Connecting Worship and Life

 

If we follow the Apostle Paul’s admonition in Romans 12:1 to offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God as our spiritual act of worship, then we surely recognize that this is all inclusive of every moment, every day – all of life. Worship and Music Leaders have a great opportunity and responsibility to connect worship and life.  The season of high school and college graduations, or other end of the school year celebrations present obvious opportunities for life connection in worship.  Careful planning presents worship leaders with a powerful analogy whereby they (pastors and music leaders) can speak truth into the lives of the congregation.  Drawing direct attention to God’s sovereign hand at work in the lives of students who arrive at a landmark may not only encourage the students and their families, but provides vicarious application to the entire congregation. It may also help church members recognize the part they can and do play in lives of fellow believers.

As music ministry leaders you may have had close relationship with students through their school years.  (Note: I strongly affirm direct relationship by the minister of music with student choirs!  The benefits of engagement through teen years far outweigh the costs.)  If so, graduation presents a beautiful opportunity to confirm this ministry through creative reminders to students.  I know music ministers who have written hymn texts in honor of graduating senior classes, and not only sung them in worship, but framed lyrics and presented them to graduating seniors as a gift.  I know music ministers who give mementos that include an inscribed phrase or title of a song from youth choir literature to remind students of their experiences on mission through song, or other appropriate messages.  Video presentations accompanied by music that has been meaningful to students are emotional statements of shared life and ministry during years of Christian development.  Having said that, I believe it very important to hasten to the ultimate center of our worship, namely Jesus Christ!  While we celebrate the lives of students and families at landmark points of their lives, stopping there leaves us falling far short of Christian worship.

As worship music leaders you have opportunity to connect songs to these landmark days that bring focus “back to the heart of worship, Jesus.”  I believe the best songs to underscore worship in these instances, as in all of worship, are those that lift high the Lord.  In these seasons students and families are inundated with opportunities to focus on themselves through nostalgic reflection.  Baccalaureate services and graduation ceremonies are often punctuated by reminiscence of “the glory years,” and are dramatized by innocent emotional statements like, “we will never forget.”  The truth is, however, that much will be forgotten, and much deserves to be forgotten.   The Truth of worship is that every gathering for worship is remembrance, and rehearsal, restating of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who was and is and is to come!  What a blessed privilege to engage students, families, and congregations together in singing eternal remembrance, eternal Truth!

As you approach worship planning for these special days, let me encourage you to keep the question before you, “How are we pointing to God?”  This question includes thoughts of ways God has brought us to this point, which applies beyond graduates and families and includes all worshipers.  It also includes questions and faith answers of trusting God for our future.  In each instance it is important to prayerfully consider the focus – engagement with God on His terms.  It is insufficient to bask in our need, or to celebrate our lives.  There are many approaches that can be fruitful:

  1.  Tried and true hymns applicable to the setting and season, such as Great Is Thy Faithfulness or For the Beauty of the Earth.

 

  1.  Songs that remind worshipers of God’s watchful eye, guiding hand, and shepherding love in His sovereignty, such as Day by Day, My Shepherd Will Supply My Need,or worship song, Blessed Be Your Name.

 

  1. Songs that call attention to the attributes of God that assure us of His continuing presence, which opens a huge list of songs from Leaning on the Everlasting Arms to My Lord Is Near Me All the Time to How Great is Our God.

 

  1. Usage of planning aids.  One of the best results of the new Baptist Hymnal and Lifeway Worship Project is the Resource and Planning Edition.  Whether your church uses the hymnal or not, this tool should be on your shelf.  The index for songs of “CHURCH LIFE” includes a host of songs suitable for Graduation, which the index gives as a category.
  2. Review of new hymnals and song sources.  Celebrating Grace Hymnal includes some songs by outstanding contemporary hymnists.  Timothy Dudley-Smith has some fine hymn texts that pray Christ’s reign in life (see lyrics below from the hymn, Lord, for the Years).  Celebrating Grace also contains fine congregational readings, including one entitled, “Seasons of Life.”
  3. I am not a fan of “give me your favorites” worship planning, but there may be rich information gained through asking students and parents to offer lists of music, scripture, and other material that have served their spiritual development through childhood and teen years.

You who have been planning worship for singing, playing, and reading for years certainly do not need me to give you ideas.  I hope the reflection is some help to young worship leaders, musicians who sit at the bench of an instrument and look for music to include on days of particular significance to worshipers, and to any who might benefit from a little prodding just to get going as this season of the year rolls around yet again, yet is a season of life for some with whom you serve, some to whom you minister.  May God bless you as you guide worshipers through communion with God and help them offer thanks to Him for His promise to be with us always, even to the end of the age.

LORD, FOR THE YEARS

Lord, for the years Your love has kept and guided,

Urged and inspired us, cheered us on our way,

Sought us and saved us, pardoned and provided

Lord of the years, we bring our thanks today.

 

Lord, for ourselves; in living power remake us,

Self on the cross and Christ upon the throne;

Past put behind us, for the future take us,

Lord of our lives, to live for Christ alone.

                        Timothy Dudley-Smith, 1967

                        ©1969 Hope Publishing Co

                        Meter: 11.10.11.10

Encouragingly,

Paul

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

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