Looking Over the Landscape of Worship
There have been many topics covered in these articles, and at times, it might be wise for us to step back and view worship in a more holistic way, viewing the “whole landscape” in one glimpse. With this article, I would like to look out over this landscape and give you some of my thoughts on what the future might hold for Worship and the Arts.
Overall, as I talk with pastors and musicians and teach on this subject, I find that the primary critical need for Worship and the Arts within the church is good thinking. The disastrous results of “worship wars” in congregations and the lack-luster spirit of worship is more often a matter of poor thinking (theologically and practically) in the area of worship than the abilities of those planning and leading the worship. Only when we have a foundation in solid biblical thinking can we expect our activity to be worthwhile. The principle is clear: good thinking must come before, and leads to, good action (see Romans 12:1-2, and others).
One of the best ways that a pastor and a church can address this issue is to ask the simple question, “Why?” Why do we order our worship in this way? Why do we limit the use of instruments? Why do we think we are, or need to be, contemporary? Why do we think hymns are the best choice for worship? Why do we have announcements during the service, or why have we eliminated them? The list of questions could go on-and-on. My point is that once you raise the questions, and find it difficult to articulate a good answer,then worship has become habitual rather than purposeful. Use these questions to launch studies of particular topics, ones that will help you to think more clearly about various aspects of worship.
Another aspect that I believe is critical for the church is in the area of Worship Leadership. The Western church has made an assumption, and acted upon it, that worship equates to music. In so doing, we have sought to fill the role of Worship Leader primarily with musicians. I have made the case before that biblically the Worship Leader falls under the general category of the pastoral role – and that individuals serving in these roles should be trained as pastors, as well as be good musicians (see Colossians 3:12-17).
Of course, many musicians serve in these roles effectively, and for that we can be grateful. My main goal in pointing this out is that much of the training done for Worship Leaders is musical – yet they often have as much time, or more, than many pastors in front of the congregations each Sunday. This means their understanding of how to craft worship services that will teach and admonish (Colossians 3:16) is vital to the corporate worship of the church. Beyond that is their need to “shepherd” those under their leadership in an effective way. Pastoral training must become much more integral to the training to build a solid foundation for the worship ministry of the church.
Pastors can be pro-active about this by spending time mentoring music leaders whether they are paid staff or volunteer. An effective way to do this is by reading books together on matters of pastoral care, or related topics, and discussing them informally once or twice a month. This can also be done in a small group setting if there is a group of leaders that participate in the worship and music ministry of the church.
Beyond these practical matters are issues of doctrinal integrity. The foundation of worship is theological, and to miss important points of theological understanding is to undermine the role that worship plays in the life of a congregation. A solid foundation of theological training, pastoral skills and good musicianship is the life of the Worship Leader.
Balanced Song Selection
Beyond these things there remains the importance of balance in song selection. Many churches have gone full steam ahead into the “contemporary” worship that seems to utilize primarily the latest-and-greatest songs that the Christian Music Industry is producing. In doing so, we leave behind the legacy and heritage of great thinkers who were able to communicate the truth of the gospel and Christian doctrine through song lyrics. I am not saying that modern worship music completely lacks sound doctrine (although much of it does). Nor am I suggesting that traditional hymns are always on target theologically (because some is not). We are well served to include the breadth of musical styles in our worship.To be clear, there needs to be a balance. To jettison the relevant historical expression of worship in favor of exclusively modern conceptions is to disconnect the modern church from its roots. Progress is inevitable, and necessary, especially as we seek to communicate God’s truth to our generation, yet we must be careful to manage that change in a redemptive manner. Our connection with the Church throughout the centuries is something that crosses cultural and national boundaries unlike anything else. The Church (its doctrine and its worship) remains steadfast even while nations come and go. Retaining that connection in our worship will remind us of those who have come before, as well as the reality of the presence of Christ in the Church from century to century.
I am tempted to continue, but I know that space is limited. The items I mentioned float to the top of my thinking as matter of importance for our churches in the area of worship. As you visit the Worship Arts page week-by-week, you will notice that many of our articles fit into one of these categories with the intention of developing a clear understanding of Christian Worship.
(Original Post on August 13, 2013 at the Worldview Church: http://www.worldviewchurch.org/worshiparts/articles/20362-looking-over-the-landscape-of-worship)
Posted on March 31, 2014, in Christian Worldview, Content of Worship, Corporate Worship, theology, Worship Leader and tagged Mark Sooy, theology, worship, worship leader, WorshipThink. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.