will negatively affect every area of one’s life.  Idolatry will lead to sinful life patterns. (1 Cor 10:7-14; Mk 7:14-23)

The proper worship of the Triune God of the bible is equally broad in its effect on one’s life.  Proper worship will result in righteous life patterns.  Furthermore, right worship is broad in its scope because it is a priority in the Kingdom of God—both in its current seed form and its eternal consummation.

It is vital that you understand that your choice of worship is what is driving your life. Either you are serving yourself and finding idols that will further self-worship or you are worshiping God. This fundamental and biblical reality is what makes modern psychology, or any other technique insufficient for producing true change. Or to put it another way, only biblical instruction that helps us root out false objects of worship and points us to the Triune God of the bible can prepare us for the kingdom.

Do you remember our mission? Is it behavior modification? Is it self-worth and inner peace? No, it preparing ourselves for a worshipful existence in God’s kingdom.  If we are going to prepare ourselves and those around us we must focus on this issue of worship.  This is especially true of our children.  We don’t children who are worshiping obedience anymore than we want children who are worshiping Satan.  We want children who worship God, and obey to please Him. We want children who see the kingdom benefits of obedience, not children who think entrance into the kingdom come through obedience.  This is true of our children, those we are witnessing to, those we are discipline, and to our own souls.  It all comes back to this issue of worship.  Which is why we want to be an exalting church, and that is going to main feet itself in several specific ways…

Expressions of True Worship

​God not only created man for the purpose of worshiping Him, but He also revealed how man was to properly express this worship.  This revelation is found in the bible. It is helpful to group the bible’s teaching on how to express worship into three broad categories:

1) Whole Life Conduct

God intends for worship to be expressed to Him in every area of life.  Worship goes well beyond the cultic/religious setting.  The bible makes it clear that first and foremost worship is expressed through one’s conduct in every area of life.  This is seen most clearly (but not solely) in Romans 12:1-2.

  • Worship is not just a choir and robes and a hymnal.
  • Worship is comprehensive in our lives now, and it will be in God’s Kingdom.

2) Corporate Worship

God also intends for worship to be expressed to Him by the corporate gathering (1 Cor 11:18; Heb 10:25) of the church (Eph 5:14). The corporate worship of God’s people on the Lord’s day (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2; Revelation 1:10) represents a special worship that cannot be duplicated in an individual context. This is true because:

    • corporate worship results in the mutual edification of believers (Heb 10:24-25, 13:1ff);
    • corporate worship reflects the worship of heaven (Rev 19:1-6); and
    • corporate worship proclaims the excellencies of God to the world in a special way. (Heb 2:11-12; 1 Peter 2:4-10)

God’s word regulates the specific elements of corporate worship to:

    • preaching;
    • scripture reading;
    • prayer;
    • singing;
    • giving;
    • mutual service;
    • communion;
    • and baptism.

Each element must be done in spirit and truth. (John 4:24)  Among these elements the preaching of God’s word is to be central (2 Tim 4:2).

3) External Praise

Praise is the outward expression of inward worship through singing or declaration.

  • This expression of worship is commanded (Ps 117), and it is intended to be a vital part of the worship of God’s people (Eph 5:19; Col 3:16).
  • This expression of worship is most commonly used in the context of corporate worship, however it is not limited this context.  As with all other forms of worship, external praise is to be done in spirit and truth (John 4:24).
  • Praise through music is particularly important, and is intended by God to enhance one’s expression of worship (Ps 147:1).
    • This is particularly true in the context of corporate worship where music is intended not only to enhance worship but also to edify the body of believers.  Additionally, as is the case with every aspect of corporate worship, music is to be done skillfully (Ps 33:3) and humbly (James 4:6) so that it will not distract God’s people from genuine expressions of worship.  Any external praise (through declaration or singing) not conforming to these principles in the context of corporate worship is not a legitimate expression of true worship.

In all of these areas the church must be an exalting church.

The church is to function as a community where the people of God gather together routinely to worship the person and work of God making it (Eph. 1:6). Individually worship must be the focus of the Christian’s life and corporately Corporate worship must be the central focus of the life of the church.  If we are going to prepare ourselves and those around us for the coming kingdom then we must, first of all, be an exalting church.