Reflection #4 on Worship in the Contemporary American Church

This is post number four in a series of random reflections I have been amassing over the past couple of years since retiring from steady, local-church, “weekend warrior” worship ministry.  These ruminations are in no particular order, and they vary in significance.  I welcome discussion on any of them.

Reflection #4:  Where contemporary worship is concerned, some “liturgical” churches seem to be muting elements of traditional liturgy, and some “non-liturgical” churches seem to embracing elements of traditional liturgy.

First, nomenclature.  In layman’s terms, liturgy simply means “the work of the people Mark[in worship]”; hence, as my Judson University colleague Mark Torgerson likes to point out, all churches are liturgical.  But in the culture of the contemporary American church, historically “liturgical” churches tend to utilize tools such as creeds, responsive readings, corporate confessions, times of silence, and weekly observance of the Eucharist (or communion or the Lord’s Table/Supper).  Historically “non-liturgical” churches tend to eschew these activities–except for communion (very rarely “the Eucharist”), which is observed monthly, quarterly, or even annually.  “Liturgical” churches are often referred to via the adjective “high-church,” and “non-liturgical” churches are often referred to via the adjective “low-church.”  (I’m going to abandon the quotation marks henceforth, but please understand them to be there in spirit.)

In the churches my wife and I have visited during this season of ecclesial free agency, it has been interesting to see that some liturgical churches have abandoned pretty much all vestiges of liturgy in their contemporary worship services.  These churches typically have a service (usually earlier on Sunday morning and labeled its “traditional” service) in which they recite the Apostle’s Creed together, pray prayers of confession corporately, and engage in dialogical rhetoric at key moments in the service (celebrant: “The Lord be with you!”; congregation: “And also with you!”).

In one Lutheran church we have visited a few times, the contemporary service is hardly indistinguishable from what one would expect at an Assemblies of God church (minus outward manifestations of the gifts of the Spirit [1 Cor. 12: 8-10], anyway).  They don’t shy away from proclaiming their standing in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, yet they don’t embrace the kind of liturgy in their contemporary service that has, historically, helped define Lutheranism.  The absence of liturgy doesn’t seem to be a turn off for the congregants.

Contrast that with our visits to one of the many megachurches in Chicagoland, one that has, with some frequency, utilized corporate confessions and creedal recitations and, every week, following the reading of Scripture, engages in the dialogical “The Word of the Lord”/”Thanks be to God!”–usually prefaced by a brief word of explanation from the pastor.  (They even used an Advent wreath and candles, classic elements of Advent liturgies, last December.)  The presence of liturgy doesn’t seem to be a turn off for the congregants.

What does all this mean?  Time will tell, but it does seem that historically liturgical churches that mute their liturgical practices in contemporary worship services are perhaps operating with a similar set of motivations that drove those who championed seeker-sensitivity in the 70’s and 80’s.  Much good came from that movement, to be sure, but what ended up being lost, as often as not, was an understanding that Sunday-morning worship can and should be transformative for both parishioners and congregations–i.e., worship should be spiritually formative for both individuals and churches as a whole.  Could it be that more churches pursuing contemporary worship will swing the pendulum back a bit to reclaim a few liturgical practices now and again?  As more and more millennials and Gen Z leaders come into position of influence at churches, perhaps.

IWSLogoNameLeft-144Last week my wife and I attended a gathering of members of the community of the Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies (Jacksonville, Fla.), where I did my doctoral work in worship.  Seated round the table were administrators, alumni, and prospective students, one of whom was a 25-year-old former worship arts student of mine at Judson University who is contemplating pursuing a master’s in worship at IWS.  Among the topics of discussion was the notion, confirmed by my former student, that millennials and members of Gen Z are not turned off by liturgical practices anywhere near to the extent that many of their parents’ generation seemed to be–that, in fact, many long for something more substantive in worship, and many seem to find more substance in liturgy.

Do liturgical practices in worship, in and of themselves, form us spiritually?  Many would say they do, based on the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our midst when we gather and share in the experience of proclaiming words Christians have uttered in worship for centuries.  But even if, for the sake of the argument, we disagree, we can at least assert that liturgies that have stood the test of time could possibly, especially when facilitated by a trained and passionate worship leader, benefit the assembly in ways that might not untitledbe readily apparent for those who have never experienced them before.  I look forward to seeing how all of this plays out in the years to come; in the meantime, if the exploration of anything above appeals to you, consider picking up a copy of Aaron Niequist’s forthcoming new book, The Eternal Current: How a Practice-Based Faith Can Save Us from Drowning.

Coming next week (Lord willing): The prevalence of two-fold worship.

The Lord be with you!

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Reflection #3 on Worship in the Contemporary American Church

This is post number three in a series of random reflections I have been amassing over the past couple of years since retiring from steady, local-church, “weekend warrior” worship ministry.  These ruminations are in no particular order, they vary in significance, and I welcome discussion re: any of them.

Reflection #3: As a general rule, worship teams are more diverse than ever before.

81536I suppose I could put “As a general rule” in front of all of these reflections, as there will always be examples where the complete opposite is true, but the introductory qualifying phrase is more appropriate than usual here.  I recognize there is so much room for improvement where diversity on the typical American church platform is concerned.  Dr. King’s assertion that 11 a.m. on Sunday morning is the most-segregated hour of the week is still, unfortunately, true.

But that assertion is, at least, slightly less true than it used to be–and that’s to be celebrated.  Especially in larger churches, I’ve seen more and more people of color leading, not just playing in the rhythm section or doing vocals on funky or gospel-driven songs.  Change comes slowly, often too slowly, but it comes.

One area related to diversity where change has come more quickly in the Church over the past several years concerns demographics unrelated to skin color.  Call it the diversity of superficial beauty.  At the dawn of seeker-sensitivity, it seemed to me that churches actively attempting to attract unbelievers to their services purposely chose primarily (and sometimes exclusively) worship participants who wouldn’t have been out of place on the cover of GQ or Elle.

I wrote an article for Worship Leader magazine at that time entitled “Church Choirs: The Quest for Cultural Relevance,” in which I extolled the benefits of utilizing choirs, one of which was that “choirs help [militate] against the market-driven, we’re-all-young-and-beautiful vibe so prevalent on the platforms of so many ‘culturally relevant’ churches.”  (You can read the whole article here: “Church Choirs: The Quest for Cultural Relevance.”)  I went on to offer a critique on what seemed like the prevailing philosophy of megachurches and megachurch wannabes in my part of the world:

The power of images . . . is strong, and the predominant human images in our culture feature an alarming emphasis on youthfulness and superficial beauty.  More space to, er, flesh this argument out would be nice, but, truthfully, is unnecessary.  That American culture worships at the altar of the airbrush is self-evident.  And when the Church reinforces that dynamic by putting only the most vibrant and physically fit of its members on the platform, where the spotlight shines most brightly, it unwittingly blesses the lies spewing forth from Madison Avenue.  Utilizing choirs of all ages, on the other hand, allows the entire Body of Christ, warts and all, to participate in the leading of worship, a more biblically sound model (Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12).

Fifteen years or so later, it’s not unusual for me to see overweight folks taking a significant role in worship leadership, even on megachurch stages.  (I especially appreciate this as one whose metabolism stopped working, never to return again, around the second semester of my sophomore year in high school.)  I see more and more older people on the platform as well.  Both of these demographics were severely under-represented in churches pursuing contemporary worship in the not-too-distant past.  (There’s a delicious, do-as-I-say-not-as-I-did irony re: senior-citizen Baby Boomers–many of whom ushered in seeker-sensitivity while ushering out anything or anyone perceived to be old and musty–still taking their places on worship platforms.  In the end, of course, this is a good thing.)

It’s gratifying to see that the Church, which seemed to participate with such alarming willfulness in the genteel racism inherent in much of 20th-century evangelical Christianity, has been quicker to recognize and refute the sins of fat-shaming and ageism.  (I would love to see the barrier of physical disability be the next one to fall.  Yes, we will need to redesign stages, create entrance ramps for wheelchairs, and add dollars to our worship budgets.  Let’s get to it.)

So while we have a long, long way to go, and though we will never fully “arrive” on the diversity issue (or any other sin issue) this side of heaven, my recent visits to numerous churches of different denominations and different populations give me reason to hope that we have turned a corner on diversity where worship teams are concerned, at least to some extent.  We have “miles to go before [we] sleep,” as Robert Frost once wrote, but we are on the right path.

The second verse of Harry Emerson Fosdick’s “God of Grace and God of Glory” 31005serves well as a conclusion to these thoughts:

Lo! the hosts of evil round us / Scorn the Christ, assail His ways! / From the fears that long have bound us / Free our hearts to faith and praise. / Grant us wisdom, grant us courage / For the living of these days, / For the living of these days.

The Lord be with you!

51+7Q1L5IeL__SX341_BO1,204,203,200_P.S.  Re: last week’s post, the best resource I’ve come across to help worship leaders find words for worship is the aptly named Worship Words, by Debra and Ron Rienstra.  Highly recommended!

Coming next week (Lord willing): The interesting irony of liturgy in “liturgical” and “non-liturgical” churches pursuing contemporary worship.

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Reflection #2 on Worship in the Contemporary American Church

This is post number two in a series of random reflections I have been amassing over the past couple of years since retiring from steady, local-church, “weekend warrior” worship ministry.  These ruminations are in no particular order, they vary in significance, and I welcome discussion re: any of them.

Reflection #2: I appreciate worship leaders who “connect the dots” for me.

If I have one prevailing takeaway impression from almost two years’ worth of visiting churches where current and former Judson University Demoss Center for Worship in the Performing Arts students serve in worship ministry, it’s this: Oh, my goodness; they have so much more to offer!  They are really good at what they do.  Pastors, worship committees, congregations: please encourage them to spread their wings and fly.

CWPA Demoss Stacked FC Logo PRINTI am, of course, biased.  My JU colleagues and I worked long and hard 20 years ago coming up with a worship arts curriculum that wasn’t just a music-performance degree with one or two worship-related courses sprinkled on top.  We offer unique courses like Speaking the Faith (a communication-arts approach to the non-musical skills required of worship leaders) and Worship and the Arts (a theology of all the arts, not just music, that combines theory and practice), and we make our students pursuing a Praise and Worship Music minor take a class called The History of Rock and Roll: The Medium and Its Message, for reasons that should be obvious to anyone who has attended a church utilizing contemporary worship music.

Hence, our students (and Judson is not alone here, of course) leave after four years truly equipped to lead worship, not just perform worship music.  Why, then, do so many churches seem perfectly content with song leaders instead of worship leaders?

RoryDr. Rory Noland wrote a beautiful article on this subject in Worship Leader magazine recently.  I encourage you to read the whole article here (“How to Teach without Being ‘Teachy'”; page 8)–as it fleshes out my suggestions, below–but let the introduction whet your appetite:

A few years ago, I was with my son and his family at Disney World and we took our granddaughters on one of the safari rides.  At one point, our tour guide stopped the train and pointed out a rhinoceros off in the distance. . . . One might assume the tour guide’s efforts were unnecessary.  After all, how could anyone miss a rhinoceros standing in front of them?  However, this formidable creature . . . was a rare and shy breed, whose color blended in perfectly with the surrounding rocks.  If no one had shined a spotlight on what was already there, we tourists would have completely missed this amazing animal.

Noland goes on to say, “Worship leaders are like tour guides.”  Exactly.  Most of us would demand a refund if we took a tour with a guide who never spoke, and yet many Christians every weekend sit under worship leaders who rarely open their mouths other than to sing.  Yes, occasionally the songs speak for themselves, but more often than not a brief, thoughtful comment can enrich the corporate experience for everyone.  Extending Noland’s safari-guide metaphor, here are some suggestions to help song leaders become worship leaders.

untitledPoint out interesting sights along the way that might not be obvious to all of us.  The time when we could assume a basic biblical literacy in our congregations is long gone.  Even concepts that seem painfully apparent to you might benefit from attention.  For example, if you’re singing “This Is Amazing Grace,” consider taking a moment to give a basic definition of grace, reading a brief excerpt from either of Philip Yancey’s books on the subject, or quoting (and briefly explaining) 2 Cor. 12:7b-10.  As a worship tour guide, don’t assume the congregation will necessarily know what to look for–or even how to recognize it when they see it.

Explain why you are choosing this particular experience for us.  As a worshiper endeavoring to love the Lord my God with all my mind, I benefit from knowing why you chose to put this particular song–of the countless available songs–on my lips.  What line in the song is particularly significant, theologically speaking?  Which phrase stands out as being especially beautiful in its imagery of God?  And, especially, how does the song you’ve decided to have us sing inform the song we just sang? or the song we are about to sing? or elements of the pastor’s sermon? or anything?  As you guide your worship safari, go the next step to let the congregation know why what you point out is significant, a process I like to call “connecting the dots” in worship.

Speak with authority as one who is trained for the job.  The vast majority of worship leaders have had at least some basic training in worship, and some worship leaders, of course, have prepared in college and graduate school.  Even if the extent of your training is a weekend conference, that’s more training than most members of your congregation have.  So be bold.  The best safaris are led by confident tour guides who believe they have something to offer.

Shepherds of our Lord’s Church: I encourage you to unleash your worship leaders to be all that God has called them to be.  Worship leaders, study to show yourself approved (2 Tim. 2:15) and then go out and lead worship, not just singing.  The Lord be with you!

Coming next week (Lord willing): Worship teams and diversity.

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Reflection #1 on Worship in the Contemporary American Church

With this post, I begin a series of random reflections I have been amassing over the past couple of years since I retired from steady, local-church, “weekend warrior” worship ministry.  These ruminations are in no particular order, and they vary in significance.  I welcome discussion re: any of these reflections. 

Reflection #1: Contemporary worship is now fully multi-generational; no longer do older folks just stand and listen.

Yes, this is a general statement for which there will be specific counterexamples, but in the vast majority of the churches my wife and I have visited during this season of being ecclesiastical free agents the congregation members, across the board, have sung with a greater collective and enthusiastic participation than would have been the case 10 years ago–whether they were attending a “blended” service (which, regardless of the percentage of the blend featured at least one song that most of us would classify as a “hymn,” even if it more accurately might be called a “gospel song”) or a full-blown “contemporary” service (for which no effort was made to utilize any “traditional” church music.)

LesterRuth06-14(As a side note, I generally am of the opinion that the words in quotation marks above are inadequate for serious reflection of worship music.  For a discussion of alternative terms and structures that can enrich our vocabulary in conversations on this topic, I recommend an essay, “A Rose by Any Other Name,” written by one of my first grad-school worship profs, Dr. Lester Ruth [“A Rose by Any Other Name”]. However, because those same terms are still ubiquitous in laymen’s discussions about worship styles [i.e., because I’m confident the terms will be understood in the context of these reflections by a majority of folks who will stumble across this blog], I will continue to use them, despite my reservations about their suitability for more-nuanced discussion.)

If my observations are accurate–if congregations are more often these days singing “lustily and with good courage,” as John Wesley once exhorted–why is that happening, and what should be our response?  Here are a couple of possible reasons why there seems to be a more unanimous response from parishioners to congregational song of late.

Jordan

First, there are fewer folks around who didn’t grow up with rock and roll.  Whether you consider saxman Louis Jordan’s jump blues in the late 1940’s, or Jackie Brenston’s (really, Ike Turner’s) “Rocket 88” in 1951, or Elvis’ “That’s All Right (Mama)” in 1954 to be the birth of rock and roll, the number of people in church pews/chairs for whom rock and roll music (and its attendant culture) arrived as a discombobulating shock to the system diminishes with each passing year.  Because contemporary worship music (cwm) takes its cues from rock and roll (various subsets thereof, at least), there are fewer people who come to cwm with suspicion, at best, or derision, at worst; hence, there are more people who come to cwm with tolerance, at worst, or enthusiasm, at best.

Second, cwm is, on average, getting better all the time.  Now, I am intimately familiar with areas in which cwm needs improvement (in some cases–harmonic structure being most glaring–significant improvement), and I will reflect upon them in this series from time to time.  But the best of the genre these days is better than the best of the genre 20 years ago.  (Part of this is related to the maturation of cwm’s major songwriters; the palette of life experiences from which one can draw is simply broader at age 40 or 50 than it is at 20 or 30.  Part of this is related to the fact that younger cwm songwriters have witnessed the maturation of their older brothers and sisters and are, hence, challenged by example to write better songs themselves.)  It is easier to sing “lustily and with good courage” when the songs you are being asked to sing on any given Sunday provoke holy enthusiasm more often than not.

And if contemporary worship truly is multi-generational these days, what should worship leaders do about it?

First, be even more intentional about balancing your worship set with songs that cover a chronological spectrum of cwm.  Yes, even your 70-somethings and a few of your 80-somethings are embracing your musical styles without reservation–praise God!–but, if you are called to minister to the entire congregation and not just to a particular or coveted demographic, your job includes allowing everyone in CWPA Demoss Stacked FC Logo PRINTthe congregation at some point in the regular worship gatherings of the Church to sing what at Judson University’s Demoss Center for Worship in the Performing Arts we call “the soundtrack of your faith,” that music that was integral to and/or utilized by the Church at the time of your conversion.  Because of all that has been discussed above, this task is easier now for worship leaders than ever before, but some effort will still be required, especially for younger worship leaders who weren’t around at the dawn of cwm, to broaden the worship set list beyond whatever Bethel and Hillsong United have released in the past five years.

Second, keep on writing better and better songs for your congregations.  Make them theologically sound.  Make them Trinitarian.  Make them God- and others-centered.  Make them easy to sing for the average Joe and Jane.  More on this topic in the weeks and months to come.  The Lord be with you!

Coming next week (Lord willing): Worship leaders as safari guides.

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50 Reflections on Worship in the Contemporary American Church — An Introduction

According to my records, my last post to this blog was almost three years ago, which is rather hard to believe, but a lot has happened in that time.  My father died.  My wife’s step-father died.  My daughter graduated from Judson University.  My son graduated from Waynesburg University.  My wife and I celebrated 25 years of marriage.  Judson’s Center for Worship in the Performing Arts, which I am privileged to direct, became the Demoss Center for Performing Arts, to recognize the significant contributions of Mr. and Mrs. Dennis and JoAnn Demoss to the ministry of the music and worship programs at Judson.  Judson’s Artist-in-Residence, Rev. Huntley Brown, and I took the Judson University Choir to Jamaica one May and Europe two years later.  It’s been a busy three years.

I also retired from active, “weekend-warrior” church worship ministry after 24 straight years (and 31 years out of 34).  The time clearly had come; my responsibilities at Judson had increased, but I had not made sufficient adjustments in other areas of my life to compensate.  After a few minor health scares, it was apparent that I needed to remove something from my plate, and so I resigned as Worship Pastor at Elgin Evangelical Free Church.  Almost immediately, the absence of the week-in-and-week-out stresses of church ministry produced lifestyle benefits that have since more than corroborated the wisdom of the decision.

Life without a weekend church gig has been interesting.  My wife and I have gone to a few churches with some degree of regularity, but we have also spent many Sundays doing something I’ve always wanted but never had the opportunity to do (because of my previous weekend commitments)–visit churches where current and former students serve in worship ministry.  It’s been thrilling to see how God is using these twenty- and thirty-somethings in ministry, and to recognize that my colleagues and I have had perhaps a small part in the process by which these young men and women currently serve the Church has been both humbling and gratifying.

Thanks, in alphabetical order from first name (corresponding pictures below), to current and former Judson students Aaron Andries, Aaron Niequist, Aaron Wiewel, Abby Wheatley, Adam Moxness, Andy Boettcher, Aubree Flickema, Ben Kafer, Bethany Timmons, Branden Benskin, Catlin Walton, Chad Negley, Chip Read, Cobey Bienert, Izy Hermosillo, Jeff Kuester, Jen Alderson, Jen Dotson, Jessie Garcia, Joey Atansio, Joshua Hoegh, Mara Schumacher, Martine Hunter, Mat Camerer, Matt Archibald, Matt Calio, Mike Rancharan, Sara Price, Sarah Gordon, Scott Bunn, Tiger Khokunthod, Tim Caffee, Tim Kindberg, Tina Spears, Walter Halliwell, and Winter Burnett.  And thanks, in advance, to the students, former and current, who will, Lord willing, bless God and His people in the months and years to come.  There are so many more of you whose worship leadership we want to experience.

I have Tweeted about these visits under the general banner of “The Worship Leader Roadshow,” and I’ve also taken field notes to help me, as a worship educator, get a sense of where the contemporary American Church is and appears to be going, at least where its corporate worship is concerned.  As an easy on-ramp back into the blogosphere after a near-three-year hiatus, I thought I’d share these notes for public consumption and, perhaps, further reflection over the next months.  If you happen upon one of these next posts, I welcome your thoughts.  May the Lord’s Church be edified in our efforts, and may the Lord be with you!

 

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Hand Bells? At Willow Creek? Huh?

gls_logoWillow Creek Community Church, on the heels of its annual Global Leadership Summit, featured Dr. Henry Cloud as the speaker for its weekend services on Saturday and Sunday.  So far, so good.  No big whoop.

Willow Creek Community Church, for its pre-message corporate worship, used–wait for it–hand bells.  Hand.  Bells.  At.  Willow.  Say what?

Just as soon as we make the decision at Judson University to sell our long-dormant octaves of hand bells, Willow goes and uses them in Big-Church worship, portending a wave of retro-cool hand bell usage throughout the contemporary American church.  Soon every Willow Creek Association and Willow-wannabe church in the world will be ponying up $10-20K for a set of bells.

But it doesn’t stop there.  In short time, buoyed by the success of the once-despised bells—those vestiges of boring, liturgical worship—Willow will lead the way, as it always does, for the first-ever megachurch purchase of a $300K, 100-rank, 500-stop pipe organ.  Other megachurches will soon follow suit, and all the mid-sized wannabes will do their best with the budgets they have, resigning themselves to in-home Wurlitzers or the sampled pipe organ patches on their now-unhip synthesizers.  And, in no time, ultra-cool worship in the contemporary American church will look just like . . . what Willow left behind in the 70’s as dull, dreary, and in need of repair.

OK.  Probably not.  But for those of us who have occasionally bemoaned the tendency of megachurches and all other trying-really-hard-to-be-culturally-relevant churches to throw the baby out with the baptismal font water, the following clip has to bring a smile (the bells appear around the 19-minute mark): Willow Using Hand Bells.

Seriously, hats off, once again, to Willow, for pushing the envelope.  The fact that they’re pushing the envelope backwards in recent years is yet one more reason I admire their collective efforts.

The Lord be with you!

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Worship at Its Core

One of the true privileges of my job in the Center for Worship in the Performing Arts atCWPA_Stacked_Full Color Judson University is helping to train young people who will serve the Church as worship leaders.  Seeing how their knowledge expands, by God’s grace, over the course of four years is a joy.  Engaging them in conversations to help them anticipate that everyone they eventually encounter in their congregations will have opinions–many of them strong–on the specific Sunday-morning activity for which they will be responsible can often distill worship to its core, its true essence (stripped of the first-world, western, American, suburban–in my case in Elgin, Ill.; choose your appropriate adjectives) lacquer that so many of us inadvertently, one hopes, slap onto corporate worship.  Yes, worship leaders must be sensitive to cultural contexts, but doing so should not override central tenets, and, it’s been my experience, too often it does.

21dkQs+oFvL__UX250_In going through some old papers the other day, I came across an excellent article that addresses this subject extremely well.  It comes from the pen of one of my all-time favorite authors, early contemporary Christian music pioneer John Fischer, whose end-of-the-magazine essays in the old CCM magazine were must-reads for anyone wrestling with the intersection of Christianity and culture.  (CCM‘s decline as a viable journal can be traced, in my opinion, to the day John’s insights were no longer welcome there.)  I still use in my teaching two books that are collections of some of those columns–Real Christians Don’t Dance and True Believers Don’t Ask Why.  (I was just on Amazon’s site and am pleased to see that these two and several others of John’s books are now available for Kindle.)   

I have had the privilege of knowing John for about 20 years–he has spoken and performed at Judson several times–and I still find his ministry to be a blessing to me.  Here’s what he had to say on the subject of worship in an essay from 2010 entitled “Why Worship?”

I will worship God today because it is good and right to do so.

I will worship God today, not because of what it will do for me, or because it is popular, or because it is Sunday, or because I like the worship music, but for the simple reason that I was made to do this.  To worship God is what I am here for.

Worship is not an asset.  It is not an added benefit to my life like working out or taking vitamins.  Nor is it a secret formula that will add a deeper dimension to my life.  Worship is the air I breathe.  It is the blood pumping through my veins.  It is the cells in my body that reproduce and keep me alive for this.  Everything else I do is extemporaneous.  To worship God is the root of my being.

I understand why, but it is not necessarily good that worship has become a trend–a seminar that pastors attend to learn how to do it better.  Music directors are now worship leaders, and this is all well and good, but it can also be demeaning to worship if we end up thinking that this is all worship is: the latest idea that will get more people to come to church.

Remember the pet rock craze?  Or canned air?  Or rain in a jar?  Or anything else so basic that someone tries to make a buck off of packaging, in a clever way, what everyone already has for the taking?  In the same way we risk the danger of belittling worship by marketing it or using it as a means to an end.  No one needs to sell worship to anyone.  Worship is the end.  The Westminster Catechism calls it the “chief end” of man.  That’s another way of saying it is the most important thing we were created to do.  And if it’s that important, then it is accessible to everybody, all the time.

The Lord our God is one God, and we will love him and worship him because of who he is and who we are.  It is good and right to do so.  It is arrogant not to do so.  We are his creatures; he is the creator.  We are the sheep of his pastures; he is the shepherd.  We are mere people; he is God.  To do anything but worship him is to inadvertently put us in his place, and I don’t think anyone in his or her right mind really wants to be there.

John Fischer now writes a daily blog, “The Catch,” to which I subscribe, and I would encourage you to check it out: John Fischer’s “The Catch.”  (This week’s offerings thus far have been particularly poignant.)  I think you will find him to be a welcome addition to your daily walk.

The Lord be with you!

 

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