Whose Story Is This?


   Easter Sunday morning I set the alarm clock earlier than my usual Sunday, not only because I needed to get to church a little early, but also because it was Easter Sunday and I wanted to spend additional time for personal spiritual preparation in ways I will mention later.  My alarm is set to the “radio” setting so that I am awakened by a station rather than one of those obnoxious buzzers.  I currently have it set to a popular Christian station.  As often happens when I am excited I awoke ten minutes before the alarm sounded, but laid there for a moment to doze when the first voices from the radio station blurted out.  I was anticipating resurrection songs and scripture on this Easter Sunday, but instead I heard talking, first by a host, then by a cohort somewhat akin to a color commentator.  They were discussing certain spiritual disciplines they practice and were discussing the benefits to their lives, daily and longer term.  Though wide awake I hit the snooze button to see if the scripture and songs would come a little later.  I got up and started the routine of pulling out clothes for the day, etc.  Nine minutes later the alarm sounded again, and again it was voices talking, this time about family relationships.  Now curious about programming on the station, I hit the snooze two more times.  Each time the station was broadcasting talking heads and/or interviews.  No music, no scripture, and only an occasional mention of Easter.  All of the programming had moralistic value and positive direction, but I was disappointed on several levels.

One thing that came to mind through my repeated visits to the snooze button Sunday was a question related not only to Easter Sunday, but to every Sunday, and more broadly to all of life; “Whose story is this, anyway?”  I believe it to be a central question of our worship, gathered and sent.  As such the question will at every point give direction to the worship planner-leader.  Whose story are we telling in worship?  Where worship design has no prescription per se, as in many evangelical traditions, my own included, a continuous reassessment is necessary to avoid drifting along with patterns more determined by “top 40” Christian playlists, or CCLI downloads, than by biblical patterns with theological integrity.  How often do we hear a song, or a topical discussion from within the walled-off Christian industry subculture, and begin to try and find a way to work it in to worship?

In the afterglow of Easter 2012, as we march toward a Sunday referenced by a regrettably few evanglicals, Pentecost, let us give renewed consideration to a central tenet of Christian worship, Worship is God’s story, centered in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit that the triune God will be glorified in all the earth, including in and through our lives as worshipers.  I pray we will make a new or renewed commitment to careful biblical evaluation to the content of material and means of presentation and participation in gathered worship, and will find fuel from deep devotion to personal worship, and time spent with mentors and others to whom we can make ourselves spiritually accountable.

Sunday’s radio experience was balanced by additional morning time before going to church spent in the Word, re-reading the story of the crucifixion and resurrection and the ascension.  I certainly reflected on personal attitudes and confessed those to the Lord, but find miraculous joy in the mere idea that He would invite me to be part of the grand narrative of what He is doing in the world.  Help me, Lord, to always come back “to the heart of worship.”

Explore posts in the same categories: Church Music, Congregational Singing, Leading Worship, Music Ministry, Private Worship, Singing Worship, Worship Leaders, Worship Pastors, Worship Reminders, Worship theology, Worship thoughts

2 Comments on “Whose Story Is This?”

  1. Ed Kee Says:

    As someone who spent 30 years in the “walled off Christian industry subculture”, I’m glad to hear someone in a leadership position (a gatekeeper, if you will) sound a warning about guarding content in our worship songs and materials. Not everything that comes from our “trusted” Christian publishers (music or books) – or even our over-adulated, high-profile worship leader/recording artists is worthy of exposing to our congregations. We are accountable to God for what we teach. If you’re teaching a new song to your congregation, you must analyze every word and thought to make sure it conforms completely to the Word of God. Regretfully,most of our churches sing many praise and worship songs filled with theological error, not to mention the ill-crafted songwriting that we struggle to sing. The truth is that there are very few, if any, true gatekeeprs (guardians of truth and integrity) in the Christian music publishing business. The catch the big stuff, but let the let the “little things” go in the name of “creativity” or “poetic license”, etc. These are all good people and sincere Christians, but for many reasons, too numerous to mention here, theydo not assume that gatekeeper role in every detail when it comes to publishing. It is then up to each worship leader to be the gatekeeper for his congregation – to make sure that 1) the songs he allows his congregaton to sing are scripturally sound 2) that the songs are musically pleasing and singable so that the message of the song is not encumbered by the music upon which it is carried and 3) that the focus of all the elements of the worship service point to and exalt one thing and one thing only – God the Father and Jesus Christ.

    • Paul Clark Jr Says:

      Ed, so glad you broke through the wall. When motivational centers become cloudy or even just blatantly self-serving the subject and object of worship are surely something or someone other than the triune God. Your comments supply a much needed alert from an important and informed voice. Thank you for your reply and affirmation. Back at ya.

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