Having served as both a Worship Leader and a Pastor for many years, here are seven simple thoughts this morning, on corporate worship through song…
- Corporate worship should be born from the overflow of an obedient lifestyle.“A good person produces good out of the good stored up in his heart. An evil person produces evil out of the evil stored up in his heart, for his mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart,” (Lu. 6:45). When worshippers say words with their mouths that willfully contradict the intentions of their hearts or the activity of their hands, they do not honor God. Those who lead congregational singing should be men and women who exemplify a lifestyle of obedience to God and surrender to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Those who gather to worship God in the congregation should bring with them the offering of their daily lifestyles – a sacrificial obedience to the Word, through faith in Christ Jesus.
- Corporate worship should be centered on God’s Word.“Ascribe to the Lord . . . the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness . . . The voice of the Lord is above the waters . . . the voice of the Lord in power . . . the voice of the Lord in splendor . . . The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars . . . The voice of the Lord flashes flames of fire . . . The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh . . . In his temple, all cry, ‘Glory!’” (Ps. 29:1-9). The Word of God is powerful. When we sing the Word of God and respond to the Word of God together, the power of God is on display in the congregation. Worship leaders should have a microphone in one hand and a Bible in the other. They should be directing congregants to the Word regularly in Scripture reading, corporate recitation, and songs that are faithful to Scripture.
- Corporate worship should always exalt Jesus. “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile everything to himself, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross,” (Col. 1:19-20).In the opening Colossian Hymn, Paul directs the congregation to the supremacy of Christ in all things. Apart from Jesus, we have nothing hopeful about which to sing. Every song should point to the supremacy and the grace of Jesus, the Christ. Every melody should stir the congregation’s heart with renewed affection toward him. Jesus must be the focal point of every worship service. Worship leader, point them to Jesus.
- Corporate worship should engage both the heart and the head.“An hour is coming and is now here when true worshippers will worship the Father in Spirit and in truth. Yes, the Father wants such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and in truth,” (Jn. 4:23-24). Worship should exercise both the mind and the spirit. Songs sung corporately in worship services should be biblically rich, communicating core doctrines of the faith through music. They should also tug at the heart-strings of all who participate. In the singing fellowship of the redeemed, there should be both joy and sorrow, celebration and repentance, happiness and somberness. Worship leaders are to engage both the mind and the heart of those gathered around Jesus.
- Corporate worship should facilitate unified congregational participation.“Come, let us shout joyfully to the Lord, shout triumphantly to the rock of our salvation! Let us enter his presence with thanksgiving; let us shout triumphantly to him in song,” (Ps. 95:1-2). Congregational worship is a corporate outcry to God. It is an opportunity for the church to express her devotion to God as one body, one family. Our songs are directed, together, heavenward. Corporate worship always comes from us, not me. Worship is not a performance. Songs should have an easily defined and followed melodic structure. They should be sung in the normative range of participants’ voices. No matter who is or is not on stage, the congregation is the choir. The aim should not be toward individual expressions of worship, but toward unified ones. We sing together. We are silent together. We pray together. We stand together. We sit together. Everything we do as a body, we do as a display of unified worship to God. Care should be taken to invite and facilitate unified congregational participation during worship services. Leaders are to engage the congregants, drawing them in to full participation, so that as one body we lift our voices to God in song.
- Corporate worship should be attractive to non-Christians.“I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. I will boast in the Lord; the humble will hear and be glad. Proclaim the Lord’s greatness with me; let us exalt his name together,” (Ps. 34:1-3). If out of nothing more than curiosity, the heads of those who are not in the faith should turn with interest when they hear and observe the music of the church. The music of the church should be excellent (see Ps. 33:3, 1 Chr. 15:22). When those who have been humbled by the trappings of a sin-scarred world hear and observe songs of faith sung from the tongues of those gathered in Jesus’s name, it should be an occasion for them to “hear and be glad.” The selection of songs and the singing of them should invite the participation of the spiritually curious, drawing them into the goodness and the grace of God.
- Corporate worship should not be preference-driven.“Let the word of Christ dwell richly among you, in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another through psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts,” (Col. 3:16). Those who are spiritually mature do not ask the question, “What preferences can I hold onto and still be a Christian?” Instead, they ask, “What preferences can I let go of so that the Word of Christ will dwell more richly among the Body?” and they do this with the sincerest gratitude in their hearts. There are many styles of music around the globe. Each musical style can be captivated by Christ, baptized into the Body, and employed as something that honors God in the fellowship of the redeemed. Care should be given to select styles and instrumentation that both honor Christ and engage the people where they are. However, musical style preferences should never drive worship song selection. “Psalms” are those songs sung straight from Scripture. “Hymns” are those that magnify God and corporately confess his great glory. “Spiritual songs” are those born from the spirit in every contemporary context, as the generations pass. If corporate worship is about the style of music, music itself is being worshipped not the God of the Ages.
Grace and Peace,