As a pastor I’ve heard many complaints about church. There must be a lost Greek manuscript somewhere that lists “complaint taking” as a qualification for an elder. Most of the complaints about the church are actually constructive and need to be received with humility. However, some of the complaints are just dumb. I’m not talking about the music, the carpet, or what time the service ends. There is one complaint in particular that I actually have in mind. “Pastor, why do you focus so much on theology? I just want to worship and all that theology is more like a classroom than a worship service.”
There are certainly other derivations of this same complaint…
- This is a church not a seminary
- I want to feed my soul, not take a theology class
- If you would would focus more on practical application I would be able to follow it better
- My kids are bored, can’t you use more illutrations and less doctrine
…and on and on and on. The truth is that in my brief ministry experience I have heard every single one of these comments more than once. They all boil down to one common point of view: Doctrine is neither worshipful nor practical.
I believe the apostle Paul in everything he ever wrote opposes the dichotomy between practicality and theology. Most of us are probably familiar with his pattern of laying out doctrine first and then moving to the practical outworkings of doctrine (i.e. Ephesians). Doctrine is practical. But more than that, what I REALLY want you to see, is that DOCTRINE IS WORSHIPFUL.
Why are we tempted to think that doctrine is not worshipful? It is because doctrine does not usually provide the same emotional payoff that a well played song produces, or a well crafted personal illustration illicits. Doctrine doesn’t “feel” worshipful. That’s what people are really saying. But think about that for a minute. No, really think about that. Who is worship about? If worship is about you and providing you with emotional gratification, then no, doctrine is not worshipful. However, that isn’t what worship is. Worship is about glorifying the Name of God. Or as the Lord’s Prayer puts it, Hallowing His name.
If we view worship as making the glory of God known then what could possibly be more worshipful than proclaiming, enjoying, and being affected by a robust biblical theology? I would go even further and say that apart from theology true worship is impossible. Because if you don’t have at least some true theology then who or what are you worshiping? If you don’t know who the God of the bible is or how He operates (that’s what theology teaches us), then what are you worshiping?
Martyn Lloyd-Jones hit this nail on the head when he said,
…unless we do understand what the Bible tells us about God, our worship can never be real. (Great Doctrines of the Bible, vol. 1, p. 57)
He’s right! Apart from biblical theology our worship is nothing more than self-worship. Or, to use the biblical terminology, apart from theology our worship idolatry.