Working at Worship

Sunday experiences for me this week provided a reminder that Christian worship is expressed in many dialects.  I attended a worship service with a new church plant that held its first public worship service in an elementary school gym.  The pastor’s transparent excitement and understanding of faith walk were magnetic.  The music was predictably loud, but included familiar songs as well as one I had not heard before.  The people’s participation seemed to be in keeping with the same level of familiarity as mine.  There was ample invitation and opportunity for worshipers to join the song, whether they could be heard or not.  Later in the day I went to another church where I met with a  young pastor and a worship planning team to discuss worship in their small intergenerational church.  Those in the meeting indicated  their church had a definite need for more spirited participation in worship singing.  We shared some of the challenges inherent in a setting like theirs and I heard about the music to which people responded best in their setting.  The songs they discussed included older and newer songs with some people responding better to older and some to newer (no surprise there).  We talked about helping the congregation past song (or style) preference-based participation toward a spirit of incarnational service to one another.  We prayed that the Lord would guide as to whether and when the church might be ready for a worship renewal conference.  Following a meeting with the choir of that church I headed to my own church to complete the day by listening to an evening of choral music presented by the Belmont University Concert Choir.  Through the course of the cay I felt I had covered a pretty wide gamut of settings and dialects of worship through song.


As tired as this discussion of music style can get, it still lives on.  In many cases churches have found their voice that either tilts to one side or the other of a stylistic spectrum, or they have settled on a blending of expressions.  In other churches, while some blending of styles predominates their worship singing, there is still a tension that lies just under the surface waiting for an opportunity to prove a superiority of one expression or the other.  The best thing I can say about such scenarios is that in truly reflective moments worshipers may recognize that we are hopeless to conquer that tension on our own.   Only the Spirit can change our hearts.  The purpose of this article is not really to address the value of these stances, for any of these mixtures have potential to serve or not serve the larger purpose of genuine worship from God’s people.  My purpose, rather, is to call attention yet again to the underlying foundation of worship singing and to call us again to offer our bodies (our whole selves) as living sacrifices which is our reasonable act of worship. (Rom 12:1)


Worship is work.  When a colleague Tennessee worship pastor and I worshiped in the Campo Grande Church in Rio de Janeiro on a Sunday morning while scouting our Tennessee Mens Chorale mission trip several years ago, we sat in a service where Portuguese was spoken.  That morning we had no interpreter.  We sang English on the songs we knew,  tried to stumble out some Portuguese on those that we could.  We listened to the passion of the preaching, sensed the heart of the people, read our own Bibles, experienced a warmth of open hospitality from God’s children in this other part of the world, and sought to return the same the best we could not speaking the language.  It was rich with Gospel in that our faith in Christ gave relation to these brothers and sisters.  It was work as we had to listen, translate mentally as much as we could and demonstrate participation that reflected the Spirit alive in us.


Worship music leaders, call us to worship Him, never the music.  Admonish us to work at the task, not as if this attracts more of God’s favor on us, but rather that we might reflect the Gospel of the Christ who came not to be served, but to serve, has paid for our sins and set us free to love one another and to be one in Him as He is alive in us.


For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.  For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Col 1:9-14, NIV)





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

One Comment on “Working at Worship”

  1. One of the most enduring lessons of belonging to a community is learning to share. In worship, especially, we have to learn that some sections are aimed at newcomers, some at the children, periods of silence for some, and singing for others – and to do it with good grace! In some ways it is hardest to practice in church where we want a transporting experience. But if we can’t cooperate in church, we’ll never learn true understanding.

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