Worship Wars and the Word

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Music in the church is almost always a hot topic. In many churches, tampering with the music is something like trying to deactivate a land mine. You can get into a whole heap of trouble in a hurry!

As we continue our search for an associate pastor at FBC to lead in worship, we took some time on Sunday morning to consider what the Word has to say about worship. My hope in thinking together about worship is that we will remain unified around the Word during this time of transition. We focused on insights from 1 Corinthians 14 with supporting Scriptures as well. Here are the main ideas from this message:

Christian worship is ultimately about glorifying God (1 Cor. 14:25, 1 Peter 4:11, Ephesians 3:10, 1 Corinthians 10:31). Since worship is about God’s glory, we recognize that God is the audience of our worship. For this reason, we place emphasis on congregational singing, not performance. Further, we lay aside our own agendas; for we seek God’s glory, not our own.

Christian worship is meant to grow and strengthen believers (1 Cor. 14:2, 3, 4, 5, 12, 17, 19, 26, 31). Worship should be guided by and saturated with God’s Word. Songs should be rich in Christian theology and instruction. Also, the elements included in the worship service should have biblical warrant or support. Further, all who lead in worship should be believers as unbelievers cannot yet worship God. In addition, all who lead in worship should strive to live a life that is pleasing to God since example and character are critical elements of discipleship.

Christian worship proclaims Jesus and the gospel (1 Cor. 14:22, 24-25). Every sermon should include a clear presentation of the gospel. Likewise, every service should include songs that are saturated with the rich truths of the gospel. Also, a desire to reach people encourages us to consider our mission field as we select musical styles with the ultimate understanding that glorifying God and strengthening believers are central in Christian worship.

Christian worship should demonstrate concern for the good of others (1 Cor. 14:1 6; 1 Cor. 11:18, 33-34). Musical style and song selection should be guided by a concern of loving each other. In our context, we strive to include both contemporary songs and hymns in a blended style. We must be committed to the Word’s instructions about worship but flexible about personal preferences.

Christian worship should present God’s truth in a manner that is understandable (1 Cor 14:2, 5, 6, 19, 23). Preaching should be text-driven, clearly communicating the truths of Scripture. Songs should present Christian truth with clarity, not ambiguity. Instrumentation should support, not overwhelm congregational singing as the words of songs should be able to be heard and understood.

Christian worship should be orderly (1 Cor. 14:33, 40). Worship should not be haphazard but emphasize awe of God. Preachers and worship leaders should not hinder worship by a poorly executed ministry, unnecessary displays of skill, or any other practice that might inhibit worship or distract from the substance (1).

Christian worship requires a right heart before God (1 Cor. 14:20, 36; 11:27-38; Matt 5:23-24; John 4:23-24). Christ-exalting corporate worship requires individuals to maintain a  lifestyle of worship throughout the week with daily prayer and Bible study. We should pray for God to prepare our hearts for worship.

When God’s people savor Him and exalt Him, He is glorified, and we are strengthened spiritually. Moreover, those who are not believers have an opportunity to turn to Christ as they observe God’s people treasure and adore Jesus. Undoubtedly, when the Word guides our worship, the wars will be over. Our focus will move from personal preference to that which is greater, glorifying God and furthering the mission! Let’s do this!

 

(1) John Piper, “What Unites Us in Worship at Bethlehem?” Desiring God (October 1, 2003), accessed January 23, 2017.