Healthy Worship Tensions (2)

Chapters 21 & 22 in Worship Matters were quick reads that on the surface seemed to apply more to those who worry about the “theory” of how worship should be handled.  In particular, “internal and external” and “vertical and horizontal” worship.  Though they seemed more theoretical, the chapters did offer some tips or thoughts that could be worked with by a worship team and pastor to help the congregation enter into a higher degree of biblical worship.

Chapter 21: Internal & External

This chapter largely dealt with the bodily expression, or lack thereof, within the church while worshipping the Lord.  There were four areas that the author hit when describing why people may not be that expressive in singing and some tips for those areas.  The tips could be helpful for leaders to take into consideration in order to help the congregation.  I especially like the last paragraph I have quoted as it is a constant reminder to me and others in leadership about leading by example.

“While heart worship is most important, what we do with our bodies isn’t irrelevant or unimportant…Biblical praise is normally expressed, spoken, and observable.  That’s why David says, “My heart is steadfast, O God!  I will sing and make melody with all my being!” (Psalm 108:1)  That’s why the Psalms are filled with exhortations not only to proclaim god’s greatness but to express his greatness with our bodies…Here are four guidelines to consider as you lead your church in this area” (pp 169-170).

1. Direct People’s Attention to God and the Gospel

“Our bodies naturally respond to what affects our souls…God-honoring expressiveness in corporate worship begins with clearly seeing the One we worship.  When we grasp the majesty of God, the mercy of the Savior, and the meaning of our salvation, we’ll be more inclined to respond with physical expressions of worship” (p 170).

2. Teach About the Appropriateness and Limitations of Physical Expression

“Some Christians are simply unaware that physical responsiveness to God in worship is encouraged and modeled throughout Scripture.  Various physical actions can bring God glory, including clapping, singing, bowing, kneeling, lifting hands, shouting, playing instruments, dancing, and standing in awe (Psalms 47:1; Exodus 12:27; Psalm 95:6; 134:2; 33:1; 150:3-4; 33:8).  These expressions don’t all have to be evidenced every time we gather” (p 171).

3. Address Hindrances to Physical Expression in Worship

“If your church is generally unexpressive in worship, there could be a number of reasons that you or your pastor could address.  Some restrict their responses to God because they’re afraid of what others might think…Some godly Christians have too narrow a view of what constitutes an appropriate response to God…Another hold back on outward expressiveness because of a thoughtful concern for others.  They don’t want to do anything that will distract people from focusing on the glory of Christ.  That leads to a final point” (p 172).

4. Teach Consideration of Others

“Expressiveness has its limitations.  Our highest priority when we gather with the church is not our own personal expressiveness but the privilege of serving others (1 Corinthians 14:12; 13:1-8).  Individuals should be following your example and direction in the area of expressiveness, not breaking into lout shouting and enthusiastic dancing just because they feel like it…At the same time, more reserved members shouldn’t assume that expressive individuals are hypocritical, seeking attention, or rude.  They might want to consider what they can learn from the unhindered and sincere expressiveness that they see” (p 172).

“People in your church will learn the most from what is modeled by you and the other leaders.  Churches rarely rise above the level of their leaders in expressiveness and genuine engagement.  That’s the way God designed the church” (p 173).

Chapter 22: Vertical & Horizontal

I found this chapter to be a good reminder the church and the Christian life is not “all about me” or “all about me and God” but about God, others, and me.

“Why do we need to be reminded that worship begins and ends with God, is about God, and is for God?  Isn’t it obvious?  Apparently not.  Most of the time when we think about worship, we start with what we do.  Our intentions are noble…[but] we assume that acceptable worship ultimately depends on our efforts, sincerity, or gifts.  It doesn’t.  It never will” (p 176).

Worship is God’s gift of grace to us before it’s our offering to God.  We simply benefit from the perfect offering of the Son to the Father through the power of the Spirit (Ephesians 2:18).  Worship is our humble, constant, appropriate, glad response to God’s self-revelation and his enabling invitation” (p 177).

“One of the primary ways we worship God is through proclaiming his glories, perfections, and works.  But another equally significant way we worship God is through building one another up through encouragement and blessing.  Different activities, but eh same end…The New Testament Christians gathered in large part to strengthen each other for the purpose of glorifying God in their daily lives [Hebrews 10:24-25]…Everything in our time together has [the] same purpose: “building up.”  Even our songs of praise are a way we minister to each other for God’s glory.  That’ evident from Ephesians 5:19, where Paul says we’re to be “addressing one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs,” while at the same time “singing and making melody to the Lord.”” (p 178).

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