A Few More Implications and Applications for Corporate Worship
Here are a few more implications for corporate worship. There are doubtlessly more, and each of these could indeed be expanded. Food for thought and discussion:
6. It means that content is primary and there will be a variety of music with no one style mandated.
Think Kirk Franklin, the Gettys, Sovereign Grace, Hillsong, and the Gaithers. If a song passes the test of content (and, I would add, that the music is not distracting—but what distracts can vary widely across different congregations), then it should be considered for corporate worship. The point here is that the Scripture is no more or less a fan of Southern Gospel as they are “contemporary” etc. To be sure, most congregations will have a preferred style, but that’s all it is—a preference. Worship did not begin, or even reach its climax, with the invention of piano, guitar, drums, or organ!
7. Since we sing “to God” it means that we are not to be focusing on those around us or worried about what they think.
This is something that all of us would agree to, yet struggle to put into practice. I was part of a church some years ago that would turn off 95% of the lights so as to minimize distractions and (hopefully) maximize personal worship. Yet that’s the problem – the congregational gathering is, well, congregational. I actually DO want to see how my other brothers and sisters are worshipping. Their worship encourages me and vice-versa. There is a vertical as well as horizontal aspect to worship.
One further point – we should not be “worried” about what others think in a certain sense, yet also need not to make ourselves the center of attention. This must be balanced with wisdom and a love for the body that is greater than yourself (Phil 2).
8. It means that we are to sing with hearts that are thankful and full of gratitude. (Recall Jesus’ warning of Matt 15:8)
Remember Jesus’ words (citing Isaiah): “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.“
This is a verse that should cause all worship pastors and leaders, as well as all believers, to stop and think about their participation in the worship gathering. How many times have believers gathered and sung notes and lyrics that extol who the Lord is and what He has done, while at the same time their minds and hearts are dwelling on something else? I have. Many times. Yet, it is not OK. We are to sing with hearts that are thankful for all that He has done—we are never to “get over” the Gospel!
9. It means that the whole congregation is to benefit, not just one segment.
Many of us enjoy playing, leading, and singing a variety of musical styles. Rock, “traditional” (think piano and/or organ only), country, bluegrass, contemporary worship . . . a wide variety. Most of the time I think that is a good thing since we can be varied in style while maintaining biblical content. The admonition here is simply this: be thinking congregationally. Think about the body; the Lord’s people. We have a great group of senior adults who love good old hymns done, well, traditionally. They sing whatever it is I lead, but they sure appreciate “Hymn Night” once a quarter when we change things up a bit and do it “old school.” It’s what I grew up on, so it’s great to change up the style. We also pull out the electric guitars, B-3, drums and worship with the sweet overdriven sustain of tube amps singing over us. We did “acoustic night” this past Sunday night. The point here is that if we target just the youth, or young couples, or seniors, or anyone else, then we can alienate the others simply with type of musical style. While you can’t be all things to all people (sadly, I will never be able to pull off Kirk Franklin or Fred Hammond till I get a glorified body and voice!), I would think that as you are leading a diverse people, then they might be served with a bit of diversity in terms of style.
10. It means that those who lead must be qualified to lead since anyone called to lead in teaching and admonishing must meet the qualifications of an elder/pastor (1 Tim 3).
This is an area that’s not been explored much at all. There is a significant difference between “the song leader” and a pastor of worship. Many churches are getting by with whomever can lead a song or two. I don’t see “worship pastor” as an office. Timothy wasn’t to Paul what George Beverly Shea was to Billy Graham, OK? They were pastors. To lead and pastor a people via congregational worship, is, as I have argued, a teaching and admonishing ministry. Churches should be thinking in such directions, and are starting to. That is good news for the Church as a whole. We need less “song leaders,” and more “worship pastors.”