Kevin Twit, August, 2000
Emotion is not a bad thing! But it is not the goal of worship, it
is not an end in itself. Worship is a formative experience (whether
we like it or not!) and we need to be aware of this in our planning
for worship. Do we communicate that only certain emotions are appropriate
in our worship? (The Psalms bring the whole range of emotional experience
Do we communicate that the Christian life is always fun and exciting
or that living as a disciple is a long obedience in the same direction
(as Eugene Peterson puts it)? Our worship should not communicate something
false about what it feels like to be a Christian. Again the Psalms are
a helpful guide in this - they do not romanticize the Christian life.
This does not mean that worship is always somber and heavy, but it should
not always be light and familiar either. I am arguing for a more full
demonstration of the character of God reflected in our worship. What
we often see is that each group reflects part of who God is, one group
focuses on joy, one on majesty, one on awe, and one on Abba intimacy
- yet all of these things needs to be part of our worship!
Bodily posture matters and so does the mood of the service.
The Psalms are filled with directions for our bodies in worship and
if we dont work to make this a part of worship, then we communicate
that mankind is merely a mind, or bundle of emotion (i.e. we become
Gnostics who deny the importance of physicalness.) People sing
differently standing than they do sitting. I am not going to tell you
what to do when, but I do want you to think about it and include body
posture in your thinking about worship.
Corporate worship is not a bunch of individuals worshipping in the
same room! In our highly individualistic culture we need to be aware
of the tendency for people to view even corporate worship as a privatized
experience where the only value the other people in the room have is
to help the individual lose himself or herself in God (whatever
that means!) We should pray corporate prayers, read scripture, and confess
our faith using creeds, together. This is one limitation of songbooks
(unless you include corporate prayers or creeds in your books - which
I dont think Ive ever seen.)
We dont want to be tradition-driven but we dont want
to be cut-off from tradition either! The Protestant reformers were
not trying to reinvent worship they were very self-consciously trying
to go back to the early church worship, by removing medieval corruptions.
The Holy Spirit has been working in His church for thousands of years
and we want to include the best of all eras. (Lately I think we are
seeing a hymn-snobbishness creep into RUF circles, and we must
be careful not to say that the Spirit isnt inspiring any good
A call to worship can be very good for establishing in peoples
minds what we are doing now. It reminds us that worship is not something
we wump up it is a response to His call. I find it helpful (when
I can find the opportunity) to read and pray the gospel into my heart
before trying to lead worship. But we must remember that not everyone
may be where you are when you begin the worship - your role is to lead,
not just to express your own heart.
Worship needs to be Christ-centered. This doesnt mean
that every song needs to be a gospel presentation but the service as
a whole needs to strongly communicate that everything we do is made
acceptable by Christ! There are many praise choruses that have no reference
to Christ or His work. We can use these but they must be blended in
a context in such a way that people dont think they can come into
Gods presence through their own desire or sincerity or willpower!
It is appropriate to tell God what you want to do (as long as its
true and not a lie!) in worship I want to praise you Lord! but
beware of crafting a whole service around what we want to do. These
songs are best as responses to Gods revelation of His character,
and His promises. There are too many worship services that are really
about us declaring what we are going to do. Taking vows (which is what
you are doing when you sing a song like that) has a place in worship,
but it should never be done lightly.
Worship is not just the singing! The sermon, the prayers and
the sacraments are worship too!
Think theologically about the order of the songs. I think it
is great to let people know what the theme is at the beginning of the
service and to plan songs, prayers, and readings that will develop the
theme. I order songs in a way that makes theo-logical sense.
For example, Rom 2:4 says that Gods mercy is designed to lead
to repentance and so sometimes I will structure a confession of sin
after a song declaring the gospel. But sometimes I will have a song
declaring Gods character first which then leads into confession
as we see who He is. There is no one right order but I do think
we should think about it rather than just picking a bunch of songs we
like and havent sung in awhile. Looking at older liturgies can
give you some great ideas regarding ordering the elements in a worship
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