WHATEVER HAPPENED TO JOYFUL JOYFUL?

joyful choir singing  Just how joyful is church these days? For church leaders there are so many issues crashing down on us, both from inside and outside the church. Pressure, pressure, pressure! I recently received a promotional piece for “Pastor Resources.” The booklet included promotion for such exciting book titles as these:

  • Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore
  • Why Nobody Wants to Be Around Christians Anymore
  • Autopsy of a Deceased Church

I could add these titles to others I have read that sound a similar tone, Unchristian, You Lost Me, The End of Religion, and I Sold My Soul on Ebay to name a few.  Just re-reading these titles makes me wonder if I should just give in, save some time and read Atheism for Dummies, and be done with it. Looks like some marketeers have discovered power a la shock jocks.

But wait! Most of these books (not the Atheism one, of course), have subtitles that give a bit more optimistic outlook, and actually reflect more of the intention of each book and its author. We all know that it’s the “answers” people are looking for, even though it seems to take the Debbie Downer titles to get our attention in the first place. The “Change or Die” (another title actually) tactics do tend to capture our attention in our alarmist cultural context. So we feel a little better if we read 12 Ways to Keep Your Church Alive, How 4 Acts of Love will Make Your Church Irresistible, or How 4 Acts of Love Will Make Your Faith Magnetic. Ah! Now we’re getting somewhere, because these subtitles give us some hope. To be fair, most all of these authors are attempting to offer helps to church leadership. And everyone – even, or perhaps I should say, especially pastors and worship leaders – wants hope.

You know what gives real hope? Worship appropriately centered in the Gospel of Jesus Christ! I am fearful that our obsession with ourselves and how we feel about worship has distracted us from true worship that Robert Webber calls “the gospel in motion,” the Christ Event. On the other hand, I am fearful that leaders stare at negative numbers in church attendance and financial giving, panic seeing as how their own livelihood depends on such things, and begin to use worship for other purposes. It is just such thinking that leads us to start focusing worship on how it will make us feel about ourselves as we try and use it to evangelize, or proselytize members of other churches to our setting. Under the pressure to produce numbers, pastors and worship leaders try and motivate the congregation to get to work! The unintended message becomes, “we can change lives. We just need to try harder and do more.” Quite unintentionally, as we emphasize the power of us, we de-emphasize or worse yet un-faith the power of God.

Let’s look at a more biblically sound worship. Webber states:

Worship in the New Testament, like worship among the Hebrews, is rooted in an event: in the living, dying, and rising of Christ, the power of the Evil One has been dethroned and a new creation has begun. This new creation is the Church, the people of God, and we are called to live in Christ. That is, we are to be like him; we are to live according to his new commandment of love; and our entire life is to be an expression of Christ in us. Christ living his life through us. We are Christ’s hands, and his feet.[1]

He goes on to reiterate how our worship acts out the Christ event. As proclaimers of the Christ story, certainly it takes on a very personal flavor. “The worship that celebrates Christus Victor is a worship that takes hold in my life and calls me into the victory of Christ in my day-to-day living.” Just as the song of the Old Testament is the story of God’s deliverance of His people, so the song of the New Testament is the song of the atoning Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world! As the story and the song becomes ours we enter into the song of the redeemed, and this is a forever song.

I hope that even in just reading the above paragraphs you can get a sense of the victorious tone of the Gospel. This is far superior to any happy clappy musical experience that depends upon musical gimmicks to make us think we are having a good time. It is also superior to lyrical self-obsession where the center point is really me. Such can surely not compare to our participation in Christ’s defeat of the devil, and of the power of evil. Webber reminds us “God wants to see the devil defeated in our life and Christ truly risen as the new creation in us.” This is display of Christ’s victory over evil at work even in our lives. Surely this victorious tone of gospel display will bring back the song that is Joyful! Joyful!

[1] Robert Webber Webber on Worship – Volume 1. (Worship Leader Partnership – Worship Leader Magazine, 2012) Kindle. Loc 294 of 1729

Explore posts in the same categories: Choir Ministry, Church keyboard players, 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

One Comment on “WHATEVER HAPPENED TO JOYFUL JOYFUL?”

  1. Mollie Bird Says:

    Paul, somehow this reading reminded me of my mothers reaction to the young man and, was it with guitar.


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