Worship that Disturbs

Efforts to “sell our worship” in some of the church growth strategies of recent years have led many church leaders down a wrong path of providing worship that unveils what might be called a partial gospel.  I can remember a conversation I had with one of the early popular Christian artists who told me of being asked to sing for a very popular church that was broadcast regularly on nationwide television.  She said she was excited about the opportunity until she turned in her songlist and was instructed that no “blood songs” would be appropriate for worship.  The exchange that ensued unveiled an attitude that disallowed the gore of the gospel story, opting to focus solely on what might be called the happy side of life.

While most worship music leaders and pastors I know would be as appalled as I was about such an attitude, I wonder sometimes if we review our own worship material enough to know just how well we are presenting the full Gospel over an extended period of time.  Since most of us in Baptist life do not use the lectionary or any other prescribed form for planning our preaching or worship material selection, we are left to our own designs.  Of course, we seek to remain sensitive to the Spirit, and may follow other forms to guide us in worship planning, such as expository preaching through books of the Bible, or seasonal emphases for our church.  It seems important, however, to back up occasionally to view what occurs over a number of years, over a number of worship services to evaluate whether or not we are presenting the full Gospel on a regular basis, and not distorting our church’s view of the character of God.

Tensions are a part of worship.  Transcendence and Immanence of God are not at odds, yet do create a certain tension for us as we worship Him.  Many worship songs focus only on one side of this tension, which may not be a problem in itself unless we begin to string together only songs that present one side of the tension over an extended period of time, thus distorting the view of God.  Presenting the tension may be somewhat disturbing for a culture that wants to be able to either have everything explained rationally, or who want to feel the experiential warm fuzzy of resolution.  The full Gospel necessitates our presenting the whole truth that God is wholly other-holy Other – and at once “closer than a brother” in Christ Jesus.  It is important to express these truths along with their appropriate tensions in our worship singing as well as having them proclaimed through the preached Word, where they are revealed from God Himself.

Presenting the resolution of the cross without the horror of its cost is to misrepresent the glory, and in fact, presents no resolution or glory at all.  The cross is disturbing.  The “blood songs” are disturbing.  There is tension inherent in a “suffering Savior,” yet this tension is at the heart of our worship, and it is in presenting the fullness of the cross’s glory that we can proclaim salvation.  There is tension in a wrathful, jealous, holy God who is at once the One whose love endures forever; the One who forgives, and forgives and frees us to truly live.  These tensions are disturbing, yet powerful and at the center of worship.  We must be certain as worship leaders that over time we guide our people to not only allow, but embrace the disturbance as integral to our worship, centering our proclamation “in Christ alone,” as presented in the whole of Scripture.

            “This gift of love and righteousness

              Scorned by the ones He came to save

              ‘Til on that cross as Jesus died

              The wrath of God was satisfied;

              For every sin on Him was laid

              Here in the death of Christ I live.”

                                    –Keith Getty & Stuart Townend ©2002

How great is our God!

Paul

Explore posts in the same categories: Singing Worship, Worship Reminders, Worship theology, Worship thoughts

One Comment on “Worship that Disturbs”

  1. Rich Says:

    I just stumbled across your blog and have read/skimmed most of your posts and I must say that you have some really rock solid content.

    I am the worship pastor at my church in KC. Just by reading your blog I can tell that you and I could talk for hours. I have a worship blog as well at sounddoxology.blogspot.com and with your permission I’d love to link your site to my blogroll.

    I’ve stumbled across a few others and think it would be cool if we could all link together and get a strong network of worship blogs going on.

    Thanks for your blog. Great work.


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