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.”

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Posted on June 28, 2011, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Dr. Joslin,

    Should corporate worship be the whole congregation singing individually to God or the congregation singing to one another about how great God is and what he has done? Someone posed this question to me and I have been thinking about it. Would love your help.

    • Nate, I think yours is a good question in one sense, but it is a false dichotomy. I don’t think that we have a true either/or question here. The assumption is that someone has to be singing themselves in order to worship. I don’t see how that could be the case. So, in short, my answer to your question is yes.

  2. Dr. Joslin,

    In regards to #2 “It means that whenever we sing (and preach for that matter) we are teaching something” and #10 referring to the one leading being qualified, what is your position on women leading in congregational song? If what we are singing is a means of teaching, then is that unbiblical? I have been wrestling with this for the past couple of weeks, as far as 1 Timothy 2, 1 Corinthians 11 & 14 and their implications for liturgy. We see Paul mentioning women praying in church without raising an eyebrow, but when he writes a woman cannot 1) teach or 2) exercise authority over a man, at what point is that line drawn (specifically in ‘exercising authority’)? Thoughts?

    • Craig, you stepped in it now. Since this is so debated and emotionally charged, I think you should just do what you feel is right. That’s all we can do, right?

      Ha ha. Seriously, though, there are so very many issues in play here.

      One source that is helpful to consider is Kauflin’s blog:
      http://www.worshipmatters.com/2007/03/02/is-it-biblical-for-a-woman-to-lead-in-worship-prayer/

      Here are a few issues:

      1. The fact that there is not a “worship pastor” in the Bible (neither is there youth pastor, student pastor, college pastor, children’s pastor etc.) is one issue. So, some will say that since there’s nothing specific about it, then anything goes. I do not agree with that. A church can have many pastors/elders, who are gifted and called to pastor in a certain area and in a certain way. Given the importance of musical worship in the Bible, then I think it wise that a church desire, pray for, and follow a gifted, godly, qualified man to lead this aspect of the church’s worship gathering.

      2. What exactly is she doing in the service? Would it be more music leading, or is it exhortative and doctrinal instruction? I see a difference between the two.

      3. What we are trying to do is apply the complimentary roles of men and women in ministry to the worship setting. As you mentioned, women had a public role in the worship setting of 1st c. Corinth, so they indeed are to be part of the service. To what extent? Here is where the worship pastor must pastor.

      4. While singing anything teaches something, singing is not the same thing as preaching. That may be the short answer to your question.

      5. This is a debated area and emotionally charged, and that’s understandable. However, it’s not the loudest voice that wins. If someone believes as I (and I assume you) do about complimentary gender roles, then what does it look like for us to lead worship together? Where I pastor, we have women who sing, play piano and organ or a number of other instruments, sing solos, and at times read Scripture. Our church, however, in no way sees me as abdicating my role as the worship pastor when that happens. I am the source of doctrinal exhortation during this portion of the service, but I want to see their gifts flourish and to be used, under the Lordship of Christ, under the authority with which the church has entrusted me, led by and full of the Spirit, so that Christ is made much of and the body is edified.

      Hope this helps. This is a big issue, to be sure.

      BCJ

      • Thanks Dr. Joslin,

        That is a great help, especially Kauflin’s article. I guess I am quick to make “song leading” and “doctrinal instruction” synonymous at times, which should not be the case. I greatly appreciate your thoughts and your blog. Thanks for being approachable. I’m sure I’ll have more questions for you soon. 🙂 Hope you’re doing well.

  3. Good thoughts as usual.

    Regarding point #7, it seems to me that most congregations major on the “worship is for God” aspect of corporate worship to the detriment of “worship is for mutual edification” aspect. So I don’t think my primary counsel would be for people not to think about people around them, but perhaps to actually give a bit MORE attention to the fact that other people are worshiping with them. I hear many people say, “I just close my eyes and forget anyone else is in the room, and sing for God alone.” And while singing for God is good and biblical, forgetting anyone else is in the room isn’t. (I think you agree with that.) And since Col. 3:16 says our singing is to teach and admonish one another, perhaps we ought to do more to highlight the corporate aspect of worship, in addition to the personal, vertical aspect.

    • Kyle,
      Thanks for thinking this with me. I couldn’t agree more. This is the vertical as well as the HORIZONTAL aspect to corporate worship.

      BCJ

  4. One more follow up to Nate, above:

    Nate, one further point from my favorite worship pastor, Bob Kauflin. Turns out he’s blogged on this very verse (surprise surprise!). He notes:

    Listening to a soloist is another way we can address one another as we sing.
    Solos don’t have to be “performances.” When the vocalist’s motives and gestures
    are Christ-exalting and natural, our hearts can be inspired and instructed as we
    listen.

    See his post: http://www.worshipmatters.com/2007/12/05/addressing-one-another-in-psalms-hymns-and-spiritual-songs/

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