IT IS TIME FOR US TO GROW UP!
Before I attempt to justify the harsh phrase above, let me first confess that this is not a blog written by a musical worship genius. I will not pretend to know everything there is to know regarding the leading of a congregation in cooperate worship. I will be the first to acknowledge that I have much to learn. This blog is about three crucial truths that I believe every musical worship leader must consider every time we plan and lead a service.
MUSICAL WORSHIP IS NOT ABOUT US, IT IS ALL ABOUT GOD
Who do we think we are? Why do we believe God desires for us to irreverently come unprepared before the Throne of Grace without an invitation (Esther 4:11)? Why do we believe God cherishes our divided attention (Deuteronomy 6:5)? Why do we insist on bringing an offering of praise while having unreconciled relationships (Matthew 5:23-24)? Why do we not realize that our worship is unacceptable to God if we have unforgiveness in our heart (Matthew 6:14-15)? Why do we come together as the Bride of Christ to worship our Kinsman Redeemer with songs about ourselves (Ruth 4:14)? I am positive that God knows that we are “singing” and “worshiping” so why do we need to sing so much that we are? I am positive that God knows that we are not actually bowing, even though Scripture teaches that the only response to a true encounter with God Almighty is to fall prostrate before Him (Leviticus 9:22-24; Judges 13:20; 1 Kings 18:36-39; 1 Chronicles 29:20; Ezekiel 1; Matthew 2:11; Revelation 1:17; Revelation 7:9-12). Why are we singing for a consuming fire to fall from heaven? Do we really want that to happen (Numbers 11:1; 1 Kings 18:36-39; 2 Kings 1:9-12; Deuteronomy 4:23-24; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10; Hebrews 12:28-29)? With that said, is it Biblical to sing lyrics that are all about the love of God and literally avoid lyrics about the wrath of God because it offends us? Why are we attempting to compose songs to the Holy, Sovereign Creator of the universe with shallow lyrics that take very little thought? Brothers, musical worship is not about us. In reality, worship by the created, that is about the created, makes no sense.
I love the way Daniel Block defines worship in His book, that I highly recommend, For the Glory of God: Recovering a Biblical Theology of Worship. Block states, “True worship involves reverential human acts of submission and homage before the divine Sovereign in response to His gracious revelation of Himself and in accord with His will.” What a beautiful definition of what biblical worship truly consist. The only way that we can musically respond to God’s gracious revelation of Himself is to start singing more Scripturally and doctrinally sound lyrics that exalts God alone. Let us remove mindless singing of shallow lyrics in our corporate worship (for there is nothing shallow about the Biblical song book, Psalms). Let us join in with the rest of creation in declaring the glory of our God (Psalm 19:1; Psalm 66:1-4).
I pray that we grow up and get over ourselves so we can truly worship the King of Kings and Lord of Lords in a more humble and reverent manner.
MUSICAL WORSHIP MUST BE TRINITARIAN
Trinitarian worship is the worship of God the Father, through the accomplished work of God the Son, in the power of God the Holy Spirit. Since the Father and Son are one, our worship of the Father is also of the Son, and our worship of the Son is also of the Father (John 10:30, 37-38; John 17:11, 20-22). Worship in the power of the Holy Spirit reveals that any “worship” that is not fueled by the Spirit is not actual worship, or in other words, not acceptable worship (Ephesians 5:17-21; Colossians 1:9-14). Can unbelievers who do not have the Holy Spirit worship God? No. Can believers who have the Holy Spirit offer worship that is not acceptable to God? Yes. The word that makes these answers true: Sin. The unbeliever is consumed with sin, and if the Holy Spirit has not entered their soul to make them alive in Christ, worship is not acceptable, and in reality, their “worship” is not about God, it is all about them (Romans 3:9-20). We must be aware that the majority of our congregation falls in this category. Now regarding the believer, if unrepentant sin is in their life, this causes the Holy Spirit inside of them to be quenched, causing their worship to be unacceptable (Psalm 51:15-17; Psalm 66:16-19; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-22; Ephesians 5:17-21). As lead worshippers, we must never attempt to lead worship with unrepentant sin in our lives.
Now allow me to make this very clear: The Holy Spirit does not seek our worship. The Holy Spirit seeks for us to worship the Father and Son, and true worship of the Father and Son is only achieved through the Holy Spirit (John 15:26; 16:12-15; Ephesians 2:18; 5:17-20). This means that we need to stop singing songs that worship the Holy Spirit. Why should we stop singing these songs? (1) Leading in songs that worship the Holy Spirit is showing ignorance of what Scripture teaches. (2) Leading in songs that worship the Holy Spirit is teaching the Body of Christ to worship that is contrary to Scripture. Now, should we sing lyrics about the Godhead: Father, Son and Spirit? Of course we should. But, when our lyrics are exalting the Holy Spirit instead of the Father and Son, our worship becomes unbiblical. Charles Spurgeon once said, “It is the chief office of the Holy Spirit to glorify Christ. He does many things, but this is what he aims at in all of them, to glorify Christ. Brethren, what the Holy Ghost does must be right for us to imitate: therefore, let us endeavour to glorify Christ. To what higher ends can we ‘devote ourselves, than to something to which God the Holy Ghost devotes himself? Be this, then, your emotional prayer, ‘Blessed Spirit, help me ever to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ!’”
I pray that we grow up and stop being unbiblical and start understanding what Scripture teaches on the subject that we should be experts of. This smoothly brings us to the next point.
MUSICAL WORSHIP MUST BE LED BY THEOLOGIANS
We must understand that we are not called to sing. We are not even called to make good music. We are called to preach and teach the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-4:4). God has blessed us with special talents to where our preaching and teaching of the Word of God is through lyrics. When we have a true comprehension of our calling, we will come to the realization that studying Scripture must be a priority in our lives. When theology is a priority, theologically driven lyrics will be the result. A book that I highly recommend, that literally changed my view on this subject is, Doxology & Theology: How the Gospel Forms the Worship Leader. Matt Boswell, along with Michael Bleecker, Zac Hicks, Stephen Miller, Aaron Ivey, Matt Papa, Bruce Benedict, Mike Cosper, Aaron Keyes, Andy Rozier, Matt Mason, and Ken Boer, explain how our theology (study of God) fuels our doxology (praise of God). We must allow this truth to transform the words we sing and speak in front of our congregations.
Every word that comes out of our mouth during cooperate worship is preaching and teaching the Word of God, and I pray that we grow up and realize this crucial truth.
I assure you, every word on this blog was written in love. Every word on this blog was to myself. I have been guilty of every rebuke that was typed. By the grace of God, Scripture, professors and books have opened my eyes to the reality of a more biblical musical worship. Again, I do not claim to have it all figured out, but I do pray that this blog has helped you like it helped me, even during this writing. We all have so much to learn about worship. Let us never be complacent with our knowledge. Let us strive to learn more and more about how to biblically worship the only one who is worthy of our praise. En Cristo Solo!