I apologize for the click-bait title. I hate click-bait with a passion, but it felt appropriate because it seems to be a frequent question; "How do I get my people to be more responsive?" I’m sure we’ve all been there at one time or another:
And you look out into the congregation to discover they were replaced with extras from a zombie film. So what gives? Don’t they know how much prep work you put into the service? Don’t they realize WHO you are singing to?
If you clicked on this article I imagine it was for one of 2 reasons- either you really do want a quick fix for this problem (sorry, there isn’t one, but I will give you 3 steps on how to work towards a solution), or you thought to yourself ‘this guy really thinks you can MAKE people respond physically in worship? I can’t wait to read his article and tear it apart in the comment section!’ Either way, I hope that you keep reading, because I genuinely do believe that these 3 things can help bring about a change in culture within your church and your people.
STEP 1: Point your people to Jesus
I’ve heard it more times than I can remember; a well-meaning church member or fellow worship team member comes up to me after the service and thanks me for ‘leading them into the throne room’. While I understand the sentiment, and there were times in the past I would use this terminology, it’s completely wrong.
In the Old Testament the people of Israel could not enter the Holy of Holies and stand in the presence of God for themselves, they needed the high priest to serve as a mediator to enter on their behalf. The priests would be in charge of carrying out the sacrifices for the purification of the people of Israel and for themselves, and this needed to happen over and over because of their fallen, sinful nature. However, once Jesus died on the cross, taking on the role of both priest and sacrifice, He made a “new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh” (Hebrews 10:20). And because Jesus now stands as the great high priest who lived a sinless life, the sacrifice to purify us has happened once and for all (Hebrews 4:15, 7:27).
We can draw near to the throne of grace with confidence ONLY because of the atoning work of Jesus- worship leaders could never hope to fill this role. The best possible thing we can do is point our church family to the beauty of the gospel and the beauty of the savior we worship. As worship leaders we aren’t the spectacle, we are the tour guide- we should not strive to be what holds the attention of the church on Sunday morning, we should be pointing with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength to the only One who is glorious enough to hold our gaze for all of eternity.
So if you walk onto the platform on Sunday feeling the stress of needing to lead your congregation into the presence of God, REJOICE! Because it’s already been done by the someone who is far more able to do it.
Or if you walk onto the platform thinking that you hold the power to draw people into the throne room, humble yourself before the Lord and repent of trying to elevate yourself to the level of Christ. Let us never try and take credit for a work we could never accomplish.
STEP 2: Teach them WHY, not HOW
Scripture is full of examples of physical response to worship;
However, do your people know that these verses exist? When you encourage them to be physically responsive in worship, do you just tell them what to do, or do you take time to explain why we do it? I work in a heavily-churched area with many people who grew up in denominations where physical expressiveness was frowned upon. If you’re shepherding people like this it becomes all the more important to teach them lovingly and strongly what God asks of us in worship.
Conversely, if you’re in a church or area where people are already physically expressive it’s important to teach them what God’s word says about it. If all they know is ‘this is the part of the song where I’m supposed to raise my hands’ then we’re no better than a zumba instructor leading the spiritual macarena on stage. Physical expressiveness can be a huge blessing to the church body, but can also be a distraction when it gets out of hand (no pun intended).
Whatever your role is within your church, when you step onto the platform you are taking on the responsibility of shepherding and caring for your people. Don’t be tempted to resort to guilt-tripping or emotional manipulation to get the response you want to see- instead teach them why we respond the way we do, and point them to Jesus so they have something to respond to.
STEP 3: Pray For Your Senior Pastor
This one may come as a surprise to you, but I truly believe it’s one of the greatest things you can do for the health of your church’s worship. I began feeling convicted of falling short in this area a little over a year ago, and have made an effort to step up in it since then. Think about your senior pastors week in comparison with yours;
We carry our own kind of stress and responsibility with us each Sunday, but our senior pastor carries more. Paul tells us in James 3 that “...(those) who teach will be judged with greater strictness” and 1 Timothy 3:1-7 lays out the biblical qualifications for a pastor or elder. It’s a high standard to held to.
Your senior pastor needs your prayer, and you need to pray for him. Why?
Because for as much as you can point people to Jesus, he can and should do it even more. For as much as you can teach the body during the time of sung worship, he can and should do it more in his sermon. For as great as the congregation thinks you are (or aren’t) they’re often holding him to a higher standard.
So pray for your senior pastor. Every week. Put it on your calendar, set a reminder in your phone, write it backwards on your forehead so you’ll see it in the mirror- do whatever it takes to make it a priority, and know that the enemy will do whatever he can to keep you from it.
Pray that he will preach the gospel boldly and clearly. Pray that God will remove anything from his message that could be a hindrance or distraction from the gospel being proclaimed. Pray that he will fall more and more deeply in love with Jesus and that the scriptures will remain fresh and new for him each time he goes to the word.
Because when these things happen, when the pastor preaches clearly and truthfully, it stirs the hearts and minds of the church. And when our hearts and minds are stirred towards Jesus allowing his word to dwell in us richly (Colossians 3:16) then we will see our churches begin to change. When we dwell on Christ’s word, His character, and His commands, we will see Him for who He is and we won’t be able to keep ourselves from worshipping Him. This is true, lasting, biblical change for your church. It may not look how we expect or want it to look, but we will see it. It won’t happen in 20 minutes of singing, but you may start to see it over 20 weekends of gathered corporate worship.
Contributor / Brad Spead
Brad Spead is the Pastor of Worship Arts at Bridge Bible Church in Norton Shores, MI.
In this blog entry, Matt Wagner of ONElife Worship gives us an in depth look at his keys rig!
Matt's Rig At A Glance
Hopefully this gives you an idea of the possibilities you have when running a midi-controlled keys rig through Ableton Live.
If you have an questions about what you saw in this video, or if you have a video request as it pertains to keys, let us know in the comments below!
Contributor / Matt Wagner
Matt Wagner is the Director of Worship for ONElife Worship and serves as Worship Leader at ONElife Church in Flint, MI.
From its inception, Christ’s Church has always been hierarchical in structure. We who belong to Christ should not at all be surprised by this, for when we look at the nature of the Godhead we see that even the Almighty Creator has a hierarchy within Himself. The Father, being the chief authority within the Godhead, is followed by the Son, who willingly submits to the will of the Father. Jesus is then followed by the Holy Spirit, whose desire is to attest of Jesus and the Father. The Father sent Jesus, and then Jesus, in turn, sent the Holy Spirit. Let me be clear, I am not saying that any one of the three persons comprising the Godhead are “lesser” than the other, but rather that God himself exists in a hierarchical state -- equal in worth and divine nature amongst his three persons, yet gladly submitting to the one who is above Him.
The Church is structured the same way! We have Christ, who is the head of the Church, followed by pastors/elders, then deacons, and finally the laity. Pastors/elders are not of greater worth than the man who scrubs the toilets every Saturday, however, as the ones who guard the teaching and truth of the Word, their task is given higher priority. In short, we can’t avoid the hierarchy. We are all equal in worth, but not equal in position.
"We can't avoid hierarchy; we are all equal in worth, but not in position."
Now, let me ask you, what would it look like if the church existed in such a state as well? What if our heart’s desire was to gladly submit to those above us, not jockeying for position, but rather seeking to serve those above ourselves? While you may not be able to reform the thinking of your entire church in such a way, it is highly likely that you can have a profound effect upon your worship team by following some of the suggestions I am about to share. Maybe it will begin to rub off on the church as a whole. However, before I do that let me give a brief glimpse into where I am in this season of life.
My wife and I, along with our two sons, recently entered into partnership with ONElife Church. We came from a small church that wasn’t used to a hierarchical structure. (I’m not in any way attempting to offend or speak illy of my previous church. As a matter of fact, if any of them are reading this I hope they know I love them all deeply with all the affections of Christ). Our previous church existed without any truly defined position on church hierarchy and because of this more often than not small squabbles would arise about who should submit to whom and who held authority over the other. When people left, power vacuums were created and some saw it as a good opportunity to “advance” in the kingdom of God. This is likely common with most every church.
Fittingly, as we take ourselves back 2000 years to a dusty road near Capernaum and a small house residing within the same city, the holy scripture gives us a remedy for this.
“They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.” But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it.
They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” (Mark 9:30-35 ESV)
Jesus just told his closest friends he was going to die, and while they didn’t realize He was going to return to them, they probably understood that the guy on top was getting ready to make an exit. The hierarchy of the apostles was about to be disrupted and something needed to be done. Someone had to fill that space.
How often have you wanted to be first among your brothers and sisters in Christ? This is often made easier when we see power that is up for grabs. I can honestly say that when confronted with the bare depravity of my own heart, I usually want to be first rather than last. I have to look at myself all of the time and admit “I do want to be first. I do want the recognition. I do want the glory. I do want to be the best. I do want the authority. I want to be on top. Now, Jesus, please, please have mercy and teach me to be the servant of all”.
Being a servant is not an easy thing. It takes guts, it takes humility, it takes honesty about yourself, and it take heaps and heaps of repentance. It takes a daily dying to self in favor of the glory of Christ, the strengthening of His Church, and the furtherance of His gospel.
"Being a servant is dying to self in favor of the glory of Christ, the strengthening of His Church, and the furtherance of His gospel."
1. It’s Not About You
The first thing we must do as worship leaders is remind ourselves that “it’s not about me, it’s about God.” Leading worship, unlike some of the other “leading” roles in the Church, creates it’s own breeding ground for narcissism and pride. I mean just think about it; we get to be the men and women out in front, being seen by the congregation, under the lights with the awesome gear and cools clothes. The congregation is told to follow us as we “lead them to the throne of grace” (this is another fallacy we hopefully will cover someday, but I digress). You get the picture. We are “cool,” we “hold authority,” and people follow. It is so important to remember that none of this, not Christ’s death on the cross, not the formation of His Church, not the good news of His gospel, not the songs we sing, or the breath we breathe, none of it, was ever or will ever be about us! That is why we must preach to ourselves Christ glorified in our lives and be vigilant to repent of any pride we would have in our talents and abilities. We boast in God and God alone. Which brings me to my next point.
"We must preach to ourselves Christ glorified in our lives and be vigilant of any pride we would have in our talents and abilities. We boast in God and God alone."
2. We Are Not Here to be Served
When we gather on Sunday for worship, how often is it that the first thought we have is how we can better serve our brothers and sisters in Christ? By serving those around us we are actually serving God. Like the disciples, we are probably thinking about who we can talk to and what we can do to get our agenda across and thus move up in the social hierarchy of the church. We are thinking of what we have accomplished this week and eagerly want the first person who will listen to know precisely what we have done. Or, if we are already high on the totem pole, we may be looking for people to serve our own agendas, based on the authority we already hold, to do as little as possible beyond what we feel is our “job.”
I am so fortunate to be a part of a team comprised of people much more talented and humble than myself. I look around on the mornings I serve and am in awe of what God is doing in bringing the worship team at ONElife Church together. I am also so very blessed to be the low man on the totem pole. Why? Because I am being given a crash course in humility and servitude. These are things I will no doubt need wherever God plans for me to go, however, I must admit, from time to time, I get jealous (Gasp). I know, I know… how dare I! But in all seriousness, this is a big deal for me. I left a church where I held a little authority and walked into a church where authority is not something to be sought, but to be given away. Still, there is that part of me that wants to be the greatest. The kudos, the pats on the back, the job well dones, all of it. My sinful heart desires it. The truest and most profound way for me to combat that is simply to let go of my preferences, stop looking at self, and begin to look for ways to bless my teammates and make them look good… well even better than they already do! I find that when I do this, not only do I find I am much more content with myself, but that I am far more content with my God, and in a deeper peace with my teammates. Which brings me to my next point.
3. Stop Comparing Yourself to the People You Serve With
One of the disciples main problems in the passage I shared above is that they stopped comparing themselves vertically, to Christ, who is our ultimate standard as believers, and began comparing themselves horizontally, to one another. How often we do this amongst our brothers and sisters, especially in worship ministry? Nothing good can come from comparing our sinful selves with other sinful people. This is one of the reasons Christ tells us rather to serve one another. I’m not saying we cannot become better or endeavor to learn from the people around us, we certainly can, and should be learning from others. However, when we stop trying to better ourselves for Christ’s glory and begin to seek “excellence” for our own glory, we have fallen into the same sin that got Satan expelled from Heaven. Learn from one another, seek to better yourself, sure, but don’t seek equality or to be better than anyone around you. Seek the lowly position.
"When we stop trying to better ourselves for Christ's glory and begin to seek "excellence" for our own glory, we have fallen into the same sin that got Satan expelled from Heaven."
4. Rejoice In Others Joy and Share in their Sorrows
As a part of the body of Christ, we are called to bear one another's sufferings. Paul tells us this is right to fulfill the Law of Christ.
“Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” (Galatians 6:2-3)
We also are called to rejoice with one another (Romans 12:15). So, when the lead guitar player gets a that new Fender American Jazzmaster and nails the solo on that new song you wanted to play on, rejoice, because it’s not about you. When the other soprano gets the lead on that new vocal track your band is recording, rejoice! Because it’s not about you. When your pastor chooses someone else to represent your church at a leadership summit, rejoice! Because it’s not about you. How thankful we should be that it is not about us, but about Christ! If it were about us, existence would be a rather droll and hate-filled existence.
"Rejoice! Because it's not about you. It's about Christ."
On the contrary, if the lead guitar player totally whiffs that solo, don’t sneer and be glad in your heart because of his failure. Pray for his success, and comfort him when he inevitably beats himself up about it. He will.
A Final Word
Encourage one another in Christ, and do it often! There is almost nothing better to the soul of a struggling team mate than to know someone else believes in them. I know, I’ve been that guy who didn’t feel like he measured up, or would ever measure up for that matter. The truth was I wasn’t going to. I would never be as holy as Jesus this side of eternity, and I needed someone to tell me that. I would never be the best singer, or the best guitar player, or best preacher for that matter. However, all it took was a kind word from one of my brothers to shift the focus from my shortcomings and to how great God truly is. Our teammates need that same encouragement. They need to know that sanctification is a gradual process and that all their failures, all their flaws, sins, and mistakes will one day be no more. They need to realize that you see Jesus at work in their lives and you have faith that He will do what he has promised to do in them. Encourage them to practice more, to pray more, read more, love more, and hope more. Encourage them in excellence, and in humility. Encourage them in sorrow and in rejoicing, but most importantly encourage them to stop looking at themselves so they can behold the glory of Christ.
In the end, our Savior is asking nothing more from us that what he already did. Think about it, Jesus didn’t think it was about Him, He knew His life, death, and resurrection was to glorify the Father (John 4:34). He didn’t seek to be served, but considered himself a servant to a rebellious world (Mark 10:44-45). Jesus didn’t think himself as having the same worth as the only person He could compare Himself to, the Father (Philippians 2:6-7). He rejoiced with the Father and the Holy Spirit in the work they were accomplishing together (Luke 10:21). He was filled with sorrow when others around him mourned for the death of a close friend (John 11:33-35) Lastly Jesus encouraged his disciples to become more than they were and to hope and abide in him (John 15:5-6).
"Take your eyes off of yourself and behold the glory of Christ. Rejoice in your lowly position."
So, if you're like me, and you struggle with pride, jealousy, and envy and you are a part of a team, do yourself and all those around you a favor. Take your eyes off of yourself, and behold the glory of Christ. Rejoice in your lowly position.
Contributor / Jamison Bebiak
Jamison Bebiak serves as a Worship Leader at ONElife Church in Flint, MI.
Ministry, by definition, does not exist without people. People are who we minister to; our churches and the communities we live in are filled with people. Therefore, harvesting and developing healthy relationships is of utmost importance to any type of ministry, but especially worship ministry.
Worship Ministry Is Unique
Worship ministry is unique for a variety of reasons. The first being that it is generally assumed that worship ministry is focused around music and the arts in a church setting. No other type of ministry has this focus. Because of this focus, ministers of worship tend to work very closely with a relatively small group of people with specific giftings. This is not always the case in other types of ministry. A lead pastor might work less closely with a larger group, or a youth pastor might work closely with a smaller group, but both groups and filled with people who have little in common. A worship pastor, however, is tasked with recruiting, managing, teaching, and shepherding a small group of people who all have a shared interest – music and art.
Music and the Arts Are A Very Emotional Entity
This is the power of music in the Church, that it is able to make truths come alive in our hearts by the power of emotion; it is able to soften our hearts to hear from the Lord. Because of this reality, a general trend is seen in the type of people who are typically drawn to serve in the area of worship - they are emotional. They tend to think less in binary and more in abstract concepts. They also tend to take their art very seriously and very personally, especially they feel it is being criticized. So, not only do worship leaders have the unique task of leading volunteers of a specific interest group, but they also have the wonderful privelage of leading what is quite possibly the most emotional and easily offended group of individuals in a whole body of believers.
We Must Be Relational
We as worship leaders must be relational because of this circumstance. We must be able to harvest and shepherd healthy relationships with our volunteers, otherwise any decision we make will be taken personally. Our love and our care for these emotional groups of people is what will sustain us during the times of difficult conversations and the times of having to raise expectations. I have a few strategies that I have learned from experience and study that I believe can help develop healthy, biblical relationships with volunteers so that they feel not only loved, but well led.
The first strategy is simply to pray. Pray for your volunteers daily. Pray that they will experience the grace of God daily. Pray for their families. Pray that they will see and understand the vision of your ministry. Pray that they will grow continually in their walk with the Lord. Intercession is the greatest work that we can do for our people. This means that we need to know the needs of our people and pray specifically for them. This means that we need a relationship with them.
"Intercession is the greatest work that we can do for our people."
2. Read the Word
How do we build relationships with our team members? The most effective way that I have found is to have a time to read the Word and pray for each other at every rehearsal. Share with them what the Lord has put on your heart and then at the end ask what is going on in their lives and how you can pray for them. You will get to know people a lot by what they ask for prayer for. Then pray for them right then and there! Sometimes its beneficial to ask them to pray instead of yourself. Praying together creates unity that can only be found in Christ.
"Praying together creates unity that can only be found in Christ".
3. Grab Coffee
Another great way to build relationships is to grab coffee with the volunteers [that it is appropriate to do so with.] Make coffee a time to chat about what is going on in their lives, discuss biblical concepts, and even laugh together. If you manage a larger group of volunteers, it is not always feasible to hang out with every member one-on-one all the time, but what you can do is make an effort to grab coffee with at least one volunteer per week.
The last thing that I do is send texts. This might often go overlooked, but each week I text my team on rotation. More often than not I just send encouraging texts thanking them for serving that week or applauding them for the wonderful job that they did on Sunday. This is a nice personal touch that keeps people connected to you even when they might be physically removed.
All of these things, while great ideas, should always be centered around the Word. The reality is that if we as leaders are first living a life obedient to God’s word, then we will continually be sanctified and the Lord will help guide and govern these relationships!
“I will meditate on your precepts, and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your Word.” (Psalm 119:15-16)
Contributor / Matt Wagner
Matt Wagner is the Director of Worship at ONElife Church in Swartz Creek, MI
A couple of weeks ago, Matt Wagner did a fantastic job of instructing us on the kinds of songs we should choose for our churches to sing. Now that we know what to look for in songs, we are going to take it a step further and give you a look into how we actually structure our worship setlists. While there are many great methods for crafting a worship setlist, this has proven to be the most effective in our context.
It all starts with the Word of God.
"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." (Colossians 3:16 ESV)
From this scripture we see that singing is more than just entertainment or even preparing the heart to receive a sermon. Rather, singing itself serves to teach and admonish the body of Christ. More than that though, singing is actually how the Word of Christ takes root and dwells richly in the life of the believer. In light of this, when planning our worship setlists, we begin with the Word of God.
"Singing is how the Word of Christ takes root and dwells richly in the life of the believer."
What Text Is Being Preached?
Before thinking about what songs we would like to sing on a given Sunday, we first study the text of scripture our pastor will be preaching from. As we begin this endeavor, I have always found it beneficial to pray and ask the Lord to send His Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ (Eph. 1:17) and then subsequently read the text over and over again. Another best practice we've found to accompany this effort is to be reading through the same commentaries that our pastors have been studying from; this ensures we are all headed in the same direction from the earliest stages of planning.
"Dude, that sounds like a lot of work... why is it important?"
Well, since singing is how we "let the word of Christ dwell in [us] richly," we endeavor to have our songs undergird the sermon by teaching the same truths! Think about it... while you may listen to your favorite sermon three of four times in your lifetime, you will sing your favorite song hundreds, if not thousands, of times! Therefore, we aim to reinforce the big idea of the message with songs that are saturated in scripture, rich in sound doctrine, and similar in content "so that the servant of God may be equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17)." Music is a powerful tool. Dr. Tony Merida said it well, "Music is portable theology; it's theology we carry around with us." While people won't necessarily remember every point of the sermon, they will have the songs you sing on Sunday in their head and on their lips throughout the week. There is power in reiterating the sermon's content through song!
"There is power in reiterating the sermon's content through song!"
The Need for Intentionality in Song Placement
Now that we have studied the text that is being preached and have some songs in mind that will reinforce the big idea that is being communicated that weekend, the next thing we look to do is intentionally order the songs, or structure the setlist, to produce the most effective results.
Let's be honest, the average church attender does not show up on Sunday morning ready to lift their hands in the air and declare from their heart “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come! ...Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created (Rev. 4:8, 11).” Rather, we must remember that our people need to be shepherded into the presence of God. Like each one of us, throughout a given week our congregation struggles with sin, sickness, loss, depression, and many other things we are often unaware of. For some, it took everything they had just to get through the doors of our building that morning. It's negligence on our part to not have an intentional process for shepherding God's people through the worship gathering.
"It's negligent to not have an intentional process for shepherding God's people through the worship gathering."
The Five Thematic Phases
To ensure we are shepherding the hearts of our people well, at ONElife we focus on Five Thematic Phases when planning our setlists:
Songs of Gathering
Songs of Gathering serve as our "call to worship," if you will; they are where our ascension to the throne of God begins. These songs ask God to focus our eyes upon him and away from ourselves. These songs are asking God to come down by His Spirit and meet with us in power. These songs really seek to give us a singleness of mind, looking to Jesus, because our worship begins not when the band begins playing, when the deacon prays, or when the pastor preaches, but instead when we remember who God is and all He has done... and our hearts rejoice.
Songs of Testimony
Songs of Testimony serve to remind us of God's faithfulness from the dawn of creation until now. These songs tell of what God has done in my life/your life/our lives/the life of the Church, etc. As I stated above, our worship begins when we remember who God is and all that He has done, so it only seems fitting that on our way to His throne, we put his work in our lives before our eyes to remind our hearts of his goodness.
Songs of Ascription
Songs of Ascription speak solely of who God is, with little to no mention of 'me,' 'I,' 'us,' or 'we.' This is our throne room worship. This where we transition for worshiping God because of what he has done for 'me' and 'us' to worshiping God simply for who He is in essence. These songs speak of the character of God.
This third phase always proves to be the most difficult to find songs for! We are not always able to escape the 'me' and 'I,' so a good test of whether or not a song will serve this phase well is the question to the questions, "What does the chorus say?" If the chorus omits me-centeredness, it's usually a good fit, even if it finds its way into other places.
Song of Response
A Song of Response is the song that is sung right after our sermon. It is exactly what it sounds like; the pastor has just finished preaching and now the question is, "What will we do with what we have heard from God?" This song is our response to what the Word of God has taught us this day. While the goal is for all of our songs to be working together to communicate the same message that is being preached from the pulpit, this song needs to have the clearest connection and call to action to the main point of the sermon. (These songs are often more reflective and thus slower in tempo.)
Recently our lead pastor preached through Jonah 4. In chapter four, Jonah takes delight in something God created over God himself; Jonah was "exceedingly glad" that this plant had sprung up, giving him shade from the harsh weather as he waited to see what would become of Ninevah. Jonah was so upset when God appointed a worm to destroy the plant that he essentially asks God to kill him. The implication was that we do the same thing today. Rather than our delight being in the Creator God, we often take the good things God has created and turn them into functional gods ; when good things become god things they turn into bad things. As believers, we need to repent of such idols in our lives and cling to the one true God.
So, our song of response after that sermon was 'Jesus Is Better' by Austin Stone Worship, which boldy declares "Glory Glory! We have no other king but Jesus Lord of All." The bridge then pleads with God to make our hearts believe that He is better than any sorrow, than any victory, than any comfort, and any of amount of riches. As you can see, this song clearly hit on the major thrust of the sermon and thus provided a great opportunity for us to respond to God; while our intellect knows "there is no other so sure and steady" our hearts often deceive us, to which we were able to plead as a church, "make my heart believe" what my intellect knows to be true!
Song of Summary
While our Song of Response is typically slower and more introspective, our Song of Summary is where we ramp things back up to send our people off feeling energized and equipped to live their lives on mission to the glory of God in the coming week. Whereas our Song of Response is our call to action, our Song of Summary endeavors to summarize the overarching theme that was taught throughout the day. (Sorry guys, I really should be more creative with the titles of these thematic phases, but I'm a simple guy!)
This coming Sunday we will be working through 1 Timothy 4. In chapter four, Paul shares with Timothy, his young disciple, that as a pastor he is going to witness people departing from the faith because of false teachings from outsiders. Paul then explains that in being a good shepherd of his congregation, Timothy needs to first be a good servant of Jesus Christ. Paul then breaks down being a "good servant of Jesus Christ" into three qualities: knowing sound doctrine, Timothy displaying sound doctrine in the way he lives his day-to-day life, and teaching sound doctrine, because "by doing so [he] will save both [himself] and [his] hearers (v. 16)." The big idea of 1 Timothy 4? Doctrine: know it, show it, and teach it. Without sound doctrine being modeled in those three areas of the minister's life, the flock is sure to fall away.
Given the text, the song I have selected to be our Song of Summary this Sunday is 'The Lord Our God' by Passion. The first verse speaks of God bringing what he has begun in the Church to completion; this is a great reminder that while we do, from time to time, witness people stepping out of Orthodox Christianity and into the realm of heresy, Jesus is faithful to build His Church and our teaching of sound doctrine is part of His plan to accomplish that work! The song then proceeds into the chorus which speaks of God's immutable characteristics and how because He is ever-faithful and never-changing, we can trust Him to lead us through the darker seasons of life. Next is the second verse, which talks about God's goodness in all, because all of His plans are for his glory. Lastly, and most emphatically, the bridge declares, "We won't move without You / You're the light of all and all that we need." We will thus leave our Sunday gathering with the resolve that we will not move from God's Word, but will rather strive know it, show it, and teach it in all aspects of our life, because He alone is our provision and He is good!
While we strive to do everything with excellence, our setlists won't always come together as well as we had hoped and we won't always tackle the Five Thematic Phases with the precision we aspire... but that's okay! Our goal as worship leaders is not to craft and perfectly execute a setlist, but rather to lead the Church in beholding the glory of Christ; this methodology is just a blueprint to help serve that end.
"Our goal is not to craft and perfectly execute a setlist, but to lead the Church in beholding the glory of Christ."
If you have any questions about this topic, please don't hesitate to ask in the comments below! We would be more than happy to provide you with further explanation, additional song examples for each phase, and even recent setlists accompanied with the text that was preached.
Contributor / Dan Dameron
Dan Dameron is the Pastor of Worship at ONElife Church in Swartz Creek, MI
'Chosen In Christ' is the latest song released from ONElife Worship's forthcoming debut EP. This is the Theology Behind the Song.
The Christian life is one marked with various victories and trials, as we struggle in the tension of the already/not yet. We see this reality throughout the New Testament.
In 1 John 3:2, we read, “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” The "already" I've spoken of, then, is the reality that we are right now actually children of God because of Christ's work on the cross in securing our redemption! The "not yet" refers to the fact that while we are children of the King, we don't exactly know what that entails, as our physical bodies are still here on earth.
We see this actualized further in Romans 8:30, which says we are “glorified” and then in Ephesians 2:6, where we see that we are seated with Christ “in the heavenly realms,” as if these things have already come to pass. If we're honest, most of the time we don't feel very "glorified," and it's certain that our earthly surroundings don't look much like "heavenly realms." The reason for this is that our present spiritual reality does not yet match up with our future, physical reality. One day, the two will be in sync, but right now they do not. So, out of sync we, as followers of Jesus, trudge through this fallen world.
A regular part of our life here on earth are struggles with temptation, sickness, physical ailments, and loss. Through the trials we face in this lifetime, it's easy to let our vertical gaze (on Christ and what He has already accomplished for us) slip away. As a result, we can easily become infatuated with the horizontal (what we see immediately around us), the not yet. Brokenness, weariness, and feelings of defeat are all a regular part of this life, especially when we've forgotten what has already been accomplished for us. It is in these moments that the believer has two options: seek rest in God and hold onto the promises of the already in the not yet, or seek fulfillment and rest in the created order (people, possessions, substances, etc.) which is to sin -- to choose temporary happiness and relief over lasting joy. Being filled by the Spirit of God, when we choose the latter, feelings of guilt, shame, and self-condemnation are the inevitable end.
"Broken, weary, and defeated
As Christians, our blessed hope and rest on our worst day, even when we have succumb to those horizontal comforts and are riddled ourselves with guilt, shame, and self-condemnation, is to remind ourselves of the already found in Ephesians 1. The Apostle Paul tells us that before God even laid the world's foundation He chose us in His Son (v.4), and how "in love He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ (v.5)." So, when Adam fell into sin in the Garden of Eden, infecting all mankind with sin, God the Father had to make a plan for redemption. This plan was set into motion not primarily because we sinned, but rather because of His great love for us. The Father's plan for our redemption meant sending His own Son, Jesus, to live the perfect, sinless life we couldn't live and die the sinners death we deserved, because "the wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23). It was the blood that Jesus shed on the cross that bought our redemption, the forgiveness of our sin and trespasses. Previously wretchedly depraved, vile, and undeserving, the riches of God's grace in Jesus overcame all of our sin -- past, present, and future (v.7)!
"But You predestined from the start
The chorus of the song then reiterates the realities associated with the Father having chose us before the world's foundation and the blood of the Son having purchased our redemption; by believing in our hearts what Jesus has done for us and having confessed with our mouths that He is Lord, we now stand holy and blameless before the Father because the imputed righteousness of the Son (v.4)! As I previously alluded to, through Jesus' sacrifice, every sin -- past, present, and future has been totally forgiven and even expunged. We already stand before the Father holy and blameless, despite not yet fully understanding that reality.
"Before the world's foundation
Having been predestined and subsequently adopted into the family of God, we were sealed for all eternity with the Holy Spirit, "who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it (v.14)." Jesus sent His Spirit to testify of this inheritance in the not yet! Our blessed inheritance is that we will spend all eternity in Heaven with God, where we have been seated.
"Adopted in and sealed forevermore
Why? Why would God do all of this for people who would never "get it right," for people who would never be "good enough," for people who still toils in sin despite having been totally forgiven? The answer is that He did it for the praise of His glory and according to the purpose of His will (vv.5-6)! That's right, God chose to love you (v.4), predestine you, adopt you (v.5), redeem you (v.7), give you an inheritance (v.11), and seal you with His Holy Spirit to testify to all of this (v.13), because He desired to do so, and it was based on no "good" in you or I! He did it to the praise of His glory and according to the purpose of His will when we were far off, dead in transgressions and sin.
"To the praise of Your glory
If you are trusting in Jesus for salvation, this is your reality: despite any brokenness, any weariness, any defeat, any failure, any sin, any guilt, any shame, and any self-condemnation, you already stand holy and blameless before God the Father because of His loving you, His choosing you, His predestining you, His adopting you, His redeeming you, and His sealing you for all eternity. You are already His! Rest in that in the face of any trial that may come your way and live free from the curse of sin and darkness.
Contributor / Dan Dameron
Dan Dameron is the Pastor of Worship at ONElife Church in Flint, MI.
“Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”
Worship pastors have a unique role. We have the chance each week to put songs on the lips of our people. We are in essence choosing what people say as they worship the Lord. This is a privilege that should never be taken for granted or abused for our own personal gain. For this reason, we should approach song selection with extra care and caution to always make sure we are seeking the Lord’s guidance as we lead our people. When it comes to song selection, we have a six things that we always try to keep in mind with our approach. For us to decide to lead a song, we always make sure it is:
1. Vertically Focused.
Take a good look at a worship song before introducing it. How many pronouns like “me,” “I,” or “my” are in the song? If these pronouns are a common occurrence and tend to outnumber the amount of times that the song refers to God, then the song is not vertically focused. It is likely man focused and may not even be worth putting on the hearts of your people. As the body of Christ, the purpose of the large gathering is not to remind each other of ourselves, but to remind each other of the truths of God. “...singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”
As the body of Christ, the purpose of the large gathering is not to remind each other of ourselves, but to remind each other of the truths of God.
2. Theologically Rich.
Colossians 3:16 reminds us that the message of Christ must "dwell richly" in us and that the reason we sing songs in the gathering is to “teach and admonish one another with all wisdom.” The reality is that songs are a teaching tool just as much as a sermons. Songs, however, have the added danger of being much more catchy and memorable, and thus tend to stick in people’s minds throughout the week. For this reason, we must be careful to make sure that the songs we sing are first and foremost, theologically accurate. They must be full of truth and not one ounce of them can be biblically questionable or unclear. To choose a song that is even remotely questionable in comparison with scripture is to effectively lead the flock astray by teaching a false doctrine.
"To choose a song that is even remotely questionable in comparison with scripture is to effectively lead the flock astray by teaching a false doctrine."
Not only must they be accurate, but it is important for them to be rich in biblical truths. Sure, we could “sing of His love forever…and ever… and ever,” but is this a full picture of truth? Yes, the Lord is loving! But why? And how? What has He done to show His love? To communicate a simple truth is great, but if not expounded upon, we run the risk of leading people into idolatrous worship (worshiping God in our own imagined image instead of worshiping Him for the fullness of who He is). God is not only loving, but righteous, holy, just..etc. We must lead our people to worship the Lord for the fullness of His character.
To communicate a simple truth is great, but if not expounded upon, we run the risk of leading people into idolatrous worship
3. Attributed Specifically.
I listen to Christian radio every once in a blue moon and to be honest, I am quite often appalled by what I hear. More often than not, many “Christian” songs are too ambiguous with their pronouns. We hear these songs that talk about “your love,” “his beauty,” or “his touch.” To someone skipping through and trying to find the next country station, how would a person know who is being sung about? Way too many Christian songs could easily be passable as musically bland love songs. When selecting songs for the Church, we need to be specific as to who we are singing to! I stay away from songs that don’t have any specific titles for the Father, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit. There are many titles for God that we see in scripture, let’s express them! Songs that are ambiguous about who God is run the risk of subliminally condoning inclusivism within Christ’s Church.
Way too many Christian songs could easily be passable as musically bland love songs.
What is the reason that we have the freedom to worship the Lord? Christ. The cross. His resurrection. “Let the message of CHRIST dwell richly…” We never let a Sunday go by where we don't sing at least one song that clearly outlines the fullness of the gospel. Not every single song is a clear presentation of the gospel of Christ, but it is essential for the sake of the believer, as well as the unbeliever, to hear and sing the truths of the gospel. For the believer, this serves as a humble reminder that the Lord has saved us. For the unbeliever, this serves as an opportunity for evangelism through song.
"Never let a Sunday go by where we don't sing at least one song that clearly outlines the fullness of the gospel."
5. New and Old.
There is a reason that many songs have stood the test of time... it’s because they are good! They are true! The Lord uses such songs to be an anthem of truth across many generations that His name might be praised. To abandon old songs for the sake of relevancy is to devalue many great historical figures of faith. The songs of David make up the largest book in the Bible and they are thousands of years old! If a song has a rich truth to proclaim, let’s sing it regardless of age.
"To abandon old songs for the sake of relevancy is to devalue many great historical figures of faith."
Conversely, we should never neglect to find and write new songs for our people to sing. Psalm 33:3 reminds us to “Sing to the Lord a new song...” We should never dismiss something simply because it is new, rather we should always examine it and determine it’s worth according to scripture. If it is truth, we should sing it!
I have been to a few churches that have such a large focus on the arts, that their song selection is way too abstract or complex for the average person to be able to sing along to, or even enjoy. Songs that are a mouthful are a sure way to lose people. Consider this: the average person has no rhythm or musical gifting. Simplicity of lyric and melody is the key to ensuring that a congregation will actually sing to the Lord. People will not sing if they feel like it’s too hard for them. Melodically, rhythmically, and even the key of the songs should be what’s best suited for the most amount of people to be able to join in! We are not hired as worship leaders to showcase our talent or express our artistic creativity, but rather to lead people to worship the Lord in the splendor of His holiness. We should always aim for rich truths, yet simple music.
“Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good;
sing to his name, for it is pleasant!” (Psalm 135:3)
Contributor / Matt Wagner
Matt Wagner serves as a Worship Leader at ONElife Church in Swartz Creek, MI
From the beginning of scripture we see that God is eternal and constant. He was before creation and will be for eternity (Genesis 1:1).
Not only His presence is eternal, but also His love for His people and His righteousness. His righteousness does not change. Righteousness is not a word that defines God, rather God is the person who defines righteousness. He has chosen to reveal His righteousness to His people through His Word (Deuteronomy 4:8).
"Oh constant God throughout the ages
This word, revealed as The Law of God in the Old Testament, and revealed further in Christ, which is now written on our hearts, will never falter. Furthermore, by the Spirit of God, it is living and active in the life of a believer (Hebrews 4:12). In His Word we can trust.
"Your Word it speaks and never falters
In the chorus of this song the immutability of God comes together as a reminder and picture of the gospel. He is unchanging, worthy of all glory, and reigning supreme on His throne. All the while we are unworthy, wretched sinners who have no right to stand before the King of Kings. BUT in Christ, the Word, the Lord has chosen to redeem us. By the blood the Son of God shed, the Father now looks not upon our unrighteousness, but upon the righteousness of Christ which unlike us, does not falter or change. In the righteousness of Christ we are secured.
James 1:17-18 says:
"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures."
This gift of righteousness is from the unchanging Father, who brought us forth by the word of truth, His own righteousness, that we might be called sons and daughters of the King, first fruits of His creation, and lovely in His sight.
"Unchanging God, all glory to Thee
Lastly, verse three reminds us that the Lord’s strength is perfect in our weakness. We can rely upon Him, even when we might not understand (2 Corinthians 12:9). Though in our fallen state we cannot fully comprehend certain aspects of God's nature, we continue to trust, knowing that His strength is perfect, His character and righteousness are unchanging, and His word will not falter.
"Though I am weak you are perfection
Contributor / Matt Wagner
Matt Wagner serves as a Worship Leader at ONElife Church in Flint, MI.
Have you ever stopped and wondered, "What is the purpose of corporate worship?" Or maybe you have asked, "Why do Christians sing and lift their hands at church?" All of us who profess faith in Christ have surely, at one point or another, asked these questions. For some us, these questions emerged upon first stepping into a church, before we were even converted; "What in the world is going on with these crazy Christians?!" For others, like myself, who grew up in the Church, we attended worship gatherings year after year, going through the motions, without understanding the significance of the various portions of liturgy in light of the Word of God. Fortunately, God gives us the scriptures as "a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path" and in Psalm 150, David gives us the who, where, why, and how of corporate worship for the believer.
Psalm 150 reads,
"Praise the Lord!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens!
2 Praise him for his mighty deeds;
praise him according to his excellent greatness!
3 Praise him with trumpet sound;
praise him with lute and harp!
4 Praise him with tambourine and dance;
praise him with strings and pipe!
5 Praise him with sounding cymbals;
praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
6 Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!"
Let's begin with the "who?" Right at the beginning of verse 1 we are told to “Praise the LORD;” LORD in all caps depicts God’s eternal existence as Creator of the universe. Additionally, it stresses His steadfast presence in the redemptive history of Israel. As believers, we are to worship the one true God, manifested in three persons - Father, Son, and Spirit.
In verse 1b, we see we are to “Praise God in his sanctuary, praise him in his mighty heavens!” At the time Psalm 150 was written, the people of God gathered for worship in the temple, his sanctuary. It is the centre of the world, the place where earthly praise ascends to Him. The call rings out to Israel to represent the world in praising. Their Hallelujahs blend with those sung by the celestial host in the grand ‘vault’ of heaven. (My first implication will address this question of “where” in further detail.)
Verse 2 tells us we are to “Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness!” Simply put, we worship God because of who He is and what He has done. You see, true worship begins not when the band begins to play, or when the worship leader prays, or even when the pastor begins to preach, but rather our worship begins when we remember who God is and all that He has done.
Verses three through five give us an extended list of instruments we should use to praise the LORD. The list of musical instruments, with its mixture of wind, strings, and percussion, gives the impression of loud song and ceaseless motion -- the worshiper’s whole body offering praise to God. Verse 4 takes it another step further, though, by exhorting the readers to praise Him with dance, which is quite foreign to us Baptists, but that, too, we will further look into as we get into the implications of this text.
So what does this all mean? Let's put it together; everything that has breath ought to praise the Lord (v. 1a, 6) in His sanctuary (v. 1b) and with all their being (v. 4) because of His excellent greatness (v. 2).
21st Century Implications
Now, what does this mean for us, in particular, as 21st century followers of Christ? The first implication I would like to propose finds its root in verse 1 of Psalm 150, which reads, “Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens!” Diodati understands either earthly sanctuary, that is to say, his church; or the heavenly one of his glory; in the first sense the speech is directed to his officers; in the second, to his angels. For the Jew in 450 B.C. “his sanctuary” referred to the physical temple, but for the New Covenant believer it refers to His church gathered, not a physical building, but rather the believers together being built into the spiritual temple of the living God (Eph 2:22; 1 Pet. 2:5). The implication here, then, is that as Christians we should not neglect the gathering of believers, that is to say the corporate worship gatherings of our local churches. This stands in stark contrast with the “Christianity” we see all around us in this present day in age; so much emphasis has been placed on the Christian walk being a “personal relationship” that we’ve fooled ourselves into thinking that we can live our lives in isolation from other believers. However, the reality is that it’s impossible have a vibrant relationship with the LORD, the head, apart from being connected to His Church, the body. As disciples of Jesus, we are to “praise God in his sanctuary;” we are to praise him in the context of our local church, with other Christians, on a regular basis.
"It's impossible to have a vibrant relationship with the LORD, the head, apart from being connected to His Church, the body."
The second implication that fits within the pattern of meaning that the author willed to convey is that we ought to use modern instruments, such as guitars, pianos, drums, cellos, violins, and so on, in our praise to the LORD. I believe the long list of instruments given in verses three through five encompassing all forms of musical instruments -- wind, string, and percussion -- is there to show us just how diverse the instruments we use to praise the Lord can, and should, be! In light of this text of scripture, it’s quite ironic, to me, how hyper-traditional churches can say pianos and organs are the only instruments that can be used to praise the Lord. Yes, verse 4 does tell us to “praise him with strings and pipe,” but the greater context here calls for much more than that! We ought to use any instrument we can get our hands on to worship our King. (For more on Traditional vs. Modern worship styles, I encourage you to read Pastor Eric Stewart's article titled Why I Left the Traditional Worship Movement.)
The final implication that I’d like to make is that we should praise the LORD with more than just our minds (v. 4). If we believe God is who He says He is, if we really believe Jesus died for the sins of man, appeasing the wrath of God, bringing total forgiveness, and then rose again and thus claimed victory over death, once and for all, we ought to expel all of our being in our worship of Him. We should raise our hands in worship to Him, we should clap our hands in joyful cheer, we should get on our knees in awe before him, and so much more than I even have words to quantify. Take a Jew from 450 B.C. and show them the majority of our churches’ Sunday worship services - somber, hands in our pockets, barely mumbling the words we’re supposed to be singing, and then show them a college football game - equipped with cheering, shouting, jumping, dancing, and face painting. Who would they say that our God is? Which one best reflects how the Psalms instruct us to worship the King of the universe? Forgive us LORD, Jesus! God wants more than just our intellect, he wants all of our being to be included in our worship of Him.
"God wants more than just our intellect, he wants all of our being to be included in our worship of Him."
That last paragraph alone may prove to be quite convicting as we begin contrasting it with each of one our own lives. Here are some questions I propose we meditate on this week:
Contributor / Dan Dameron
Dan Dameron is the Pastor of Worship at ONElife Church in Swartz Creek, MI
A Little History
This is a question I get asked all the time. Let’s be real before we move on though. The question runs much deeper than this. The question behind the question is, “Don’t you know that the Holy Spirit only manifests Himself through the inspired hymn book and the immutable instruments of the piano and organ?” Since we are now clear on the real question, let me take some time to answer it. Here is my explanation as to why I left the “traditional” worship movement and why I did not join the “contemporary” worship movement. Do I have your attention now? What “movement” did I join then?
My background is from a very conservative, liturgical, independent baptist church. In fact many people that attended the church said that at times it actually reminded them of a Catholic Church service. Being from this background I thought the only way to worship God was singing the old hymns with the hymnal in your hands and using the piano and organ for the instruments. Anything else was clearly from the devil.
Two significant things happened to me though while I was attending that church that opened my mind up to the reality that there are multiple expressions of biblical worship and there have been all throughout the history of the Church. First, I was given a book by one of my mentors, ‘Worship Old and New’ by Robert Webber. This book explained the biblical and historical patterns of worship that are essential and the reality that they have been expressed differently in different cultures throughout different generations. There is not a cookie cutter approach as long as the biblical patterns are maintained.
Second, I met a young pastor from Brazil who preached at our church. Man could this guy “bring it home” in the pulpit. In several discussions with him we began conversing about worship. His church expresses worship very similar to how we do at ONElife Church. So I went back and began talking with one of my mentors about this. He said that he had actually attended some of their services in Brazil and said their services were done well and with reverence. He then proceeded to tell me that when I became a senior pastor I could begin to introduce those forms of expression but that he could not because he had spent so many years teaching against it and simply did not prefer it. Having his affirmation to engage in this form of worship began to open my mind even more to the reality that there might be more to worship than what I had known up to that point.
A Little More History
After reading Webber’s book and having some conversations with people that I respected, I began praying, thinking, and doing even more research on the subject of worship. My concern was to honor God in all that I did and if there was something more that I was missing I wanted to know! In my research there was some historical data that was very interesting.
In the “traditional” worship camp they say that you must almost exclusively sing from the hymnal and use only the piano and organ as instruments. The practice of hymn singing was a practice that was introduced around A.D.1700. This new “contemporary” way of worship actually led to splits in certain denominations. So what many refer to now as “traditional” and “biblical” was at one time referred to as “contemporary” and “heretical.” I mean Martin Luther used a bar tune for the music of one of his hymns. That did not go over very well!
Furthermore, the organ has its roots in early Roman pagan culture and was not introduced to be used in the church until A.D. 900. In fact, it actually didn’t become an official instrument of the Church until A.D. 1400. So in case you missed the point, the church actually adopted a “secular” instrument to be used for worship in the Church. Oh my what a radical group of sinners they must have been.
In addition, the piano was not invented until around A.D. 1700. Well, what instrument did they use for their evangelistic songs before that time? Let me be clear as I conclude this point; I am not against the piano and organ, they are beautiful instruments that can be used to honor and glorify God. What I am simply showing is that both were invented throughout the church age and then adopted for worship. Therefore, they were not given by God to the Church through a burning bush experience.
The Final Piece
What I have mentioned up to this point was still not enough to cause me to make the “leap” to adopt new expressions of worship. They certainly opened my mind, but God’s Word was the final authority. There are a few key verses that really struck me and caused me to cross the threshold.
Let me share two portions of Scripture that really spoke to me. The first is found in Psalm 96, “Oh sing to the Lord a new song: sing to the Lord, all the earth!” (Psalm 96:1 ESV). Let me bring some clarity here. The Psalmist says to sing a new song… in order to sing a new song someone must write a new song. The issue then is not when the song was written but the content contained within the song. Let’s be honest, many hymns in our hymnals are complete theological garbage, which is why the churches that still exclusively use hymnals only sing a small portion of the songs in there. To be fair, many of the contemporary worship songs are theological garbage as well. One of the many reasons I love our Pastor of Worship & Creative Arts, Dan Dameron, is that he takes time to study the lyrics of hymns and contemporary songs alike to ensure that they are theologically solid.
Now, let’s consider some more verses, “Praise Him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise Him with the harp and lyre, praise Him with the timbrel and dancing, praise Him with the strings and pipe, praise Him with the clash of cymbals, praise Him with resounding cymbals. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord” (Psalm 150:3-6 ESV). However you read these verses it inevitably pulls the proverbial rug out from under the “traditional” worship movement. Either way you interpret these you must read them and conclude that 1) only these instruments are to be used in worship or that 2) we are to utilize the different instruments we have for the glory of God. Either way the “traditional” worship movement misses the mark. I do believe the latter interpretation is what the Psalmist had in mind. Let me just point out as well that the Psalmist states that even dancing can be an expression of worship. If any dancing, or even swaying for that matter, took place in most “traditional” worship churches, I think the elders would have been called in to lay hands on that person and cast the demons out, but here it is an expression of worship. Interesting...
So let me bring the final point home. The issue when it comes to worship is not the era that the songs were written in or the instruments that are used; this issue is one of transcendence. Transcendence is “the action or fact of transcending, surmounting or rising above...the attribute of being above and independent of the universe.” Many “traditional” and “contemporary” expressions of worship fail here and many “traditional” and “contemporary” forms succeed here. Here is what we all need to do. We all need to leave both the “traditional” and “contemporary” Christian worship movements and join the “Transcendence” movement and use our songs and instruments of choice for the glory and honor of God. In the words of James MacDonald, “we are to be facilitators of transcendence.”
Contributor / Eric Stewart
Eric Stewart is the Lead Pastor at ONElife Church in Swartz Creek, MI