A DVD Review from Books At a Glance
By Ryan Speck
On July 31, 2018, Les Lanphere started a campaign on kickstarter.com to fund this DVD (Spirit and Truth: How Does God Want to be Worshipped?), which eventually garnered $83,691 from 864 backers. This DVD is a “documentary about how God wants to be worshipped.” Previously, in 2016, Lanphere funded the video project Calvinist on kickstarter.
Broken Stone Studios is an LLC out of Port Saint Lucie, FL, which is owned by Les Lanphere, who filed for its status on August 4, 2017.
Why call it “broken stone”? At the beginning of the DVD, Lanphere sets forth a heart of stone, but one side of the heart shatters, revealing a heart of flesh beating underneath. It seems Lanphere named this company in reference to a stone heart changed into a heart of flesh (e.g., Ezekiel 36:26)—although the imagery of an outward layer of stone shattering to reveal the inward heart of flesh does not match exactly the Biblical imagery of the stone heart taken out and replaced by a flesh heart. Nonetheless, that appears to be the Biblical reference.
“Les Lanphere is a film maker who has worked in a variety of areas in production and post production on films like Transformers 3, The Smurfs, Epic, and Rock of Ages.”
His website is http://killerrobotninja.com, which showcases his work and accepts requests to hire him. Lanphere also cohosted a Christian, reformed audio-blog at http://reformedpubcast.com, which offers 178 podcasts and was active until 2018.
Featured speakers in this documentary include: Kevin DeYoung, Terry Johnson, Tim Challies, Robert Godfrey, David Strain, Robert McCurley, Neil Stewart, Ryan McGraw, Joseph Pipa, John Bowers, Chad Van Dixhoorn, Jason Heliopoulos, Mark Jacinsky, Confex Makhalira, Josh Buice, Alan Strange, Stephen Nichols, Rick Philips, Joe Thorn, and David Hall.
Although the DVD does not have specified chapters or obvious divisions, after watching the documentary three times, I believe the following outline accurately divides the film into its logical flow and sequence.
- The Modern Problem in Worship (minutes 1-2)
“When too many of us think about worship, we ask the wrong questions. We think, what do I like, or what would non-Christians like, or what do the people in my church like? And, we’re missing the central question: how does God want to be worshipped?” That is how the documentary opens, followed by a series of video clips showcasing shocking innovations in worship, and concluding with Joseph Pipa’s sobering statement: “The Church is sick and doesn’t realize it.” In this succinct and powerful way, Lanphere impresses upon us the problem. What is the answer? It is the Regulative Principle of Worship (RPW).
- The Abiding Answer of Scripture (minutes 3-14)
The RPW states that we are to worship God only as He prescribes in His Word and in no other way, and every other way, therefore, constitutes unauthorized, man-made innovation. To defend this principle, various well-known reformed theologians walk the audience through key passages of Scripture, including Genesis 4:1-8; Exodus 20:4-6; Exodus 32:1-6; and Leviticus 10:1-3.
The fearful importance of this principle is impressed upon us by citing Acts 5:1-11; 1 Corinthians 11:30; and Hebrews 12:29. By these passages, we are exhorted to fear the God Who strikes down those who refuse to honor Him as He commands. Yet, if this principle and fearful exhortation were true—and if modern worship practices dishonor God—surely God would strike them all down!? The answer: God is longsuffering. He struck down a few people at key points in the history of the church to demonstrate what such dishonor deserves. That He does not strike down immediately all who dishonor Him today does not change the fact—dishonoring God (especially in corporate worship) deserves the divine sentence of death. This humbling truth should cause us soberly to consider whether we are pleasing or displeasing God in our worship, especially since we are ever prone to idolatry.
- The Ever-Present Danger of Idolatry (minutes 15-29)
The next segment opens with the pleasant scene of a pastor leading his family in a time of daily devotion and worship of God in his home. Why should this pleasantness follow the sober warning? This minister is taking the matter of worship seriously by training his children for the greater act of corporate worship and by leading them in the path of knowing and honoring God, hopefully keeping them from idolatry. We must always be training the next generation in the profound importance of God’s means of grace, which culminates in corporate worship. For, the church must always be reforming herself according to the ordinary means of grace.
Not surprisingly, therefore, the historic Reformation in the 1500’s led by Martin Luther necessarily resulted in reforming corporate worship. Although Luther taught the Normative Principle (not the Regulative Principle), his successors built upon his reformational theology, following these doctrines to their inevitable conclusion: the RPW. In fact, the various reformations of the church throughout history were driven by the desire to worship God in purity.
But, even if true, isn’t the RPW so negative and restrictive, painfully heaping burdens upon God’s people that they are unable to bear? On the contrary, the RPW is designed by God to protect man’s conscience, to affirm the sufficiency of Scripture, and to please God—which is our deepest desire and joy as believers.
Yet, at the end of the 19th century, the church shifted from Biblical reformation into consumerism. Assuming we had achieved Biblical worship and practice, we “moved on” to ask how we could reach those outside of the church—a noble goal, indeed! However, we viewed it as a business model—how to attract the consumer. What do our customers want? Give them whatever they desire. Innovations designed to attract the un-churched abounded, but trust in the Holy Spirit working powerfully through the ordinary means of grace waned. As Neil Stewart poignantly reminds us: “The customer is always right, but the customer and the consumer of worship is not man—it’s God!” (minute 38). We lost our way. The Church is sick. What is the cure?
- The Biblical Method of Worship (minutes 30-127)
The cure is a return to the Biblical principle that we must worship only as God commands in the Scripture, trusting that the Spirit will powerfully use the simple means of grace to build Christ’s Church into an assembly of worshippers pleasing to Him. From this point until the end of the documentary, the speakers expound in a variety of ways upon John 4:24—that God is seeking those who would worship Him in Spirit and in truth.
With regard to worshipping God in truth, various speakers address a number of questions, including: If worship must be ordered only by Biblical precept, how can you justify using chairs in worship? What worship is God-centered vs. man-centered? If megachurches prosper, doesn’t this mean God is blessing them? What is the secret to spiritual growth? What do we mean by the phrase “means of grace”? What are the elements of corporate worship?
With regard to worshipping in Spirit, churches often mistake “spiritual worship” as spirited activity or mere spontaneity, and, therefore, this doctrine is cited to vindicate all manner of craziness. For example, in minute 53, Lanphere shows a service in which men, dressed in full suits even, are running up and down the aisles like madmen, one of the men diving into the baptismal font as the scene closes. Some would justify such activity by insisting that the Bible does teach us to dance in worship! In response, Ryan McGraw cites Psalm 149, which does call for God’s people to praise God in the dance—but it also calls for God’s people to praise Him while in bed and with a sword in hand! Using a powerful graphic, Lanphere shows how absurd it would be to include all three activities in corporate worship—some dancing, others sleeping, and others sword-fighting. Is that the “decently and in order” worship God desires (1 Corinthians 14:40)? As Ryan McGraw explains: “So much of the Christian life is, actually, learning to do the right thing in the right way at the right time.”
Yet, isn’t worship intended to be an emotional experience—mass euphoria and a catharsis? On the contrary, to worship in Spirit is seen in our sincerity and authenticity, in our joyful singing to the Lord and to one another (especially in singing the psalms), in our simple, Spirit-reliant worship, especially as a dialogue with God on the Sabbath Day. That is what it means to worship in Spirit.
Honestly, though, isn’t traditional worship “white”? Isn’t it Western European, not translating into other cultures? As Confex Makhalira states: “It’s not a Western thing. It’s not a European thing. It is a Biblical thing.”
In a public speaking class, I learned the various categories of speeches (e.g., informative, persuasive, etc.). Applying the same categories to this DVD, I would definitely categorize this as a “persuasive documentary,” not merely an objective, informative documentary. Having been fully persuaded of the RPW before watching it, I certainly found the documentary compelling and inspiring.
Clearly, Lanphere is very skillful in crafting videos, as evidenced in this first-rate work. This is not the shoddy work of an amateur who seeks (badly) to compete with Hollywood. This is a very skillfully and artistically crafted documentary that could compete graphically and technically at any level.
Likewise, Lanphere gathered some of the best and most well-known reformed theologians of our day to provide solid and powerful exposition of Scripture passages related to worship. Combining these great expositions with shocking video clips of chaotic worship and striking graphics, interspersed with practical examples of good worship and ministry, Spirit and Truth provides a powerful exhortation to consider how we worship God—to consider carefully whether our worship pleases God.
I would be remiss if I said the video was perfection in motion. Rather, as you watch the film, at times, you might feel a bit lost. What is the point of that clip? Why did he transition to that subject here and in this manner? What exactly is the flow and sequence of this DVD? It is difficult to pinpoint the structure of this documentary, which, at times, might leave the audience with a sense that the video is a bit slow-moving and laborious with some possible redundancies. The audience certainly will not leave with the heavy sense of utter confusion! Rather, it might seem slightly annoying at times—that is all.
In order to whet your appetite more, consider some of the more striking quotes in this DVD, including:
- “If we don’t give God His place, then nobody will be safe.”
- “If we don’t worship Him according to His Word, we’re manifesting an animosity towards God.”
- “The first murder in the history of mankind and the first martyr came as a result of this Biblical principle of worship.”
- “A good trivia question is what was the name of the Golden Calf … the answer is Yahweh.”
- “I love that we call the means of grace ‘ordinary.’”
- “People will sometimes sing their heresy before they believe it.”
- “If there is a command in Scripture that more Christians violate with less conviction in their conscience, surely it has to be the command to sing psalms.”
- “Music is like a Trojan Horse.”
- “For many in the modern church, music has become a new sacrament.”
- “If we were not authentic, if we were not true to who we were, if nothing else, people would understand, would sense, that we were pandering to them…. They know that we love them, and that gives us the ability to teach them the truth.”
Overall, it is certainly an excellent video, filled with deep theological content that is, at the same time, accessible, and that theology is matched by a high-quality visual presentation. Watch it with your family. Use it in segments for a Sunday School series. Send it to family members, who wonder why you worship as you do. However you use this video, please do make use of this excellent resource on worship!
Buy the books
SPIRIT AND TRUTH (VIDEO), by Les Lanphere