Everybody Worships

“Think of it this way: Worship is simply about value. The simplest definition I can give is this: Worship is our response to what we value most. That’s why worship is that thing we all do. It’s what we’re all about on any given day. Worship is about saying, ‘This person, this thing, this experience (this whatever) is what matters most to me . . . it’s the thing of highest value in my life.’ That ‘thing’ might be a relationship. A dream. A position. Status. Something you own. A name. A job. Some kind of pleasure. Whatever name you put on it, this ‘thing’ is what you’ve concluded in your heart is worth most to you. And whatever is worth most to you is—you guessed it—what you worship. Worship, in essence, is declaring what we value most. As a result, worship fuels our actions, becoming the driving force of all we do. And we’re not just talking about the religious crowd. The Christian. The churchgoer among us. We’re talking about everybody on planet earth. A multitude of souls proclaiming with every breath what is worthy of their affection, their attention, their allegiance. Proclaiming with every step what it is they worship.

Some of us attend the church on the corner, professing to worship the living God above all. Others, who rarely darken the church doors, would say worship isn’t a part of their lives because they aren’t ‘religious.’ But everybody has an altar. And every altar has a throne. So how do you know where and what you worship? It’s easy: You simply follow the trail of your time, your affection, your energy, your money, and your allegiance. At the end of that trail you’ll find a throne, and whatever, or whoever, is on that throne is what’s of highest value to you. On that throne is what you worship. Sure, not too many of us walk around saying; ‘I worship my stuff. I worship my job. I worship this pleasure. I worship her. I worship my body. I worship me!’ But the trail never lies. We may say we value this thing or that thing more than any other, but the volume of our actions speaks louder than our words.”

– Lou Giglio – The Air I Breathe: Worship as a Way of Life

Entertainment and Worship

Article by Pastor Joe Thorn of Redeemer Fellowship in Saint Charles, Illinois. (original source here)

In every church and every generation of Christians, there is the potential to lose our focus on the things that are most important (Heb. 2:1). We must constantly remind ourselves and re-center our churches lest we find ourselves trusting in something other than the gospel of God and the Word of God.

One of the more dangerous drifts happening in our local churches today is within our corporate worship. In many churches there is a de-emphasis on the means of grace (Scripture, prayer, and the sacraments or ordinances), and a reliance on entertainment. Some try to balance the two in the name of reaching more people with the gospel, but there is an inescapable danger in overvaluing entertainment and implementing it in corporate worship.

This is not a new phenomenon. The nineteenth-century pastor Charles Spurgeon said, “The devil has seldom done a cleverer thing than hinting to the church that part of their mission is to provide entertainment for the people, with a view to winning them.” It may not be new, but it is increasingly popular, especially in light of our entertainment-driven culture. We see this in secular songs played by worship bands to wow the crowd. It’s hard to miss the value of amusement in the comedy-full but theology-empty preaching of many pulpits. Many of us have felt it in elaborate performances for the congregation to observe, but not to participate in. For some, Sunday morning more closely resembles a variety show than an offering made to God. The danger in bringing entertainment into gathered worship lies in the aim of entertainment and its work against the aim of worship.

I am not suggesting that church should be boring or that every church should have identical worship services, as if there is only one appropriate form in which to worship the Lord. Corporate worship from church to church varies in many ways. The styles, music, and liturgies developed in particular contexts and traditions lead to different flavors in worship. The church of Jesus Christ is made up of people, and therefore congregations, from every tribe, tongue, and nation, and this means diversity from church to church. This is often a good thing, something we can celebrate, as long as the church’s worship is ordered according to the parameters of Scripture and offered by faith.

The encroachment of entertainment into our worship is not a matter of style but of substance. Entertainment is a good thing, but its purpose is the refreshment of the mind and body, not the transformation of the mind or the edification of the spirit. The danger of entertainment in worship is not about which musical instruments are permitted or what era of hymns the church should sing. The danger is found in what the church is aiming at.

Entertainment has a different aim than worship. Entertainment is something offered to people for their amusement. Yet worship has a different focus and produces a different result.

The focus of worship is God, not man, which immediately pits it against entertainment. We offer ourselves to the Lord individually and collectively on Sunday morning. The church ascribes honor to God in the reading, preaching, singing, and praying of His Word. True worship is inherently God-centered and God-directed. What is done when the church is gathered is to be done according to God’s will and for His pleasure. This stands in opposition to entertainment, which is a spiritually powerless work directed at the people.

While worship is to be directed at God, it simultaneously offers much more than entertainment can ever deliver. As the church draws near to God, the Lord draws near to us, and we receive grace. Grace—regenerating grace, renewing grace, reviving grace—is offered to the congregation through the means of grace. The result of worshiping God in spirit and truth is transformation. Entertainment cannot lead to edification. Entertainment can stir the emotions, but God uses the means of grace to change our affections. Entertainment might draw a crowd or captivate a congregation, but only the means of grace will draw people to Christ and conform them to His image.

The beauty of worship is that it is infinitely more powerful than entertainment. Entertainment seeks to replicate drama and awe. But the grace of God in worship unveils the deepest drama in the world and produces authentic awe in the light of the revelation of God.

True worship may be painful one moment and joyful the next, as we encounter God’s law and gospel, confessing our sins and resting in the pardon we have in Jesus Christ. What is more dramatic than condemned sinners being forgiven by a holy God? Than slaves’ being set free by the Savior? What is more thrilling than the Son of God’s standing in the place of the ungodly to save them from God’s wrath? The church doesn’t need a performance of any kind to aid us in worship. We need the Word of God read and preached, prayed and sung, for in this we exalt and experience our triune God.

Entertainment has its place and serves a good, if earthly, purpose. Our local churches will do well to be careful of drifting toward it in an effort to draw or address the needs of sinful men and women. The Scripture is what God uses to penetrate the soul and change the heart. May we give ourselves to worship the Lord in spirit and truth, rather than mere emotion and amusement.

Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs

Text: Ephesians 5:18-21

“There are two ways to commit idolatry: worship something other than the true God or worship the true God in the wrong way.” – Ligon Duncan. When we gather as the people of God, the aim should not be to keep as many people happy as possible but that our worship be pleasing to Him.

7 Biblical Purposes for Music

California – original source here.

The music program in the local church is vital, and it’s impact—for good or bad—on a church service is immeasurable. While some may view music as simply a form of entertainment and emotional conditioning, godly music plays a much larger role in a church.

Scripture gives at least seven purposes for Christ-honoring music. Use these principles as a gauge to evaluate the biblical soundness of your music ministry:

1. The Purpose of Worship—“And all the congregation worshipped, and the singers sang, and the trumpeters sounded: and all this continued until the burnt offering was finished” (2 Chronicles 29:28).

2. The Purpose of Thanks — “Sing unto the Lord with thanksgiving; sing praise upon the harp unto our God” (Psalm 147:7).

3. The Purpose of Rejoicing — “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise. Sing unto the Lord with the harp; with the harp, and the voice of a psalm” (Psalm 98:4–5).

4. The Purpose of Consecration — “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts” (Psalm 139:23). (Spoken in song!) “Praise ye the Lord. I will praise the Lord with my whole heart, in the assembly of the upright, and in the congregation” (Psalm 111:1).

5. The Purpose of Edification — “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Colossians 3:16).

6. The Purpose of Evangelism — “And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord” (Psalm 40:3).

7. The Purpose of Preservation of Faith — “One generation shall praise thy works to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts. I will speak of the glorious honour of thy majesty, and of thy wondrous works” (Psalm 145:4–5).

May the music of our churches bring glory to the Lord and lift our hearts in His praise.

Elements of Reformed Worship

Text: Psalm 100

God cares about our worship and about how we worship. He does not receive all worship. Some worship is corrupt and greatly displeases Him. So what kind of worship does in fact please Him? How can we know for sure?

Worship in Word and Sacrament

Scripture indicates that we are to worship God, yet much of what passes for worship today is merely a thinly veiled attempt to entertain men. In this message, Dr. J. Ligon Duncan will explain how a biblical understanding of the basic elements of Christian worship should inform the way in which we approach God.

Is Music Worship?

Dr. John MacArthur on the theme of music and the role that it plays in the church:

Quotes:

“The first misconception is that music is worship. That is not true. Music is not worship. They’re not synonymous. Music is music, and and worship is worship. But, typically, you hear people today say, ‘We’re going to worship,’ and then immediately that is essentially defined by music. Music is not worship. Music is a means to express worship, but it is not worship. Worship is the heart going up toward God in gratitude and thanksgiving for all that God has done: that’s worship. Worship is acknowledging God to be who He is revealed to be in Scripture. It is acknowledging what God has done; and in particular, that He has saved us, redeemed us, given us eternal life; and it is expressing gratitude to God. There are many ways to do that; music is one of them. But music is not worship. Music is a means by which a worshiping person expresses his thanks.”

Secondly, a misconception is that music motivates worship, music induces worship. That’s not true either. That is not true. It gives expression to love; it gives expression to adoration. But the motivation for that has to come from somewhere else, not from music. Music enhances and enriches. But the motive for all of our songs is not a sound, it’s a truth.

Another misconception is that when people have trouble worshiping, music will create worship, music will create the mood for worship. Worship is not a mood experience. That needs to be said loudly and clearly. You go to many ‘churches’ and you’ll be in the dark, and there will be sensual kind of music that appeals to the flesh at one level or another; and there will be lights flashing in all kind of directions. That has nothing to do with worship; and, frankly, does the opposite of inducing worship. It simply induces a fickle feeling. It’s a false substitute for true worship. See, true worship is a permanent attitude. John 4, ‘We worship in spirit and truth.’ That’s who we are. God seeks true worshipers. We are true worshipers. Philippians 3, ‘We worship in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.’ That’s a way of life. Our way of life is gratitude to God for who He is, what He’s done, and for our salvation and all of its blessing. We don’t need a mood created by some form of music that basically shifts – in many cases shifts the mind into neutral and generates a kind of neutral, empty, vacuous feeling. That’s not creating worship. It is true, there is something that creates worship – this will shock people – it’s preaching the Word, or reading the Word, so that when you know the truth, your heart reaches forward to God to express praise and gratitude.

Another misconception is this, that non-Christians aren’t going to come to church unless we import their music. Music so dominates our culture. It is so ubiquitous that if we’re going to appeal to nonbelievers, we’ve got to change our music. We’ve got to do the kind of music that they like and somehow baptize it if we’re going to reach out evangelistically. That’s not true. Never, never in Scripture is music ever, ever stated to be used as an evangelistic technique in some direct sense. In an indirect sense, it is because we’re singing of our Savior, right, we’re singing of salvation. But we’re singing to God, not the world, and not the unbeliever. There’s no mandate for the church to make its music appeal to the sons of Satan. So music is not worship. Music does not induce or motivate worship. Music does not somehow enhance worship by certain style and mood, nor is music ever intended for the satisfaction of nonbelievers as if that’s some entry into understanding the gospel. Continue reading

Knowledge in Worship

In this excerpt from a Ligonier conference message, Alistair Begg reminds us of the importance of knowledge in worship:

Transcript

“Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven not built by human hands.”

We know…we know.

The Christian faith engages our minds. This is something that we ought to keep reminding ourselves of, so that we don’t allow our minds to fossilize, and that we continue to be sharpened and to make progress.

I was at a church in California just a few weeks ago now—back in August I think it was, time flies—and I went there. I had a Sunday free and I was staying with friends, and I went down to the church and I was excited because I get to go now, and I don’t have to do anything at all except do whatever they tell me to do. And so I sat there and I waited for it to begin. And it was quite fascinating actually. They had big screens, and they had a clock on the screens. And when I got in it said “5 Minutes” and I had only been in about 2 seconds, and you won’t be surprised, it said “4 Minutes, 58 Seconds.” And then it counted down, and eventually it counted down, “10, 9, 8, 7, 6…”. And just right on the moment of time, the band began…and I was waiting for David Letterman at that point. I didn’t know what was going to happen next. And then eventually the band did what it did, and then the person who was to lead the praise, his opening gambit was this, “Hey! How do y’all feel this morning?” Well that was enough for me. We could have had the benediction right there that was so good. I thought, what kind of New Testament question is that? How do y’all feel this morning?

If I told you how I feel, especially in light of the last 5 minutes, you would question whether I was even a Christian at all. So don’t ask me that question. Ask me what I know. Ask me what I know. Don’t ask me what I feel about myself. Ask me what I know about God. Ask me what I know about His Word. Ask me what I know to be of verity that can deal with my soul. That’s what I need. Don’t make me sing songs about how I feel. Don’t! These silly repetitive songs again and again, ‘I just want to praise you, lift my hands and say I love you, you are everything to me’. Goodness, at half past eight on a Sunday morning I’m barely ambulatory. I can’t start there. And you want me to say that? I just kicked the dog. I don’t even have a dog. I got in an argument with someone because they took my parking space. I spilled my coffee, I didn’t read my Bible, I’m a miserable wretch, and now you want me to start here—‘how do you feel?’ I feel rotten, that’s how I feel! What do you got for me? The answer, nothing. I got nothing for you.

That’s why you have to get yourself under the control of the Scriptures. That’s why it is what we know—the verities of the Scriptures which fuel our hearts and our emotions, and lead us on. Hence, ‘praise my soul the King of heaven, to His feet thy tribute bring. Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven. Who like thee His praise should sing?’

Okay, now we’ve got something to sing about, for we have been reminded of truth. You have been ransomed; you have been healed; you have been restored; you have been forgiven. You’re looking away from yourself now. You’re looking out and to Christ. And it is in this that we have something that fuels our praise.

Lamb of God

“Lamb of God” Music and Words by Jason Hansen, Bob Kauflin, and David LaChance, Jr. © 2015 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI)

Lead Vocal: Rebecca Elliott
Piano: Bob Kauflin
Cello: Bethany Payne

Lyrics:

VERSE 1
O Lamb of God, all worlds obeyed Your will
From dark and void their being came
O Lamb of God, Your glories echo still
Creation sings its Maker’s praise
Eternal God, One with the Father
Before all time You dwelt in love
Eternal God, unlike all others
Yet You descended unto us

VERSE 2
O Lamb of God, in filthy manger lay
In humble dress You entered earth
O Lamb of God, Creator bows to save
The needy ones, helpless from birth
Incarnate Word, gift of the Father
To take our place and bear our sin
Incarnate Word led to the slaughter
You conquered death and rose again

VERSE 3
O Lamb of God now reigning on the throne
The Judge of all, faithful and true
O Lamb of God, You’ll make Your power known
When all Your foes receive their due
Victorious King, when history’s fading
You’ll call Your Bride to take her place
Victorious King, Creation’s waiting
For Your redeemed to see Your face

© 2015 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI)

From the album, Sooner Count the Stars: Worshiping the Triune God

Why the “original” version does not work

Andy@Musicademy has written a very helpful and practical article entitled “10 reasons why the ‘original’ version of a worship song won’t work in your church.” He mostly from an album or a live version from a conference on YouTube. But most of the time these arrangements have at least one element that makes them completely unusable for normal churches. So here are a few ideas that’ll help you make songs more usable.

They are in the wrong key for your congregation
Let’s start with the single biggest reason why your congregation won’t be able to sing an ‘original’ version. Album and even definitive live versions of worship songs are arranged in keys that suit the lead singer’s or the artist’s voice, NOT the congregation’s range. Albums have to be great to listen to and the vocal has to be the strongest it can be, therefore from a listening perspective it has to be in the artist’s strongest key, which 9 times out of 10 isn’t the most suitable key for a congregation because the key needs to be a compromise between stereotypical male and female vocal ranges. Broadly speaking, songs with male vocals are often 2-3 semi tones too high and songs with female vocals are (less) often 2 semi tones too low.

Octave jumps simply don’t work
Octave jumps are great tools to make songs dynamically exciting. They work great for radio where you need a big lift to keep the listener interested, BUT, whenever a song has an octave leap you alienate one or other gender in your congregation and 50% of them will either stop singing or sound like they’ve inhaled a helium balloon. So, if you genuinely want to encourage participation, don’t do octave leaps. That will probably mean moving the key down a minor or major third, but if you want more participation make it more singable for more people, more of the time.

Intros are too long
There are lots of worship songs with 8, 16 or even 32 bar intros that build a sense of dynamic anticipation. These can work at huge conferences and worship concerts but let’s remember the entire point of congregational worship is maximum congregational involvement. If they have to wait around while the band enjoys a long intro they will disengage. Then the intro really becomes much more about the band’s enjoyment rather than the congregation’s participation. Try to make intros as succinct as possible just to establish the tempo, groove and where to come in. So most of the time 2 or 4 bars is plenty. Continue reading