Saturday, July 07, 2007

FOCUS ON WORSHIP

When we finally decided to add yet another church to the greater Grand Rapids community one of the things that was weighing heavily on my heart was the subject of corporate worship. I had a passion to see a body of believers joining together in meaningful, participatory, corporate worship. I need to go back a little…

I grew up in a Conservative Baptist church in Southern California. I learned NOTHING about worship in all my years there. The message that came across at that church was that everything that happened before the sermon was the “warm up act.” It was the same every week. I used to joke that I could tell you exactly what time it was by what was happening on the platform. Yes, the congregation sang hymns but they seemed like time-fillers while we waited for the preaching. The rest of the time we watched. We watched the choir sing. We watched the special music. We watched the scripture reading. We watched! Then when the sermon came it felt like, “Heeeeeeeeere’s Bill!”

I’m not blaming anybody for my lack of understanding of worship. I honestly don’t think anybody knew any better. In fact, I went through my studies at Wheaton, Wheaton Grad School, and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and still knew nothing about worship! That’s nobody’s fault but my own!

All I know is that the church is supposed to gather for worship. Whatever we do when we’re together on Sunday morning or Saturday evening or whenever you gather with your congregation is supposed to be worship. In other words, in every part of the service the people should be able to see a connection between what we’re doing and the praise and adoration of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Which brings me to my major complaint about contemporary “worship.” Singing time is not necessarily worship. The best contemporary Christian music bands can be on the platform and it is possible that no worship whatsoever is going on. Before starting Shiloh we attended a Purpose Driven Model megachurch wannabe. The stated goal of the pastor was to have the best praise band in town. He actually said he wanted it to sound like a concert, much to the chagrin of the worship leader who genuinely wanted to do worship!
The band was great. People stood and clapped and listened and applauded. Hardly anybody sang.

So I wanted to make sure that we were going to worship at Shiloh. We have an odd combination of ancient and contemporary worship. The format is rather ancient, whether the Shilohfolks realize it or not. For example, we have a call to worship (often a responsive reading), we say the Apostles’ Creed, we have a prayer time (usually led by me), we say the Lord’s Prayer, we have scripture reading, we have preaching, and we have a formal benediction. Our music is contemporary in style but we maintain a mixture of great hymns. We try our best to create an atmosphere of worship which is rather difficult in an elementary school cafetorium. We have tables at the front with candles and crosses. The people often come forward to receive the Lord’s Supper.

That should give you a little idea of what goes on at Shiloh on Sunday mornings. I really appreciate the emphasis that the emergent types are putting on worship.

11 Comments:

At 9:11 PM, Blogger Shiloh Guy said...

Dear Yakmeister,

Recently the pastor of one of our megamall churches was being interviewed and he was asked two questions. One, what is the gospel? Two, will Moslems go to heaven? He answered the first by talking about God's love and his desire to help us have good, successful lives. He wouldn't even answer the second question. He hemmed and hawed all over the place and was very apparently uncomfortable.

When I talk about transforming the gospel I mean watering it down and making it into something Jesus, Paul, and the first century church would never recognize.

 
At 7:53 AM, Blogger jazzycat said...

Dave,
Good points about the focus on worship.

As to your thread comment about the pastor interview.... My pastor writes for a site called Christian Spepticism. He recently wrote a (this great article) on the need to not only affirm truth, but to refute error.
wayne

 
At 7:12 PM, Blogger Susan said...

Y'know, the worship time at our small church is all old hymns with nothing but a simple piano accompaniment.

Interestingly, my husband and I started out in churches where the music (pretty much all contemporary, with guitars, drums, fast beat, etc) was a big draw.

As we've grown in the Lord, the music is only a part of the worship. Like you said, our responsive reading (call to worship) is part of worship, as are our prayer and offerings prior to the message.

But the songs now all are much more meaningful and joyful as we actually sing them to the Lord - and meditate on what we're saying - and take them home in our hearts to sing to Him during the week.

 
At 8:05 PM, Blogger Doulos Christou said...

Our "worship" time today consisted of several plugs for the upcoming new "worship" album, with the congregation recorded for overdubs and then (and I'm not kidding) instruction to clap at set times in order to insert the clapping in between tracks so that the album would sound "live."

The increase in entertainment philosophy in music ministry seems to have a direct corrolation to the decline in Biblical accuracy. I'm grateful for your efforts on both fronts to stem the tide - it is a sorely needed effort!

I'll keep praying for Shiloh from here!

 
At 5:34 AM, Blogger mark pierson said...

Good thoughts on worship. It sounds like Shiloh is very similar to Evangelical Church of Fairport, where I attend, ocasionally.

 
At 1:13 PM, Blogger Shiloh Guy said...

Thanks for all your comments. I appreciate your thoughts.

I really don't care whether we sing contemporary songs or hymns; both can be worship. I detest the idea of losing the great hymns of Watts, Newton, Wesley, etc. For contemporary songs to be good they have to say more than "Jesus is my boyfriend." The bottom line is that the leadership team of the church needs to emphasize the fact that everything we do is meant to be worship.

Doulos, if I didn't know you for the honest man you are I would accuse you of lying or at least exaggerating what happened at your church yesterday. It's really unbelievable, isn't it.

Susan, I'm glad for the emphasis on worship in your fellowship. You and your husband know what I'm saying about contemporary music not necessarily being worshipful!

The emphasis on corporate worship is a positive aspect of the emerging movement.

 
At 8:02 PM, Blogger Gayla said...

I'm blessed, as well, to attend a reformed church that puts a great deal of importance on worship. The songs are usually tied into what the message is about. We sing more contemporary songs, but I noticed a huge difference between them and the types of songs being sung at my former church.

The words worship our Lord. They praise Him. None of the mamby-pamby, "Jesus is my boyfriend" type stuff.

Dave, I appreciate your heart and the direction in which you desire to lead.

 
At 4:43 PM, Blogger Baptist Girl said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 4:46 PM, Blogger Baptist Girl said...

Hey Dave,
We have been searching for a church for about a year. The Worship time at the last church was the same thing every Sunday. 2 songs,prayer time,2 songs then the sermon. The same songs were sang at a lot of the Sunday Worship times because the Pastor's wife liked the songs and she was the one that chose the songs. There was not a lot of the old hymns sung and that was disappointing too.

Please pray for us because the choosing are slim for churches here. Most of the Baptist churches are free will.

Cristina

 
At 8:16 PM, Blogger Shiloh Guy said...

Gayla, thanks for your kind words. You are really blessed to have the church you have! See Cristina's comment after yours! I have found that people who understand the doctrines of grace have genuine hearts for worship because they have a great understanding of the glory of God.

Cristina, I'm praying you guys will find a place where you will be able to worship in every part of the service, including the preaching of the truth!

Dave

 
At 7:58 AM, Blogger Jonathan Moorhead said...

I totally agree. I hope you influence others to do the same.

 

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