PERFECT WORSHIP

The God We Worship_215442_lg If you try to envision perfect worship what does it look like? For the music leader it may include great music presented flawlessly. For the preaching pastor it may have a well-crafted dynamically delivered sermon at its center. In the minds of both of these leaders, perfect worship likely includes a visible and/or audible response from congregants to either element, whether thunderous applause, weaping and nashing of teeth, or an altar filled with confessional converts. For the average church member perfect worship might include the songs that inspire them, and/or the sermon that gets them fired up. If the worshiper is a thinker, the worship may challenge and motivate their thinking. If the worshiper thrives on inspirational passion, the worship may trigger either laughter, or tears, but either way the worship would effect them in such a way that their feelings are profoundly moved. For the formal liturgy worshiper, perfect worship likely includes smells and bells and is replete with rich symbolism. For the reformed worshiper, perfect worship is likely saturated with scripture reading at every turn. The revivalist worshiper likely describes perfect worship in terms of the response by worshipers at invitation time.

I grew up as a P.K. (preacher’s kid) and Mom was Church Organist, so I was in church nine months before I was born. I have attended church worship my whole life, and have studied on worship from a historical, liturgical, biblical, spiritual, musical, and theological perspective. Even though I grew up a little Baptist boy, went to a Baptist college and Baptist seminary, I have worshiped in churches of different faith traditions, and completed formal education with the Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies, which includes students from across many denominations. It was richly fascinating to share in learning to discover how different denominations viewed and experienced worship together. I have grown through and from those experiences, and find them richly rewarding. In fact, in the descriptions above of the different perspectives of what feels like perfect worship, I admit that there have probably been times that each of those has seemed just right to me. What is confusing is that even though I am one person my sensitivity changes. I have been responsive in different ways at different times. Imagine the wide experiential swing from the kind of worship setting of a Greek Orthodox church to the holy roller experience of an outdoor tent revival with a screamin’ preacher and screamin choir accompanied by loud drums and guitars you could hear thumping from blocks away. Yet at one time or another each of these has moved my spirit to praise and commune with God.

As human beings our sensibilities can shift and change from one day to the next, or from one season of life to the next. This teenage P.K. that loved jammin’ on his guitar and wondered why we didn’t do it in church more, turned out to be the seminary music student who was mesmerized by Gregoriant chant, and cried at the first rehearsal of Brahm’s Requiem because of the haunting effect the lush harmonies evoked in his spirit. That same guy as an adult with grown kids and grandkids now sometimes drives up to a little white country church and is often deeply moved by the selfless effort of a choir leader who works all week driving a tractor, teaching school, or running an office, and then comes to church to lead people in expressions of their worship through songs that they know, and sometimes even helps them stretch to learn a new songs to help freshen the experience. Perfect? Well……depends on the rubric.

One of the problems in all of the descriptions of “perfect worship” above is that they center primarily on the external aspects of corporate worship. One of the reasons I am less than enthused about the use of the term “worship leader” is that it is so readily assigned to our utilitarian functions as organizers, coordinators, and engineers of activities included as elements in our gathered worship experiences. The “worship leader” is the one who chooses, organizes, and then leads the songs we sing in worship. Even worse the term is often used for a performer who conveniently wears the term, although leading others to sing seems the furthest thing from his or her mind. Selecting or writing unsingable songs in unsingable keys that show off the voice of the performer, or are drowned out by the 90+ decibels of the band (or organ for that matter) can hardly be called leading people to worship as a corporate body. With shifting patterns of preferences, sensibilities, and artistic appreciation, how can we satisfy ourselves in worship?  Of course that is not at all the point of worship.   Our need is to return to the heart, and continue to rest our worship in Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith.  He is the one true Worship Leader.  He sings with us (Hebrews 2:12) It is through Him we offer the sacrifice of praise (Heb 13:15).

“The real agent in all true worship is Jesus Christ.” (James B. Torrance, Worship, Community and the Triune God of Grace, InterVarsity Press, 1996, 17.)

We need Jesus, the true worship leader – the perfect human, the perfect type, the Second Adam, the perfect Lamb sacrifice, high priest, . When we pass from this life, and/or Jesus returns He will take us to be with Him in Heaven, the place of eternal worship!! Our entrance is dependent upon Him. Our praise will be rooted in Him. Our communion will take place in Him. In scripture we see solid evidence that we will sing through eternity. I do not know what kind of songs we will sing, or what style it will be, or if we will even have any sense of style (I doubt it), but I do know there in the presence of Jesus Christ our Lord it will be perfect.  I believe that even now when we gather with hearts humbled and open trusting Him, He sings with us, the Spirit gives words when we do not know what to pray, and in Jesus the worship is perfect.

 

When we all see Jesus we’ll sing and shout the victory!

 

“If the whole point of the gospel is forgiveness of sin, then why do we insist on continually parading these almost perfect lives in front of each other?”

–John Fischer in 12 Steps for the Recovering Pharise Bethany House Publishers 2000, 95

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

2 Comments on “PERFECT WORSHIP”


  1. […] Paul Clark on worship leaders, performance, and perfect worship: […]


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