Bill Boyd on Renewing Worship

This post follows from previous posts about the Common Grounds Online Forum on The Conversation on Denominational Renewal. I just finished listening to “Renewing Worship” (click to download) by Bill Boyd and reading this week’s responses. Let me start by saying that this message has benefitted me the most so far. 

Boyd’s main idea is that “gathered worship is table fellowship,” or what we would often call communion. For Boyd, this statement is both metaphorical and literal. He says, “Our gathered worship can actually set the tone and pace for everyday life.” What happens at the dinner table? Life and community happens! But we usually see gathered worship as some sort of “glorified classroom” rather than a “banquet hall.” If we saw gathered worship (or “public worship”) as table fellowship in a banquet hall, it would set the tone and pace for how we live life.

Boyd then takes his listeners through the story of Scripture from beginning to end and explains how elements like food and table fellowship show up as consistent unifying symbols throughout. In doing this, he doesn’t over-spiritualize table fellowship. He isn’t reading into the text what’s not there. And the implications for this understanding of gathered worship are huge!

One such implication stated in the message is that gathered worship must be seen as a dialogue more than it is a monologue. At the dinner table, multi-sided conversation takes place. Philip Ryken responded to these thoughts by adding some helpful advice:

Worship taken as a whole is a dialogue, but there must be a central place in the course of that dialogue for listening to what God says in his Word—a divine monologue, if you will, that invites our response in prayer and praise . . . One very important reason to insist on the centrality of the word in the public worship of the church is because every other element of worship is guided and governed by that word, including table fellowship.

Lastly, it would seem fitting to end with a quote from Eugene Peterson’s “Eat This Book” (which is quoted in Boyd’s talk):

Christians feed on Scripture. Holy Scripture nurtures the holy community as food nurtures the human body. Christians don’t simply learn or use Scripture; we assimilate it, take it into our lives in such a way that it gets metabolized into acts of love, cups of cold water, missions into all the world, healing and evangelism and justice in Jesus’ name, hands raised in adoration of the Father, feet washed in company with the Son. Readers become what they read. If Holy Scripture is to be something other than mere gossip about God, it must be internalized.

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3 Responses to Bill Boyd on Renewing Worship

  1. mixonitup says:

    I just finished listening to Bill’s message and already know that I’m going to listen to it a few more times just to let some of this sink in. Thanks for the review. I realize that it has been almost 2 weeks since you posted this, how has it or how is it impacting you?

  2. Brian says:


    It’s been a while since I’ve reflected on this particular message, but I’m still thinking about its themes and how it applies to my particular context.

    First, I’ve thought about how this message speaks to my church setting in a sacramental way. As an outsider to the PCA, and as someone attending a church that does not celebrate weekly communion, this has proven difficult. Not that the message only applied to communion, though. I just wonder if maybe I’m finding it difficult to identify with this side of the message and flesh it out in my immediate context because its not characteristically Sabbatarian.

    Second, I think this message has been beneficial in speaking to the communal aspects of my approach towards public worship. It’s not just about coming to hear the Word preached, but to respond to it, and to respond to it with others. To encourage and strengthen one another with it. To discuss its implications with others. But these sorts of things aren’t always the norm.

    So ironically enough, I now feel as if I’m taking most the things discussed in this message back into the classroom! Sorry if this was not too helpful!

  3. mixonitup says:

    No it was very helpful, and I got a lot of the same take awa points as you mentioned in the middle of your reply. We have just moved to Nashville and are searching for a church home and this has given me a lot to think about as I try to figure out where I (we) “fit.”

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