In a Sept. 22 chapel sermon at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, David Manner, executive director of the Kansas-Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists, exhorted students, staff, and seminary faculty to prioritize four foundational principles of worship found in Scripture.
Prior to Manner’s chapel sermon, Midwestern Seminary President Jason Allen expressed gratefulness for the seminary’s partnership with the Kansas and Nebraska Baptists.
“Though the propensity of Southern Baptists is to our east and in the south, we have valued and cherished partners to the north and to our west,” Allen said. “The Kansas-Nebraska State Convention is one of those partners.
“The two states have roughly 470 Southern Baptist churches between them. Right now, we have many graduates and current students who serve those churches, and we look forward to having many more graduates who will serve Kansas and Nebraska churches in the future.”
Manner opened his message by reflecting on changes wrought within local churches amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Worship, he said, is one aspect of life within the church that remains fundamentally the same in terms of aim and purpose, though a church’s methods may change.
“The principles of worship before and after the pandemic have not changed,” Manner said. “Our practices have at times. The ‘why’ of worship has not changed, but the way we worship often has changed.”
Manner preached the sermon’s main points from Mark 12, where he identified four foundational principles of worship for believers to consider.
First, Manner said, “Jesus said to love God with all your heart.” Worshipping with one’s heart, according to Manner, often entails an emotional response, but it cannot be purely emotional or tied too closely to nostalgic feelings. The danger in connecting worship too closely to feelings, he said, is the potential for overemphasizing novelty in worship gatherings.
“Novelty, as it relates to worship, can cause us as worship leaders to over-innovate, over-stimulate, or even over-imitate. Each Sunday becomes an exercise in trying to surpass the creativity of the previous Sunday.
“When excessive novelty in worship surfaces, our focus is often on the creative instead of the Creator. Worship is indeed emotional, but it’s more than that feeling worked up by what we sing or play.”
Second, Manner pointed to Jesus’ command to worship God with all of one’s soul. “Worship,” he said, “is not our attempts to be with Jesus; worship is the result of having already been with Jesus.” He added that worship does not begin on the “outside” through external actions; rather, it starts on the inside, in one’s soul. This, Manner said, represents a cause-and-effect dynamic in worship.
“A cause must always precede an effect,” Manner said. “God’s revelation is the cause. Our response is the effect. God’s revelation is how he reveals himself to us: his will, activities, attributes, and judgment. Sometimes, God’s revelation is his discipline or the hope he gives.
“The effect, our response, is the sometimes planned and sometimes spontaneous reply to God’s revelation. That is what we call worship.”
Third, Manner explained, Jesus exhorts us to love God with all of our minds. “True worship requires us to think about worshipping God, to ponder, consider, process, meditate, study, and learn how to get better at it.”
The fourth foundational principle of worship, Manner added, is Jesus’ command to worship God with all one’s strength. Worship, he explained, is an action—it is something we do, not something done for us.
Manner closed the message citing the second half of Jesus’ answer to the disciples in Mark 12. He noted true worship is fully expressed when it is demonstrated in love toward one’s neighbor.
“Loving our neighbors as we love ourselves,” he said, “is just as important as loving God with our heart, soul, mind, and strength. So, it doesn’t matter how good our worship has gotten (within us); it is incomplete until it also includes how we treat our neighbors.”
Manner explained worship includes Christians’ activity beyond the scheduled hour for a worship service on Sunday. True worship is characterized by a demonstration of one’s love for God in the regular routines of everyday life as well.
“We are to love God,” Manner said, “with all our heart, mind, and strength, and love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Worship must spring forth from every aspect of our being, or it may not be worship at all.”
The full chapel message can be viewed at: mbts.edu/chapel
Chapel services are held Tuesday and Wednesday mornings at 10 a.m. (CT) in the Daniel Lee Chapel on the campus of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. A live stream may be viewed mbts.edu/live.