Preaching as Worship
Michael J. Quicke
Baker Books, 2011, 279 pp.
A dangerous trend has emerged in the American evangelical church in the past two decades. Increasingly, our members (and even leaders) think of worship as the musical segment of the service, while preaching is considered a separate category apart from worship. In the midst of the often-foolish worship wars that have embroiled so many churches, this dichotomy between preaching and worship has slipped into our church life almost unnoticed.
Enter Michael Quicke, who insists preaching is at the heart of authentic Christian worship in his new book Preaching as Worship. Firmly rooted in the Trinitarian perspective that characterizes his books, Quicke helps us regain a biblical understanding of worship as an encounter with the living God.
As a preacher and teacher of preaching, Quicke explains this book was prompted by “a fresh understanding of how worship includes everything. Whenever definitions of worship limit and shrink it down to small-scale stuff, great damage is done to God’s cosmic purposes. We need to see not only how preaching belongs within worship but also how the whole of church life and mission is part of worship, too.”
He adds: “In spite of huge biblical promises about worship’s all-inclusive nature, we trap ourselves in little boxes of worship services crammed full of concerns about power and control, preferences and even selfishness.”
Quicke echoes the late Robert Webber in seeing worship as “the primary work of the church.” Yet worship today is in trouble for several reasons, he notes: It often lacks “a sense of encounter with God;” it has been influenced by culture, and often not for the better; debate about musical styles, “abetted by cultural preferences,” has sparked conflict in many congregations; and “sloppy, lazy patterns” of worship characterize too many congregations.
He begins with an evaluation of why worship has become an afterthought for many and shares how he came to his own insight that worship goes far beyond what takes place at 11 a.m. on Sunday morning. He shares characteristics of “myopic preaching…each a serious indicator that preachers have separated their task from worship.” The results of such an approach are worshipless sermons—”theologically thin, spiritually disconnected, empty of God, silent about His grace, self-satisfied and self-oriented, such sermons are devoid of worship. This is partly because the preachers themselves lack awe and wonder at their part in God’s call and response. Humble dependence in gratitude before God who has given His Word should take place instead of rushing ahead to offer their own words.”
Urging readers toward a bigger definition of worship, Quicke insists that any real definition will go beyond music or preaching. “Worship must always begin with God,” he insists, “who reveals His intentions in Scripture that worship be God-centered, God-empowered, all-inclusive, continuous and focused on His glory.” Worship is “God’s greatest idea for our highest purpose, participating with and empowered by His triune grace.”
Adapting the model he introduced in his earlier book 360-Degree Preaching, Quicke notes that preaching must be set within the context of 360-degree worship. He cites “worship’s primary spiritual dynamic—from God back to God—within which preachers are called and gifted to preach. Preachers belong within God’s triune love, participating in His gracious relationships, movement and power. Vital though preaching is, it belongs within the glorious work of worship, of God’s Word returning to Him.”
Preachers, says Quicke, must recognize their calling is to far more than “sermon-making.” They must see their highest calling is to worship—”they are worshipers before they are preachers”—and that “preaching itself is worship.” Such preaching as worship must aim at community transformation—to “help individual believers integrate into church life and learn what it means to belong and mature together in Christ’s new community.”
The book offers helpful guidance to church leaders in thinking through ways to reclaim biblical models of worship in a variety of contemporary church settings. Quicke provides ideas and resources for using worship to develop and nurture a community of faith. The final section of the book engages preachers in an enhanced “preaching swim” that collaborates with others involved in leading worship. He offers practical insights for participating in the “worship swim.”
Quicke sums up his intentions with this assertion: “Glimpsing worship’s big vista as God intends places sermon-making within its scope. As a result, many preachers will face a revolutionary concept that worship proclaims and preaching worships as God’s new creation is formed in Christ. They will be challenged to relocate preaching within worship, with theological, spiritual and practical integrity. In short, this book calls for preaching as worship.”
Preaching as Worship is a fascinating and important book for every pastor and church leader. It will cause any reader to rethink his or her views on worship and personal roles in ministry.