Beyond The Song (part 1)
We’re going to take the next two weeks to look at what can often be viewed as a difficult topic, the issue of worship. We have different backgrounds, perspectives, and opinions. Some look at worship services as performances, and some look at them as opportunities for passionate praise of our living God. So what we’re going to do is share in what’s called a “Dialogical Sermon” where Aaron Pelsue and Shockley Flick, our two worship pastors, can speak into this along with me. This week Aaron and I are going to share, and then Shockley and I will be “dialoging” about this next week.
Now, here are our Two Goals: 1. Explore what the Bible teaches about worship, and 2. Explore how we do that here at E91. Why do we sing? Why do we do the things we do in our worship services, because is more than just singing. What’s appropriate, and what isn’t appropriate, and who decides? So, to kick things off I want us to take a look at Psalm 92:1-5.
It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
to sing praises to your name, O Most High;
to declare your steadfast love in the morning,
and your faithfulness by night,
to the music of the lute and the harp,
to the melody of the lyre.
For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work;
at the works of your hands I sing for joy.
How great are your works, O Lord!
Your thoughts are very deep!
(Psalm 92:1-5, ESV).
“It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High.” But the question is, How? We’re instructed to sing (v. 1), to declare (v. 2) to music with instruments that would have been familiar to ancient middle-eastern culture (v. 3)—the lute, harp and lyre. But what does that look like today? How much does the Bible spell out or direct us in issues of style and preference?
In fact, let’s just do something here real quick. On the count of three what I’d like us to do is have everyone shout out your favorite style of music. Ready? 1-2-3.... So what we see already is that everyone here totally agrees, we’re all on the same page, and we’re all of one accord.
It seems that most of the discussions pertaining to worship—at least the ones that people have with me—are related to style and preference. But what we want to look at today and next Sunday is more foundational than that. Aaron, talk with us about some of the challenges churches face when it comes to worship.
Aaron: When you stop to think about it, singing, which is only one part of worship, is kind of a weird thing to do in large groups. I mean, where else do people get together in large groups to sing? At a ballgame, people will sing “The National Anthem” together, or if you’re at a concert, you might sing along with the band if you’re familiar with the song. But in our culture, most people just don’t get into group settings to sit around and sing. And then someone who’s not familiar with what we do in church worship services shows up, whether it’s the traditional or the contemporary services, it can be a little intimidating.
Then you add to that how God has wired each of us differently. People are like trees in this sense. When the wind blows, trees react differently, don’t they? Same wind, but different reactions. Some trees sway with the wind. Some are more rigid. Some have leaves that fall to the ground as the weather gets colder. And some trees, like Pine Trees, stay green all year round.
But there’s something about music that moves us. It can be the same truth communicated through different lyrics, but the sounds vary, and different sounds speak differently to different people. The beautiful thing is that God made us that way. He created us to respond differently to different sounds or genres of music. For example, I want us to sing an old hymn that’s probably familiar to most of us. Here’s the way most of us learned it. Amazing Grace done traditionally. Now, let’s sing it this way. Amazing Grace newer version. Same biblical truth that’s communicated, but it’s communicated in different ways.
Rick: So, it really boils down to the actual purpose for worship. We begin there, with biblical, foundational truth, and then look at how we can express that in various cultures and time periods.
Our English word Worship = “weorthscipe” = “to declare the worth of.” In worship, we declare God’s worth. We recognize who He is and our need for Him. We worship for two reasons: 1. God deserves it. 2. We were created to do it. Let’s go back to Psalm 92. V. 1-- “It is good to praise the Lord!”
What do we do in worship? Look at v. 2, We “declare your steadfast love in the morning and your faithfulness by night.” Jump to v. 4, “For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy.” v. 5-- “How great are your works, O Lord! Your thoughts are very deep!” So what do we do in worship? We declare what God has done! We PROCLAIM His love and His faithfulness. We are glad about His DEEDS, His works, even His THOUGHTS! So who is worship about? It’s about God, not about us! Now, we can all agree on that, can’t we?? It’s not the “what” that throws us off--it’s the “how.”
How do we worship? Ah, this is where it gets fun! Why doesn’t the Bible just make it simple? Why doesn’t the Bible just lay it out and say once and for all any time you gather to worship the Lord our God you do this? Now, there are “things” we are instructed to do, even here in Ps. 92--V. 3--there’s music of the lute, the harp, and the lyre. But is that prescriptive or descriptive? Do we have to have a “lyre” (which is a small harp that’s played like a guitar or plucked like a harp)? No! There are many styles of worship that are even described in Scripture. There’s the exhortation to sing NEW SONGS. Psalm 96:1 says, “Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth!” (Psalm 96:1).
Aaron: When we take a look at the history of the church, we see how music has changed through the centuries. Early Christians most likely used many of the Psalms written to music reflective of Jewish culture. Most biblical scholars believe that the Apostle Paul included, or wrote, a couple of hymns that are recorded in Phil. 2:5-11 and 2 Tim. 2:11-13. But then as Christianity expanded throughout the Roman Empire, more songs were written that reflected Roman culture. Music as a form of worship was preserved through the Monastic Period with chants. In the Reformation, Martin Luther introduced Luther developed a unique style of church music, known as chorale, by borrowing some familiar, singable tunes of his culture and time to which he added a Christian text. The Wesley brothers, John and Charles, wrote songs in their day used in Christian worship. And on down to the present day there have been musicians and song writers who have composed new songs as Psalm 96 says that have been and continue to be used in churches all over the world. The criteria we use are: 1. Does the song speak biblical truth? 2. Does the song speak the heart language of a particular group?
Rick: Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Worship is about loving God—with our heart, with our soul, our mind, and our strength. That’s why we desire to have different elements brought in to what we do here on Sunday mornings: Songs that connect with our hearts and souls, lyrics and teaching that connect with our mind and strength, prayers that help us communicate with God, even the aesthetics around us, from the beauty of this room to certain lighting to help us focus our thoughts on what’s being said or sung. All of this, tied together as seamlessly as possible, is not because it’s a show or performance, but because we want to see people engaged in connecting their heart, soul, mind, and strength with God. That’s why we don’t make our top priority what people like, because everybody likes different things. We make it our priority to declare the glory and worth of God, to engage our hearts and minds in worship of Him. Worship flows from relationship. When we’re growing in our relationship with God through Jesus Christ, we will be able to grow in our worship. But when we struggle in our relationship with God, it’s hard to worship. Maybe you have a barrier in your relationship with God, and you need to break through it.