Worship Matters Book Insights – Part 3

11:41 pm Think About It

Worship Matters bookPutting together a worship service is not easy if you take it seriously.  It helps for everyone to understand what goes into a worship service.  In the third section of Bob Kauflin’s book Worship Matters on Healthy Tensions, he looks at nine critical areas that must be embraced and kept in balance.  Before we look at those areas, Bob makes some good points I’d like to amplify.

  • We need to realize that God has something to say about what He wants in a worship service before we do “whatever we want.”  Some examples are:
    • We’re to pray together (1 Tim. 2:1-2).
    • Pastors are to preach and explain God’s Word (2 Tim. 4:2).
    • We’re to sing praises to God (Col. 3:16).
    • There’s a proper way to participate in the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 14:29; 11:17-34).
  • There are three principles that are a good “rule of thumb” in putting together a service:
    • Do what God clearly commands.
    • Don’t do what God clearly forbids.
    • Use Scriptural wisdom for everything else.

Now, let’s take a look at the many “tensions” involved in a worship service:

Transcendent & Immanent

God is so much beyond us we cannot fully understand Him and His ways.  He is huge!  He is “God of god’s, Lord of lord’s, the great, the mighty, the awesome God” (Duet. 10:17).  Because of this, reverence is essential for worship (Heb. 12:28-29).  He is holy and we are sinful.  But God has made Himself reachable and near to us because of His deep love for us shown in the incarnation of Jesus.  God became human to laugh, eat, sleep, and interact with those He created.  The radical fact for Christians is that He is not only with us but He dwells in us.  Can you get any closer than that?  He is both majestic God and our friend (John 15:14-15).

Head & Heart

Churches can have a hard time connecting the knowledge of the mind with the passions of the heart.   God desires us to set our minds on the things above (Col. 3:2).  In Colossians 3:16, Paul tells us an important reason to use Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs is to let the Word of Christ richly dwell within you.  Truth must be prevalent in all we do.   Yet in many churches, it’s passionate worship from the heart that needs attention.  Godly affections are deep and the result of focusing on what God has done and who He is.  God’s transcendence causes us to feel awe.  His holiness evokes sorrow for our sin.  A view of his mercy leads to gratefulness.  The knowledge of his sovereignty brings great peace.  Many times we can feel wonder and joy in response to God.  God intends for us to remember that neither biblical truth nor deep emotion is out of place when we worship God; they’re meant to be together.

Internal & External

God looks upon the heart (1 Samuel 16:7) and the state of our heart is of primary importance because “from it flows the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23).  In Scripture, the heart encompasses everything from what we think to what we feel to what we choose.  It’s not enough that people just attend meetings, something must be stirring in their desires, thoughts, and feelings.  While heart worship is most important, what we do with our bodies isn’t irrelevant or unimportant.  Physical responsiveness to God in worship is encouraged and modeled throughout Scripture.  Various physical actions can bring God glory, including clapping, singing, bowing, kneeling, lifting hands, shouting, playing instruments, dancing, and standing in awe.  We must help our congregations understand that God is worthy of our deepest, strongest, and purest affections…and that our bodies should show it.

Vertical & Horizontal

Worship, from beginning to end, is about God.  He is complete in every way.  When we worship God, we join an activity that began in eternity and will continue forever – the triune God valuing His beauty and worth above everything else.  God’s nature is to give and He created the world so we could share in the joy of knowing Him, ultimately for his glory.  God’s glory is the end of our worship, and not simply a means to something else.  Biblical worship is God-focused (God is clearly seen), God-centered (God is clearly the priority), and God-exalting (God is clearly honored).  The horizontal aspect of worship is about the importance of our interaction together as we worship God.  We are not to neglect our meeting together so we can build one another up and “stir up one another to love and good works” (Heb. 10:24-25).  We are “teaching and admonishing one another” (Col. 3:16).  Worship is not about us, but includes us.  Ephesians 5:19 reveals the perfect balance as we sing to the Lord we are speaking to each other, “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord.”  Worshiping together is a time for us to be built up, all for His glory.

Planned & Spontaneous

I’ve been in situations where worship leaders don’t plan the service until 5 minutes before it.  Others will have such a detailed plan that even the prayers are written out in advance.  We need both planning and spontaneity.  Planning can’t replace dependence on the Holy Spirit.  Planning also can’t ensure we’ve made the right plans.  Our goal should be to plan wisely, humbly, and prayerfully, fully expecting that God may provide fresh and unexpected guidance during the meeting.  Plans are meant to serve us, not rule us.  It can make us aware of our need for God before the meeting.  It can cause us to clarify our goals and how to meet them.  It can help us use variety and contrast as well as use God’s Word more consistently.  It can help prepare all the team members for their contributions.  But spontaneity is important as well when it brings freshness to the meeting.  Gifted leadership is seen on the spot and in the moment.  We can plan for spontaneity by playing through a simple progression at the end of a song, singing a line of Scripture, sing a prayer using a familiar tune, etc.  Playing spontaneously gives us one more musical tool to help people see the glories of our great God and Savior.

Rooted & Relevant

We must keep rooted in the timeless truths and principles as well as stay relevant to those who come to our services today.  Keep in mind that ours is not the first generation to think about and pursue biblical worship.  The past holds many things worth keeping or repeating.  There is richness for us in the liturgical forms from the past.  Throughout history, hymns are brilliantly crafted with certain depth and theological precision.  The greatest traditions in the world are meaningless unless they effectively communicate God’s truth to the people who come to our meetings.  God is the same, but we don’t need to be thirty years behind in decorating styles, graphics, and technology.  Our goal is to communicate clearly, not to distract or overwhelm.  It’s good to sing new songs and offer variety in our services, but realize we are constantly changing.  One of the benefits of rooted traditions is their ability to immunize us against the relentless changes in our culture and make us more attuned to faithfulness.  Let us draw upon the rich heritage of the past, while at the same time seeking to communicate the eternal gospel in ways our culture can understand.

Skilled & Authentic

In comparing a hundred-voice choir dynamically leading worship with an average singer/guitarist passionately leading worship, which is more pleasing to God?  The answer depends on whether we define excellence from our perspective or God’s.  God commends musical excellence (Psalm 33:3;  1 Chronicles 15:22; 2 Chronicles 30:21-22).  When we worship God skillfully, we offer him what is excellent, our very best (Exodus 23:19a;  Numbers 18:29-30).  But taken to the extreme, an emphasis on skill and excellence can drift toward arrogance, formalism, and art worship (idolatry).  God wants us to pursue both skill and heart.  In building the temple, Moses called the craftsmen who were filled with the Spirit of God (Exodus 35:31) and whose heart stirred him up to do the work (Exodus 36:2).  Jesus said, “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in Spirit and in truth (John 4:24).  Beauty and skill can be appreciated by all (especially God), but genuineness and heart is what God truly wants (and this builds us up as well).

For the Church & For Unbelievers

When you have a party at your house, there’s a difference between family and guests.  The same distinction can be made in the church.  I care for the guests, but my greatest concern is for those God has joined to my particular congregation.  They’re my spiritual family (1 Peter 2:4-5).  The first priority of our Sunday meetings is strengthening the church.  God doesn’t intend for the people we lead each Sunday to remain perpetually immature.  He wants them in every way to grow up into Christ.  Their maturing can be hindered when we focus primarily on non-family members (unbelievers).  However, scripture does tell us to keep unbelievers in mind and speaks of “outsiders” coming into our meetings (1 Corinthians14:24).  Being aware of non-Christians in our meetings causes us to say things more simply, explain common Christian phrases or words, and occasionally address those with us who don’t know the Savior.  When unbelievers visit our church, there are some things that really affect them:  Authentic passion – Do they find people who are awestruck and amazed by the kindness and mercy of God?  Love – Do they find people who reach out to them, serve one another, and maintain a “unity” as a spiritual family?  The Gospel – The best way to hold a healthy tension of building the church and reaching out to unbelievers is by proclaiming and expounding on the gospel (Jesus Christ was crucified for our sins to bring us to God).

Event & Everyday

There may be a misconception of the word “worship.”  Some think it means merely singing.  Others think it is primarily our gathering on Sunday mornings.  Worship can happen when we have an event like Sunday morning, but scripture makes it clear that worship is a lifestyle of giving God worth and meant to be everyday.  Evangelism is worship (Romans 1:9).  Serving others is worship (Hebrews 13:16).  Giving is worship (Philippians 4:18).  Romans 12:1 connects worship to all of life as we “present our bodies as a living sacrifice.”  However, it is important to be together.  The early Christians are almost always seen worshiping, evangelizing, praying, singing, and living together.  Why?  Because we need the encouragement and support; God receives greater glory; We receive the teaching and care of God’s pastor-shepherds; We’re reminded that we’ve been drawn apart from the world and drawn together to God; We all need help transferring the truth we sing about on Sunday into the daily details of our lives.  In both contexts – together and apart – we’re aware that this is the reason we’ve been created:  to magnify the greatness of God in Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.

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