Winning Worship

   This is not an article about worship on Superbowl Sunday.  To the contrary I want to invite you to a much larger view of worship not only on this coming Sunday but every Sunday, and ask you to consider the victorious tone that surely should characterize, or at the very least, underscore every service of Christian worship.   I think this is important especially as we approach the Lenten season.

I have written on this subject before and always find it challenging to address Triumphant worship insofar as today’s church culture too frequently confuses victorious tone with happy clappy escapism.  Robert Webber says, “The current crisis of the church is that many define it out of the world’s narrative.” In this setting the song of celebration is presumed to have the same tone as our favorite football team’s fight song.  The theme of winning, as we perceive it, is often steeped in our view of success.  Instead, I want to remind fellow worship planners and leaders of our responsibility to cast the victorious vision before worshipers where God wins.  We have the opportunity to engage them in triumphant worship expression to the praise of His glorious grace.  This tone of victory results from what God has done (past) and what He is doing (present), and what He will do (future hope).

Consider how you might convey a sense of Christ-victory even as you prepare for worship this coming Lord’s Day.  As you plan and prepare consider these themes:

  • Christian worship is timeless
    • As old as time itself – Ancient
    • As lasting as eternity – without end – Future
    • Worship reflects a battle that has already been won and that for all eternity
    • In worship we win by surrender
    • The Victor desires the worshiper
    • Our unity is in Christ, not our ability to bring uniformity

As you plan each segment of corporate worship for your church consider how a victorious tone might help to shape and characterize the worship gathering.  Whether you publish an ordered worship guide or not, consider within the flow of the acts of the worshiping community ways that Christ’s triumph (past, present, and future) is being demonstrated or even fleshed out through worship expression.  This tone may be expressed as much through spirit as specific material.  For instance, the song What Wondrous Love Is This, sung in its minor key (material), is still full of the hope and promise and deep faith expression (spirit), “to God and to the Lamb I will sing, I will sing” (from Revelation).  In this wondrous love that takes us aback, “O my soul! O my soul!” there is sweet and transforming victory.

  • Gathering – entering His courts with praise (singing praise that reflects His sovereignty and Lordship over all creation), greetings and hospitality that recognize our unity in Christ (songs of unity, spirit, and fellowship-if a time of fellowship is observed encourage robust expressions of sincere welcome and not just “how ya doin?’” speak)
  • Prayer of Invocation – pray or sing scripture that assures worshipers of His presence. Could there be greater victory than Incarnation in our worship?
  • Confession – wherever we place this act in our free church tradition, it is crucial that we engage in confessing our bent toward sinning and ask forgiveness.  The victorious tone of His promise will closely follow
  • Assurance of Pardon – scripture whether read or sung proclaims His triumph over our sinful selves, “Prone to wonder, Lord I feel it.”
  • Word – read, sung, and responded to, the Word is central and authoritative in our retelling of the God story.  The Biblical record is a book of complete victory.  This is not just in the end (Revelation), but rather throughout.  The same is true and applicable for our lives in the present.
  • Table – whether the actual Lord’s Table, or what Constance Cherry calls alternate thanksgiving, the song of victory raises to its apex of crescendo in our partaking and response to Who Christ is, what He has done, and our full hope to feast with Him forevermore.  Music must surely permeate this portion of our worship
  • Sending – singing, covenanting with one another and committing ourselves to remain faithful.  We can sing our way out, greet and bid Christ’s presence as we prepare to go, or depart to a resounding musical theme (postlude) of victory – just do not let this time slide into a sense of “we’re outta here” as has too often been the case.  We have marching orders to live victoriously as Christ-bearers marked by our faith and baptism.
Explore posts in the same categories: Leading Worship, Music Ministry, Singing Worship, Spiritual formation through singing, Uncategorized, Worship Leaders, Worship Reminders, Worship theology, Worship thoughts, Youth Worship

2 Comments on “Winning Worship”

  1. Zach Young Says:

    Thank you for recognizing the value of “What Wondrous Love Is This.” I love American folk hymnody such as this, because it is so real, so “stripped down.” You can feel the vulnerability and the really difficult life circumstances out of which much of our Appalachian hymns came from. We are singing it this Sunday, so it has been really fresh on my mind this week. Definitely one of my favorites out of that tradition.

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