hell in a handbasketSometimes when watching the evening news or when Cable TV is allowed to run as background noise in our home my wife or I, either one, will sometimes make editorial note, “the world is headed to hell in a handbasket.”  Easily adjusted to cover our nation, state, or town the alliterative locution of unclear origin (Wikipedia) expresses what seems to be certain doom for that to which it is applied.  In days of wide cultural shifts away from traditional values and mores that adjust to allow for technological changes that outpace the human mind’s capacity to embrace, and/or moral contemplation to surmise.   Whether we are watching displays of impenetrable political impasse, disastrous results of human folly, or expanding horizons of evil activity, whether motivated by religious terror or basic greed, the fact is that sometimes it appears that everything is headed in an unstoppable downward spiral.  I do catch myself at times asking why the 24-hour-a-day display of so much bad stuff converts into a multi-billion dollar enterprise.  Then I am reminded that I am watching it myself.  It sells because we watch.  And it becomes addicting.  Maybe we need an intervention.  Oh wait!  Is this a role of the Church?

Historic Christian worship includes prayers of intercession.  Jesus taught his disciples to pray for the coming of the Kingdom.  He prayed for the unity of His people, even from one generation to another.  On the cross he prayed for those that stood around, even those responsible for his sufferings.  His teachings included reminders to pray for our enemies and those who persecute us.  The Apostle Paul, in his instruction to Timothy about the ordering of public worship, noted needs to express in prayer (1 Timothy 2:1-4).  It is evident through the New Testament that Christians are to pray for an environment in which the Gospel message might be made known.  The Church has exercised intercessory prayer as a major undertaking of Lord’s Day worship through its history.  The ancient church and church of the Reformation engaged in intercessory prayer as a hallmark of Christian activity in the world.

Are we missing our mark in public worship when we give scant attention to such historic actions as the reading of scriptures (not just preaching from them, but actually reading the Word as worship), and engaging in intercessory prayer?  As worshiping musicians are we searching for songs that help us pray the prayers of the people, express concern for peaceable surroundings, and lift up a lost and dying world before a Triumphant Savior?  Do we help to couch worship singing in such a way as to pronounce Good News in our “going to hell in a handbasket” world?  Do pastors offer clear call to God’s people to act in an intercessory manner in their worship, rather than becoming obsessed with personal pleasure experiences of emotional release?

Formal liturgical worship environments include prescription for the intercessory component of Christian worship in the tradition of historic Church figures from Clement of Rome, Justin Martyr, and Tertullian throughout centuries of worship practice.  In free church tradition and revivalist practice such engagement is no less necessary for Christ-following worshipers.  In fact, the very nature of revival and renewal would seem to include ongoing emphasis upon the need for pleas to heaven for peaceful communities, Holy Spirit conviction that leads to salvation of our neighbors, friends, and family, and worship that reminds Christians (“little Christs”) of their own need to renew vows and deepen devotion to Word and deed practice.

I am convinced that people are hungry for spiritual authenticity that seeks to center worship in Triune God, and prompts His Church to actively love Him, and to love their neighbors as themselves.

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


  1. Frank Crawford Says:

    Great article, Paul, with one disagreement – I am not so sure that people are hungry for spiritual authenticity. Some are, to be sure, but like children on Easter morning, many would rather have the sugary feel-good fluff because they have never developed a mature taste for the authentic spiritual life. And I fear that too many leaders have offered the candy in order to maintain the numbers. Hope I am wrong.

    • I understand your reaction, Frank. I agree wholeheartedly that “too many leaders have offered the candy in order to maintain numbers.” This senseless maintenance of the numbers game charades as spiritual “success,” which has no biblical basis, but has been embraced by many church leaders as such. Big crowds make us feel good temporarily, but have little to do with how well worshipers are reflecting the Christ we claim to worship.

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