The worship service: then and now — in one lifetime! (3)

In the previous two Worship Columns, we have surveyed the changes in our worship services in the course of a lifetime.  Some changes are neutral, other are harmful. This month we celebrate the positive changes that have been taking place.

Let’s identify some contemporary changes that are positively healthy, for biblical and theological reasons:

From evangelism to discipling — This is a positive move, which fits in better with Christ’s mandate to “make disciples” over a longer term. “Making disciples” includes evangelism, but goes beyond the short term goal of conversion.  Discipling aims to make sinners like Jesus in their characters and behaviours. “Put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” — Ephesians 4:24.  God uses everything that happens to us for this high purpose: “to be conformed to the likeness of His Son” — Romans 8:28, 29

From pietism to social concern — Another positive move, parallel to the one above. Evangelism on its own usually leads to a pietistic emphasis on one’s inner, personal relationship with Jesus and the disciplines of one’s spiritual life.

True discipling aims to conform the convert to resemble Jesus in the whole of life: inner and outer, private and social, personal and in community. This embraces issues of social compassion, and justice, as well as one’s personal devotional life. This wider social concern will show itself in our congregational prayers and songs, and will be highlighted in the sermons, the preaching of God’s Word.

From monocultural to multicultural — Yet another positive change, to be welcomed because it lines up with God’s loving concern for everyone, people from “every nation, tribe, people and language” — Revelation 7:9. Racial and cultural exclusivism is not compatible with the inclusive Body of Christ, the Church.

What should we be doing, as we move from ‘then’ to ‘now’?

Embrace the contemporary worship song genre.  We cannot hold back the incoming tide of contemporary worship songs. Don’t try to turn back the clock. Our Christian responsibility is to channel this tide into God’s desire, as revealed in Colossians 3:16.

Develop and select a wide variety of genres (“psalms, hymns and spiritual songs”)

                        that are culturally relevant,

                        that are sourced in Scripture

                        and rich in wisdom.

                                    Songs that teach and admonish the congregation,

                                    with plenty of thanksgiving and praise to God.

Control the tide so that we fulfil God’s purposes — do not be swept away into popular triviality by its tsunami-power!  Rather use it to achieve God’s purposes in God’s way.

Let’s encourage all pastors and worship leaders, across the range of churches, to select contemporary worship songs with worthy lyrics that are biblically and theologically sound. 

At this time of the year, the Church needs more contemporary songs that are relevant to the Christmas season. If these are not available, then draw on the many traditional carols that tell of the birth of Christ.

A repertoire of worthy, biblical contemporary worship songs is critically important: Let us encourage Spirit-gifted lyric writers — especially pastors, ministers and educators, to craft worthy words that are “rich in the Word of Christ and all wisdom”. Urge them to work hand-in-hand with musicians gifted in composing in the style of contemporary worship music. Together they can transform the contemporary worship scene, and harness its power and popularity to “teach and admonish one another”, and express “thanksgiving in their hearts to God.”  We need new contemporary worship songs that fit God’s revealed criteria.

Those who love “psalms and hymns” must not despise “spiritual songs”, and ensure that worthy contemporary worship songs are part of every Sunday service.

Those who love “spiritual songs” must not despise “psalms and hymns”, and ensure that worthy psalms/hymns are part of every Sunday service.

So, in every Sunday service, we will obey God’s command to use every genre of music as we sing the rich word of Christ, “teaching and admonishing one another with all wisdom as we sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, with gratitude in our hearts to God” — Colossians 3:16

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