What is Worship?

November 10, 2014 — Leave a comment

“Worship is at heart a person offered to God, claiming no rights, making no more selfish demands than a dead man does, but living fully, richly and wholly to God and by His power.”

– Graham Kendrick

Graham Kendrick provides some excellent insight on why singing is disappearing in contemporary services.

Here’s a recap:

Issue 1: Singing has become something specialized in the church. We’re presented with vocalists who soar on high pitched songs with every kind of run that puts the average singer at a disadvantage. It’s the difference between being “sung to” and “singing with.”

Issue 2: Too many new songs. When we don’t let songs “bed in” to the congregation they aren’t retained and remain difficult to remember when singing. Be careful on how many new songs you introduce and the manner in which you do. [My note: – Because so many bands are locked into loops, clicks and the clock, new songs are often just preformed for the congregation. In our own church we introduce a new song by taking people through the verse and the chorus, repeating each so that they get familiar with the melody before we sing the song entirely.]

Issue 3: The songs are too difficult. Graham makes the point that you can hear a noticeable increase in the volume of the singing when a well know and easily singable song is offered. It’s great to enjoy all the new recordings and songs being written but when picking songs for our local church we have to ask, “can we sing this?” Is this “too complex, too high, too sophisticated?” The question goes to the reality of accessibility, age differences and ability. This is especially true when the players and singers can’t “deliver” the material in the same way the CD does. It can become a distraction.

Issue 4: We’re embracing a performance  model that creates a concert atmosphere. In tandem with this is..

Issue 5: The culture of the screen. We have shifted into a mode where we spend more and more time in front of screens – phones, ipads, laptops, xbox, etc.. We expect those screens to deliver something of value to us, to provide an experience for us. Now that screens are a ubiquitous part of contemporary worship, carrying not only words but images of determined drummers, grimacing guitarists and enraptured singers, we wait for them to “do something to us.”

Graham concludes by reminding us that when we come to worship, our praise is a gift that we all bring, We don’t come to worship, we come worshiping to gather with other worshippers. It’s the body of Christ. Not an audience. [ My note: Leaders can fall into the trap of demanding that the congregation “deliver” their praise with enthusiasm to make us feel more validated.  They become our screen!]

What I hear is the need for a renewed focus on God as the sole object of our worship, greater sensitivity to our congregations by making songs accessible and singable, and an honest look at how deeply the culture may be robbing us of the very real need for a company of worshippers in a local church, all bringing their heartfelt praise to God.

 

Use these lyrics in place of the bridge in the song Oceans. Turn that personal statement of faith into intercession for the persecuted church.

“Open wide the gates of glory for the dying
For the saints who have been faithful
in the dark days of their trial.

Show your mercy to the hungry and the frightened
Scatter all those who love violence
Show the nations you are mighty”

- Sung in place of the bridge in the song “Oceans.”

 

 

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

Colossians 3:16

church cemetaryAugustine told us that the “law of prayer is the law of belief.”  In other words, what touches the heart is what tends to be remembered and treasured. In our day we could easily say that the law of song is the law of belief. I have many volumes of systematic theology on my shelves. Few of those will ever be read by the average believer, and not one line in any of those books will be remembered more than the lyrics of beloved hymns.  If music is a vital means of imparting spiritual truth to the hearts of God’s people, then it’s important we present as full a spectrum of theology as possible. That includes the reality of death.

“…it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” – Hebrews 9:27

We all face the inevitability of it. Sometimes we’re reminded by the sudden and shocking departure of a loved one, or their slow descent into the shadows of death through disease. Sometimes the descent is our own. What about our young men and women in the military, or our police and rescue squads that place themselves in harms way? What about their families who face the threat with them?  How do we prepare our people to view death through the prism of hope and not despair? In part, we sing about it.

Songs about death don’t fall into the category of “happy-clappy,” and so they are often avoided. But the Scriptures don’t avoid it and neither should we. We must be preparing people to die, not simply react to death when it comes. We sing songs about facing trials and difficulties with faith. Why? Simply as a reaction? No! We sing those worship songs because they prepare the heart and fortify faith for the trials we surely will face. I’m grateful for two “re-tuned” hymns I have found genuinely full of faith in the face of death. These hymns I have used for funerals but, I have also used them in our worship service.They are not maudlin or cheesy, but instead rich in metaphor and truth. They also bring the hope we have in the face of death straight to our hearts and minds. Songs of hope help us live in the power of faith in future grace.

I’m going to share the lyrics to both songs here along with the links to where the sheet music can be obtained. Are there other songs about death you could suggest that might provide the same hope and truth?

It is Not Death to Die – Bob Kauflin

Original Words by Henri Malan (1787-1864), Translated by George Bethune (1847), Music, Chorus, and Alternate Words by Bob Kauflin. Sovereign Grace Music

It is not death to die
To leave this weary road
And join the saints who dwell on high
Who’ve found their home with God
It is not death to close
The eyes long dimmed by tears
And wake in joy before Your throne
Delivered from our fears

O Jesus, conquering the grave
Your precious blood has power to save
Those who trust in You
Will in Your mercy find
That it is not death to die

It is not death to fling
Aside this earthly dust
And rise with strong and noble wing
To live among the just
It is not death to hear
The key unlock the door
That sets us free from mortal years
To praise You evermore

© 2008 Integrity’s Praise! Music/Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI)

Lyrics, chord charts, piano and string scores.

Good Night by Matthew Smith

I journey forth rejoicing
From this dark vale of tears
To heavenly joy and freedom
From earthly bonds and fears
Where Christ our Lord shall gather
All His redeemed again,
His kingdom to inherit–
Goodnight, goodnight till then

Why thus so sadly weeping
Beloved ones of my heart?
The Lord is good and gracious
Though now He bids us part
Oft have we met in gladness
And we shall meet again
All sorrow left behind us–
Goodnight, goodnight till then

I go to see His glory
Whom we have loved below
I go, the blessed angels
The holy saints to know.
Our lovely ones departed
I go to find again
And wait for you to join us–
Goodnight, goodnight till then

I hear the Savior calling–
The joyful hour has come
The angel-guards are ready
To guide me to our home
Where Christ our Lord shall gather
All His redeemed again,
His kingdom to inherit–
Goodnight, goodnight till then

from Watch The Rising Day, released 17 August 2010

©2010 Detuned Radio Music
Written by Matthew S. Smith
Based in part on a hymn text by an unknown German writer, translated by Jane Borthwick

Find sheet music for Matthew Smith’s songs here.

Tullian.JPGWe ought to experience God with the totality of our being in worship. Worship services ought to inform the mind intellectually, engage the heart emotionally, and bend the will volitionally. God wants thoughtful worshippers who believe, emotional worshippers who behold, and obedient worshippers who behave. God-centered worship produces people who think deeply about God, feel passionately for God, and live urgently in response to God. Therefore, when we meet God in worship, we should expect a combination of gravity and gladness, depth and delight, doctrine and devotion, precept and passion, truth and love.
 
- Tullian Tchividjian


Worship by Tullian Tchividjian taken from Don’t Call it a Comeback, edited by Kevin DeYoung, copyright 2011, Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton Illinois 60187, www.crosswaybooks.org, p. 219-220.

wattsIf you read my blog, you know I am a big fan of Isaac Watts. Yesterday I received an email from Ligonier Ministries that Reformation Trust is offering a Watts bio for free the rest of May. The material below is snipped from that email. I would urge you to read about this most prolific and outstanding hymn writer. 

Until the end of May, Reformation Trust is giving away the eBook edition of Douglas Bond’s The Poetic Wonder of Isaac Watts.

We all know and love ‘Joy to the World,’ ‘Jesus Shall Reign,’ ‘Alas and Did My Savior Bleed,’ ‘When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,’ ‘O God, Our Help in Ages Past,’ and a host of his other compositions. And yet, most Christians know precious little about the author of these great hymn texts—the man history has dubbed as the ‘Father of English Hymnody.’ At least, until now. Thanks to the prolific and eloquent pen of Douglas Bond, we now have an insightful glimpse into the life, the faith, and the poetic wonder of this remarkable servant of the church: Isaac Watts. This delightful book needs to be put at the top of your must-read list.”

—Dr. George Grant

Available in May as a Free Download

“God is the ultimate musician. His music transforms your life. The notes of redemption rearrange your heart and restore your life. His songs of forgiveness, grace, reconciliation, truth, hope, sovereignty, and love give you back your humanity and restore your identity.”

– Paul David Tripp

God is the Ultimate Musician

jcryleThe benefits [the Lord’s Supper] confers, are spiritual, not physical. Its effects must be looked for in our inward man. It was intended to remind us, by the visible, tangible emblems of bread and wine, that the offering of Christ’s body and blood for us on the cross, is the only atonement for sin, and the life of a believer’s soul. It was meant to help our poor weak faith to closer fellowship with our crucified Savior, and to assist us in spiritually feeding on Christ’s body and blood. It is an ordinance for redeemed sinners, and not for unfallen angels. By receiving it we publicly declare our sense of guilt, and need of a Savior – our trust in Jesus, and our love to Him – our desire to live upon Him, and our hope to live with Him. Using it in this spirit, we shall find our repentance deepened, our faith increased, our hope brightened, and our love enlarged – our besetting sins weakened, and our graces strengthened. It will draw us nearer to Christ.

J.C. Ryle
Commentary, Matthew 26.

Oh! You’re here too?

February 11, 2014 — Leave a comment

“On Sundays God wants us to do more than sing songs together and have wonderful worship experiences. He wants to knit the fabric of our lives together. For many, church has become all about me – what I’m learning, what I’m seeking, what I’m desperate for, what I need, how I’ve been affected, what I can do. We see ourselves as isolated individuals all seeking personal encounters with God, wherever we can find them. Sadly, this reflects our individualistic, me-obsessed culture. Rather than seeing ourselves as part of a worship community, we become worship consumers. We want worship on demand, served up in our own time, and with our own music.”

Bob Kauflin
Worship Matters, Crossway Books, 2008,

God in Flesh and Blood

January 16, 2014 — Leave a comment

God in Flesh and BloodLast Sunday we introduced the song “God in Flesh and Blood” (By Jennie Lee Riddle, Travis Ryan and Brandon Collins) to our congregation. One of the moments that all worship leaders dread a bit is wondering if a song they introduce is going to “take hold” in the congregation. Some songs you don’t even bother doing again because the echoing thud of it seals its fate. Others deserve a second or third go around before deciding and some just settle right it at home. I knew that would happen with “God in Flesh and Blood.” It’s just that good. At rehearsal, the band asked “why didn’t you do this at Christmas time?!” Well, I have only just come across it for one and besides that, why are incarnation songs limited to the Advent/Christmas season? I love narratives that cover the scope of Christ’s ministry. A great example is Stuart Townend’s “From the Squalor of a Borrowed Stable.” The title sounds all Christmasy but it’s one of the most dynamic resurrection songs you will ever hear. “God in Flesh and Blood” begins at the incarnation:

From heaven You came down
You left Your throne and bowed
Humble sovereignty
Laid at the Father’s feet
Earth recognized Your cry
As worship filled the night
Son of God has come
Love now here with us

The chorus hearkens to the angels of Bethlehem and yet rings out as the fresh cry of grateful hearts at anytime:

Glory to God in the highest
Peace to the weary world
Blessed is He who has come to save us
God in flesh and blood

The second verse goes right to the cross and God in flesh and blood takes on a whole new insight:

Your hands and feet were bound
Thorns became Your crown
The love that molded us
Was nailed upon the cross
Every drop of grace
Was spilled out on that day
You were lifted high
O God the crucified

The chorus, as you might imagine, gains even more power at this point and the bridge that follows brings God in flesh and blood to yet another place – not the babe in Bethlehem or the crucified one on Calvary but the church!

Resurrection life
You gave up Your Spirit to give it to Your bride
Resurrection life
You gave up Your Spirit to come and live inside us

I don’t know if the writers were consciously carrying that theme forward from the manger to the cross to the church, but I think it works powerfully as praise and instruction. The melody is memorable, easily learned, the hook is there but the star is the lyric. By the way, you can purchase the beautiful string arrangement that accompanies the song in the video below.  If I have any quibble at all with the song it’s the use of “it” to refer to the Spirit. The Spirit, being a person, should be referred to as such but it’s a small matter. All in all, I’m delighted to add this to our church’s repertoire. Thanks Jennie, Travis and Brandon for such a lovely song.