Posted tagged ‘Worship Is Prayer’

Singing Worship and Mission – A Personal Testimony

October 20, 2014

World  I grew up on the second pew of Baptist churches where my dear dad was pastor. He was preacher, too, of course, but I choose the term pastor to reference Dad as a term of endearment because he was first and foremost a shepherding pastor of the people he served. His preaching was clearly an aspect of pastoring, shepherding God’s people through the Word of God. It was a normal and regular occurrence to hear prayers for specific church members by name voiced in our home before meals or bedtime. It was not unusual to sense Dad’s desire for spiritual renewal to take hold in the congregation, or for the church to have courage in their witness. We prayed for missionaries by name, and purposefully learned about them, including hosting them in our church and home at times. I am sure that kind of home environment fueled my grasp of missions giving, missions praying, and missions worship. As good Southern Baptists our churches sang the militant hymns associated with “doing missions,” Send the Light, We’ve a Story to Tell to the Nations, O Zion Haste, and We Have Heard the Joyful Sound. Stacked atop the Southern Baptist Convention’s unrelenting emphasis of missions giving and missions education through Girls’ Auxiliary (G.A.’s) and Royal Ambassadors (R.A.’s), I never doubted but what missions were integral to life as church, life as a Christian.

I know that the sentences above testify only to my own experiences as child, Baptist, believer, and novice worshiper. Fellow Baptists, however, will recognize the terminology, the hymns, and the ethos and piety associated with my lame descriptions. Even in the midst of those years of growing up a P.K. (preacher’s kid) I knew that not everyone lived and breathed these passions of church life the same as we did as pastor’s family. Likewise, I was pretty sure that not all my fellow church members felt the same conviction related to what was taking place on the mission fields. I trusted, however, that the preaching and singing that kept calling us to hear the Macedonian call would convict and draw them as it often did me. Even the high seasons of Christmas and Easter included bold emphasis on giving to special missions offerings to spread Gospel around the world. This was all part and parcel of worship in my childhood and teen years. As I grew I came to better understand that mission and evangelism had to do with much more than a compartmentalized notion of something that happens overseas, or in places foreign to my routines. Growing as a Christian disciple and worshiper meant embracing my own place in sharing Christ in the world.

Fast forward to a more specific study and interest in worship liturgy. Growing past a strictly thematic approach to worship planning, whereby the service revolves around a sermon topic, I have found my missional roots grew even deeper through an understanding of fourfold liturgy’s form. The fourfold structure fully embraces and fosters missional living. Worship is both event and lifestyle, and the worship event ,whereby we rehearse the Gospel pattern and message in song, Word, and actions, effectually draws the faithful into the pattern and affections that include sending us into worshiping lifestyle. I am convinced through experience, learning, and observation that effective gathered worship can transform the way we treat the clerk at the market, the waitress at the restaurant, and even other drivers in traffic, as well as ways we treat one another as brothers and sisters in Christ.  When our worship helps us to gaze upon Jesus, how can we but see Him in the world around us, and reflect His image through our own living. Of course, this Christo-centric focus is what we pray and sing often when worship includes healthy substance rooted in biblical truth. It is also why worship leadership must caution against self-focus in worship that seeks personal experience above Christlikeness. This does not mean in any way that worship will not be emotive, or that it is not experiential at its core. Seems to me at constant issue is the question of controlling point – surrender.  

It sounds counterintuitive to be overwhelmed by the singing of songs of sending, songs of surrender and humility. It can certainly be, however, a powerful worship moment to offer self with hopefulness that the Lord might work through us that His will would be done on earth “as it is in heaven.” I sometimes struggle to sing Daniel Schutte’s reflection of Isiah 6:8 in his song, Here I Am, Lord. Likewise, it can be particularly powerful as we sing the effectual work of the Victorious Christ in songs like the modern hymn by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend, Across the Lands. When sung with head and heart, such hymns serve as a a kind of battle anthem that strengthens our resolve as we faith the work of Jesus in the world through what He has done and is doing in bringing the nations and peoples to Himself.

What are songs of sending and mission that help you express worship?

Disconnected Prayers in Public Worship

October 13, 2009

“Great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.”

“And now, let us pray.”
What? What do you mean “now let us pray?” We just finished praying. Who were we singing to in that song? Was that song not a prayer of gratitude and thankfulness for the Lord’s faithful meeting of our every need?

Far too often prayers prayed in public worship are either obligatory components of longstanding tradition, or are coagulators to move from one song to another. I once worked with a pastor who asked to “put a prayer right there, we’ll need a mood change by then.” Ouch! “Hey God, we are coming to you right now in order to change the mood to set up this next cool song.” Surely this is not a motivation pleasing to our Lord.

No wonder our people disconnect from what is happening in public worship when we sing our songs and pray our prayers. To some of you this may seem picky, but if we are to help our people worship through every aspect of our public gathering, it seems that they need to understand the engagement of those aspects. We have all had endless discussions about what songs people do and do not “like” (a meaningless plumbline for Christian worship). We need more discussion on what we are to mean in those songs, to whom they are directed, and to what purpose we sing them.

The same is true of public praying. In fact, the Apostle Paul addresses praying and singing in the same manner when he states, “I will pray with my mind, but I will also pray with my spirit. I will sing with my mind, but I will also sing with my spirit.” (1 Cor 14:15) As worship planners we need a comprehensive sense of what is happening as we make our way through the corporate expressions of worship and praise. This certainly includes the words and attitudes expressed by those who lead in prayer. Notice the term is “lead” in prayer. The person praying in corporate expression is in the lead role in that moment. Leading prayer means guiding the prayer for all present, who are to pray in concert with the leader.

How well do you prepare those who are called upon to lead prayer in your corporate services? Whether the prayer is being led by your pastor, a deacon or other church leader, or you, there is a need to be informed of the placement of the prayer one is called upon to lead within the total shape of the worship. Very often a public prayer that is disconnected from the flow of worship serves to unplug worshipers from any sense of ongoing correlation of worship elements. Such issues are non-issues in prescribed liturgies where prayers are written and read, and shape is given in printed form such that worshipers can see both the form and the actual verbiage to use. The issues in those churches that use prescribed liturgies more likely have to do with engagement beyond the printed page, and contextualizing the set forms such that worship addresses present day life and circumstance. Such worship is often accused of serving the form or prescription itself. Most of us Baptists resist such written prescriptions. Advanced notice and intent information, however, could aid all public prayer leaders in our churches to gain confidence and display depth in their worship leading responsibility.

I highly recommend that you, worship leader, test this premise by deepening your own preparation for prayer leading during the worship music time. The best place to start is with the Bible. The Psalms are prayers of public worship. Even psalms of private lament have been used through Judeo-Christian history as public expression. Read the prayers of Jesus, prayers of disciples, and biblical worship instruction. There are good resources to help with meaningful worship prayers that far too often are completely absent from our worship expression in the “free church”; prayers of confession and supplication, prayers of illumination, prayers of doxology and benediction, in addition to prayer of intercession. We sometimes sing these prayer, which can be an effective means of praying them, especially if everyone knows what they are doing when that takes place. For instance, a strong prayer of illumination is voiced in the song, Speak, O Lord, as well as the classic hymn, Lord, Speak to Me that I May Speak.

One of the many resources for developing public pray-ers is a book by Hughes Oliphant Old entitled Leading in Prayer: A Workbook for Worship (Eerdmans, 1995).

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