Gathering To Hear the Word–Thabiti Anyabwile

by Rick Pidcock

The theme that continually seemed to be cropping up throughout the corporate worship, general sessions, and workshops, was the centrality of the Word of God in worship.  So on Thursday evening, Thabiti Anyabwile spoke on the theme of gathering to Hear the Word.

Thabiti is a Baptist pastor from the Cayman Islands.  He has written The Faithful Preacher: Recapturing the Vision of Three Pioneering African-American Pastors,  and What Is a Healthy Church Member?  He also blogs at Pure Church.

Thabiti began by saying that God’s Word gives light and hope to the church as electricity gives power to street lights.  So he posed the question, “Does God’s Word buzz as a power plant through our services into the hopes of our people?”

His text was 1 Timothy 4:11-16.

“Command and teach these things. 12 Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. 13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. 14 Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. 15 Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. 16 Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.”

He then gave six signs of Word-saturated worship.

1. The Word of God must be the substance of our private counsel.

We must be bold enough to command what God has said.  Thabiti quoted Matt Lourterbach, saying, “An elder with a closed Bible is an elder with no authority.”

Thabiti also asked why we do not have any songs written about the commands of God.  It was a somewhat humorous, yet thought provoking comment.

2. The Word of God must be the measure of our person.

If our preaching is saturated with and driven by the Word of God, but our worship is something completely different, then we undermine what we have built up by the Word of God.

Thabiti then spoke to the idea of despising the youth.  He said,

“The way to stop people from looking down on you is to get them to look up to you.  And the way to do that is to lead by example.”

3. The Word of God should drive our public proclamation.

Singing does not compete with, enhance, or balance the ministry of the Word.  Rather proper biblical singing should be anchored in the Word.

Colossians 3:16 says,

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

The content of our singing needs to be meditation on the Scripture.  So we must sing with understanding, rehearsing God’s Truth.

4. The Word of God should prescribe the use of the gifts.

Paul was telling Timothy to remember the prophetic word that was spoken to him regarding his gift for ministry.  And since God’s Word informs and regulates the gifts that are used in the corporate worship service, we should submit our gifts to God’s Word.

5. The Word of God is the standard bearer for measuring progress in the faith.

“The term ‘progress’ drips with grace.  It reminds me that I am not yet perfected.  It also reminds us that we are being prepared for a perfect worship one day.”–Thabiti

Thabiti pointed out that if you are in public ministry, then at some point in life, you are going to do something stupid.  But that’s okay.  Because of grace, you can continue to grow.  Thabiti said, “The test to whether or not we understand grace is whether or not we go to God in the awareness of our imperfection with Christ as our sufficiency.”

6. God’s Word is the means of our perseverance.

We should watch closely, not casually.  Watch completely.  And watch with comfort, knowing that in doing so, we save ourselves and others.

Thabiti quoted Spurgeon, saying,

“Some men preach so well and live so poorly that when they are in the pulpit, you wish they would never leave it, and when they are out of the pulpit, you wish they were never in it.”

He then closed by saying,

“The power of the Word descends from the throne of God, and is to find its way into every proclamation, and into every heart, until it gives life and a bold hunger for the glory of God.  Only God’s Word gives life.”

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