Gospel Music

Among the measuring sticks to be considered in assessing our worship plans should be included evaluation that a clear communication of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is included in worship.  When invited to evaluate and consult churches regarding their worship practices, I am highly attuned to whether or not there is a clear presentation and celebration of the Gospel that is central in the worship event.  The word Gospel, like many other sacred words, is too often tossed around as an adjective describing style or ambiance, rather than recognized as the center of God’s story that holds the power unto salvation.  People talk often about “Gospel Music,” referring to country-influenced upbeat songs whose message can be about anything from childhood memories to embellished descriptions of a place called heaven. While such a moniker has come to describe a genre of music that you can download from iTunes, it is no guarantee that the Good News of Jesus has been presented in a service of worship.  Neither am I speaking of an evangelistic service, which can also be more about ambiance than substance.  Gospel-centered worship can take place in “high church” or “low church” environments.  True Gospel music is centered in the truth of Jesus Christ, son of God, Redeemer, Savior, and ultimate Victor!

One of the limitations of language is that through common usage valued words and phrases can lose their original meaning and/or their potency.  When the Good News of the story of Christ permeates our worship planning and our spirit as we design a worship service or as we select material to be included in gathered worship of our congregations, it can guide our thought processes.  Such meditative posturing can also determine where worship “ends up,” so to speak.  When we understand worship to be an engagement with God in which we commune with Him on His terms and by means that only He can provide, it helps us remain dependent on Him through the planning and selecting.  The people who will join me in this engagement of worship, those for whom I am planning and selecting, need to hear the Lord’s truth from His word, and to know of His provision.  Those understandings do not only come through the sermon or the spoken invitation of a worship service; rather they are said and sung in congregational music, choir presentation, readings, spoken bridges, prayer, and even in instrumental presentations that include textual associations.  Certainly the environment of worship fosters and supports (or works against) the conveyance of message, but the centerpiece in our planning and in the worship activitity itself must be Christ!

Far too often I find worship services in evangelical churches keep coming back to be people-focused (most often “me” focused).  Having no set liturgy we may tend to design everything around our own experience.  Some pastors desire every service to be “celebrative.”  Consistent hype that may answer that desire often does not address Christ’s victory over that which is truly sad, hurtful, or impossible for the human sensitivity to comprehend.  Sudden and tragic loss of life, unchecked injustice, living in dire circumstance with thwarted plans for relief are likely not best met in worship with a kind of happy Jesus song that may come across trite and even completely insensitive.  Jesus, who was, after all, “tempted at all points as we are,” knows our every weakness and is ultimate Victor because He has absorbed the full weight of sin, sadness, the grave, and wrath.  It is important that we plead the Spirit to aid our worship planning that includes the full message of Gospel.  The application of that principal takes effect on every aspect and element of worship, which includes the music selected, and its means of presentation.  It is not style-specific.  There is meaningful Gospel presented in O Sacred Head Now Wounded just as there is in Nothing but the Blood. 

As we plan worship services for our churches who name the Name of Christ, let’s be certain that we are engaged in Gospel-presentation in which Christ is ultimate Victor over real issues of life; faith, culture, personal, church, community, world.  The victory we proclaim is not temporal, but eternal!  Let’s help worshipers to lift their eyes unto the hills from whence comes our help.  Whether we are singing to broken lives, broken homes, or broken communities, Christ is Victor!  When the oil is drifting up on the beach, or wars have no end in sight, Christ is Victor!  When jobs have been lost and all seems bad news, Christ is Victor!  When power-mongers seem in total control and out of control, Christ is Victor!  This is Gospel – Good News!  We are not proclaiming a walk on the bright side of life..We are proclaiming the ageless One who created all and in whom all things hold together!  We are proclaiming the Worthy Lamb who was and is and is to come!!!!

Sing the Gospel!

Paul

Explore posts in the same categories: Church Music, Leading Worship, Singing Worship, Spiritual formation through singing, Worship Reminders, Worship theology, Worship thoughts

2 Comments on “Gospel Music”

  1. Brad Huston Says:

    Great admonishment, but let’s remember that while a worship leader cannot evoke the Spirit like the proverbial genie from a lamp, he does set the tone. If he treats his congregation like a rock concert, there’s little hope that the Gospel will be portrayed to the church. But if he humbles himself in his musical duties and portrays a broken sinner saved by grace behind an instrument or microphone, then the Spirit will be there and the congregation will be blessed.

    Brad

    • pclarkjr Says:

      Thanks for your response, Brad. Indeed, the worship music leader’s meditation in worship planning and selecting is validated by his own experience of God’s saving grace. As you have stated well, this places us in a posture of humility and reminds us that we are but sinners forgiven. My primary point is that many times worship leaders still resort to making worship either about the music, about their own experience, or about the presumed desire of people present in worship gatherings. All of these fall far short of the Gospel truth that Jesus is Lord of All!!! The line between God-centered (theocentric) worship and human-centered (anthropocentric) worship is sometimes elusive. We who accept responsibility to place words on the lips of people and call that worship must be acutely aware of that tension between those two polls. That humbling that you aptly describe includes bowing down our hearts in prayerful desire that He is the one lifted up in worship!

      Lord, help us all to be faithful!
      Paul


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