SINGING IN FOURFOLD WORSHIP – RENEWAL

  Over the past few weeks I have sought to draw attention to each of the four major acts in fourfold worship and to draw attention as to how congregational singing might offer opportunity for engaging worshipers in each of these acts: Gathering, Word, Table, Sending.  As a conclusion to this emphasis I want to reference my own writing – compiling on worship renewal through congregational singing.  I want to particularly address those who plan and lead congregational music for worship, because I believe what you do in song selection, as well as in the manner of your leadership encouragement in a particular service of worship, either facilitates or distracts from community worship engagement.

When talking about a confrontational moment you perhaps have heard the saying, “It is time for a ‘come to Jesus’ meeting.”  In the privacy of your office, home, or your corner at Starbucks, I want to invite you to have a “come to Jesus meeting” regarding the state of congregational singing among the people you have opportunity to lead in worship singing.  Borrowing from Robert Webber and others who reflect theologically and spiritually on corporate worship I have offered these:

SIGNS THAT WORSHIP NEEDS RENEWAL

 

  1. Worship is focused on human experience
  2. Worshipers are passive as spectators
  3. Worship lacks a spirit of joy and/or enthusiasm
  4. Form and structure of worship liturgy lacks flow or understandability
  5. Little or no sense of mystery and awe
  6. Singing is dominated by platform performance
  7. Preaching is lacking in Gospel focus, enthusiasm, or sense of authenticity
  8. The Bible is not central to worship
  9. Little or no reading of scripture apart from the sermon
  10. Infrequent observances of ordinances
  11. Atmosphere lacks spirit of hospitality and welcome

A question arises as to how we can measure these signs, always remembering that outward signs, like all worship symbols, are outward indicators or expressions of inward realities.  Worship is a matter of the heart and of the community of hearts unified by the Spirit.  Worship is a spiritual reality, and as such is ultimately evaluated by how much we are becoming like that which we worship.  In the long term we know we are worshiping Jesus as we become more and more Christ-like.

That said, I believe the aforementioned list can assist us in prayerfully assessing what is happening in our places of worship among the people we are called to assist pastorally, during our times of worship singing.  Here are some possible tools to consider to aid you in evaluation:

  • Videotape congregational participation in worship – through each fold of fourfold worship scan the congregation with video cameras positioned in different locations to discover the level of physical and aural involvement during gathering, word, table, and sending.  See if you can sense whether worshipers give indications of understanding what they are doing and why, and if congregational singing is serving to enhance that act of worship (addressing #’s 1 – 4 above).
  • Develop a brief survey that can be conducted on recent guests who visited the church worship services, asking about their sense of the church’s warmth of welcome and hospitality. (addressing #11)
  • Have small group leaders (such as Sunday School teachers) to conduct simple show of hands surveys among their class participants as to the centrality of scripture in your church’s worship services. (addressing #8)
  • Form focus groups involving persons from a cross section of age groups in the church to discuss each of the signs indicated above.  This will not only give you input from these age groupings, but will offer opportunity for much needed worship education for those and others they may influence.  NOTE: care must be taken that focus group discussion does not become an opportunity for “what music I like,” which is completely contrary to your intended purpose.  Such discussion blatantly contradicts #1 above, in fact.
  • Over an extended number of Sundays provide the above list to a variety of selected individuals to grade the worship environment based on each plank above, using a scale of A – G, for instance.
  • Involve the choir, senior pastor, and other individuals who have worship leadership responsibilities to assist in measuring the listed signs, and engage them in open discussion regarding weekly worship gatherings.

These are not meant to be exhaustive lists, but rather are intended to stimulate your prayerful thinking as to what is taking place in your church’s corporate worship experiences.  We must never forget that worship is a Divine mystery that evokes human response.  As our friend and mentor, Dr. Gerald Borchert has stated, “There is a numinous quality about God and Jesus to which philosophers and theologians have given the designation of the mysterium tremendum, which essentially means that such mystery is beyond our understanding or control.[1]  The sense of mystery on one hand places us at distance from the Holy Other that is God, and at once draws us to the knowing that is made known to us in the birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension, and promised return of Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Thanks be to God for this glorious mystery.  Thanks be to God for the Holy Spirit Who moves in our hearts drawing us to Him, to one another, and to make His praise known in the world He created.


[1] Gerald Borchert, Worship in the New Testament: Divine Mystery and Human Response (St. Louis: Challice Press, 2008) referencing the work The Idea of the Holy by Rudolph Otto.

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

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