Friday, August 08, 2008

The Celebration of Worship at Broadway

Brett and Carol Younger had told me in glowing terms what an enrichment worship is at Broadway Baptist Church, but one has to be in that magnificent House of God and with those beautiful people of God to really get it.

I got it these past two Sabbath days.

The ‘wow’ factor works within you from the moment you step into the sanctuary. One immediately notices the stunning stained-glass “Invitation Window” above the chancel depicting our Lord standing, waiting, with outstretched arms, for us to come and lay our burdens down before the presence of a Loving God. An invitation so wondrously extended simply can’t be refused.

Then, the worshipper hears the ministry of the Cliburn Organ. This remarkable instrument reflects Broadway’s investment in the great musical traditions of the church. Such an investment requires courage in a day when the church is going cheap for popular expressions that purport to be “praise music” but, in my mind, hardly come close.

When the choir stood, I knew they meant business for God. I have been aware of the renowned Broadway choir for years, but there is a vast difference between hearing of and actual hearing. This is choral magic, and it fills that incredible room with a super-charged spiritual energy. Such power does not just happen, but is the result of a practiced offering to God that must be disciplined under deft musical and spiritual direction.

The litanies, readings, reflections and prayers strike a resounding thematic chord that sustain the Word of God throughout the worship so that we might, as the Bible says, “hide it in our hearts.” Such an inner hiding has a better chance of happening if Scripture has more than one shot at us. Broadway lets the Scripture speak, not just once, as if it were incidental, but multiple times. As if it were, say, central. The relative silence of the Bible in corporate worship in our churches is one of the many contradictions glaring at us in our Baptist tradition these days, but this hypocrisy will end if this church has anything to do with it.

After the benediction, you aren't finished worshipping. You reverently remain seated through a postlude that skillfully incorporates elements from the preceeding hour of worship into a musical montage for us to take with us.

Several of my students from the seminary at Mercer University will be in Ft. Worth tomorrow, and will attend our services. I am glad. They will have an expereience that worship is an accurate word for.


Unknown said...


Thanks for blogging! Can't wait to visit and worship with the congregation at Broadway myself.


Charlie Johnson said...

Thanks, Kara. It's pretty incredible-- especially for us "low church" baptists.


Anonymous said...

Whats your favorite hymn or church song Charlie?

I always loved "Just as I am"

Anonymous said...

What beautiful pictures! I can only imagine what Broadway looks like in person. Now Charlie, it takes a preacher of your calibur to bring all you say together and Broadway should be able to breathe easier these days with you at their helm. Moderen day churches have nothing on the vintage churches that is reflected in your pictures. Enjoy your time at Broadway!

Charlie Johnson said...

Thank you! I am indeed feeling much joy these days with this intelligent, brave fellowship.

I think my favorite hymn may be that old Welsh tune, "Be Thou My Vision." I love the traditional hymn and also composer John Rutter's arrangement of it for choir.

Anonymous said...

'Be thou my vision" is beautiful.

I also love "Higher Ground"

Unknown said...

Thanks for the sermons posted, Charlie. I've been enjoying listening to them as I work in my office. Sometimes the right word comes when it's least expected, and I thank you for the Word rightly divided.

We're still hoping to be in town sometime in September. Am looking forward to seeing BBC and you and Jana.

Best always,
Randi and Martin

Timsings said...

I have been to Broadway numerous times while my parents were living in Fort Worth, so I knew you were going to be in for a real experience. I'm looking forward to seeing you in January.

Tim Reynolds

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