Saturday, February 21, 2009

Matt Olson on Worship

What a terrific week! About a dozen things made it unusually so, some of which I hope to write about in the next few days since they involve resources that may be useful to others.

But the one that delighted me so much I had to stop by the office at 8:30 on a chilly Saturday morning (laptop's in the shop) on my way somewhere else was Matt Olson's talk, "Worship As a Way of Life," at Northland's Heart Conference.

Olson's argument is that worship needs to be God-focused, Christ-centered, Word-based, and Spirit-enabled. Much of his argumentation is based on John 4, and while that text is difficult exegetically and not all will agree with where Olson lands, I believe his thesis is clearly consistent with the message of Scripture.

Those four characteristics of worship are a healthy but fairly common structure for talking about worship. If you want to think more about the point he's making, David Peterson's Engaging With God: A Biblical Theology of Worship
is a stellar biblical theology of worship. Olson cites it himself.

What makes Olson's talk provocative and, I hope, productive, is the flesh that he hung on the bones. There are so many powerful, provocative nuggets here that I'm not going to try to reproduce them all, but here are a few that grabbed me:
If we have a shallow or a warped view of God, it's impossible to have a right view of myself, and it's impossible to have a right view of everything around me.

I do think that music is an important discussion, but we're not ready to even start talking about music until we have a right view of God. How are you going to assess anything?

When we make our applications--when we go beyond what is written to dogmatize our opinions and dogmatize our traditions and dogmatize my applications with another person, I think we really get in trouble.
Let me be clear: he's not repudiating application; he's suggesting that we can get in a ditch on either side of application. One danger is that tradition can trump Scripture. The other danger is secularism, so that we think we can do whatever we want when God doesn't say anything specific. And finally . . .
God works from the inside out. If we don't get the inside, we don't get anything. If all we do at Northland Baptist Bible College with these students is have their behavior conformed to a standard, and they do not get a heart for God, we have failed.
You'll have to buy (yes, buy, sadly) the MP3 to hear what he says about fundamentalists who idolize excellence. It's longer than I have time to transcribe. But he's right. And if you buy Olson's MP3, grab Steve Pettit's too. The past two or three times I've heard him preach, he's displayed a passion to exalt God that I've seldom heard in anyone's preaching apart from John Piper and Frank Hamrick.


Kent McCune said...

Ben --- I would second your comment on Steve Pettit. Thanks for that. He preached at I-C's Summer Bible Conference a couple years ago and it was excellent. A passionate, solid, expository message on personal evangelism that was a real challenge to my heart. It was way beyond the norm for most evangelists I've heard; and I've heard more than a few of the "typical" witnessing messages in my lifetime! ;-)

Coach C said...

Man, we have really gotten off-track on the principle of "excellence". I applaud Dr. Olson for his candor.

I think there is a certain university in the south that started the whole "excellence in everything" idea. Now the "excellence torch" has been passed to a certain college in the north that is trying to replicate that experiment.

Chris Anderson said...

I went to pick up the 2 you recommend and ended up buying the whole thing. Thanks for the tip.