Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Will the TRUE Church please STAND UP....!!!!

Dear Readers: I know you are probably thinking "Will this series ever end?" However, I have been inspired by God's Word, Holy Spirit, and your comments. These factors are truly forming a reformation within myself and others in the way I look at the TRUE Church and the way we should be discipling those that are sheep in the flock. It doesnt matter if you are in a city or country church, anywhere a group of believers gather in Jesus' name, that is the church. In San Diego, it can be Church on the Beach, or in Plano, TX, Church under the tree, or in Waco, Church under the Bridge, or First Baptist Church, Dallas, or Travis Avenue in Fort Worth, we should all have the same mentality about church and following Jesus leadership and plan as He has set before us. Worshipping God and Equipping and Making Disciples. Love God and Love Each Other!! I know I am going to make someone upset on this particular here goes!!

Identity Crisis #9: Most churches today are all about "theotainment". This term is "theology + entertainment" as the body of Christ meet, and we obviously have the wrong emphasis in worship.

I believe that we have the emphasis in worship all wrong. We focus on music in worship as the do-all, be-all. This is why in the last 10-15 years, most churches have faced "worship wars" over what type of music we are to have in morning worship. The thought process is that if we play contemporary music, younger people will come to the church for worship and they will be drawn by this faster paced music with guitar, bass, and drums, etc. They will truly experience worship. You heard what I said....experience worship. We have taught congregations to "experience" not to "show worth" to our Lord and Savior. Henry Blackaby writes in his "Worship" discipleship series that worship means to "show worth" to something, and in a Christians case, that is God. IMHO, This is a giving attitude, not receiving.

So, we are equipping and making disciples that are coming to be spectators of experience not servants who are humbly bowing in the presence of an Almighty God. What is even worse is that when the worship wars are in a stalemate, we create two services to make everyone happy.
The first service being "traditional" for the older people and a second, later service for the younger group that is more "contemporary". I have heard at one church, they named the second service "High Octane." The older folks are mad at the younger folks because they can't be happy with hymns, and the younger folks are mad at the older ones because they can't pick up the pace. You have two services to please everyone and split the congregation in half over music preference. Next, we will need to build two fellowship halls, one for Mexican food and one for Italian........what???? (warning: heavy sarcasm noted)

I have heard it all. When I visit someone who has left the church in past experiences, the main focus is that "we don't like the music" or "we just need the pace to pick up a little more" or "I almost fell asleep during the song service" or "I didnt know they still made organs".

Ron Owens writes in "Return to Worship: A God Centered Approach" that in the context of a worship service, music should never be "music for music's sake". As worship leaders, we are there to assist the people, through the medium of music, to encounter God. We are not there just to sing and play songs. We are not there to perform or entertain an audience; we are there to use everything at our disposal to glorify God and edify His people.

What was the most important part of gathering together in the first Church in Acts: the preaching and teaching of the Gospel!! Acts 2:42 says: "They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer."

"On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight. There were many lamps in the upper room where we were gathered together."
Acts 20:7-8 (NASB95)

Don't get me wrong, they praised God, but the most important part of the gathering was preaching and teaching. People gripe and complain when we have messages over 20 minutes saying that they are inconvienienced. What are we coming for then? To show worth and glorify the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and to be under the teachings of our Lord. Music is a tool to accomplish that, plain and simple. We are not Hollywood churches that have to have a big bang to get worship started.

When was the last time your church confessed your sin together in worship? When was the last time your church read Scripture out loud in declaration? When was the last time you had a testimony of someones life change because of God? When was the last time you took notes from the teachings of God's Word through His messenger? Do you see an emphasis of prayer in the worship service? (I really have about 100 questions along this line that don't pertain to music)

Get off the big emphasis of music and the contention it is causing in God's church. Can you not see that Satan uses that as a weapon to divide the church and to cause disunity? The focus should be on glorifying Him and preparing for that all week personally at home or at work to what you will bring in worship corporately on the Lord's Day.


Eklektos said...

Brother Brian, you have crossed the line, we can discuss doctrine, gifts of the spirit, all matter of biblical concepts but you are really meddling now, talking about music in the church. Unfortunately, as you so aptly stated this has become a huge problem in the past few years. I have had some personal experience in how destructive it can be.

Let’s start with a quote from the past:

"There exists a vast mass of love songs of the poets, written in a fashion entirely foreign to the profession and name of Christians. They are the songs of men ruled by passion, and a great number of musicians, corrupters of youth, make them the concern of their art and their industry; in proportion as they flourish through praise of their skill, so do they offend good and serious-minded men by the depraved taste of their work. I blush and grieve to think that once I was of their number. But while I cannot change the past, nor undo what is done, I have mended my ways. Therefore, I have labored on songs which have been written in praise of our Lord, Jesus Christ."
Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina
(c. 1525-1594)

There is a legend repeated by various authors, that Palestrina saved church music and according to this myth, the members of the Council of Trent were poised, on the brink of banning polyphonic music in the church.

To learn more about Giovanni and what his music meant to the church go to the following link.

So it seems we have an ancient problem, as are many problems we deal with concerning the church today, they have been dealt with before, the devil has his same old bag of tricks just packaged a little differently for each generation. I guess we will never learn.

It is said, “What contemporary Christian music has done is make the worship experience more relevant and therefore more meaningful to a new generation,” but the danger is contemporary music is performance-oriented. The line between worship and entertainment is easily blurred. Music in worship should draw our attention toward God, but contemporary music often draws attention to itself. If not careful a congregation can take on a consumer mentality, evaluating whether worship was "good" today based on "how well the performances pleased us." Music is such an integral part of our worship service that it should prepare our minds to enter into God’s throne room in a manner that is worthy of Him; or it can influence us in a manner that our attention is on the performance or worse someplace else other than the holiness of our creator.

Personally, I have seen the dissension and division this movement has caused in the church. Prior to the arrival of this variety of music, along with the demand that we, the church, must introduce contemporary music into the church service, in order to attract the younger population and to be culturally relevant. Prior to this, for the most part, there was unity in the church concerning worship music; it was conducted according to historical principles. That being said one might conclude my belief in the present contemporary worship style lacks biblical principle; if you came to that conclusion, you would be correct. See the link at the end for an in depth study.

Repeatedly in the Old Testament God judged His people for false worship. Exodus 32 says they were punished for both worshipping false gods and worshipping God falsely. In the book of Acts in the New Testament all references to worship are rebukes of false worship. In Exodus 32:4-6, Israel had come to the place where God was going to personally give them His Word. They missed it. Their self-appointed “worship leader” made a golden calf, called it god, rocked out the music, added dancing and eventually immorality, and called it worship. This led the people into God’s judgment; it was an abomination to God. Aaron (the first worship leader) led the people in dance and music to worship in Egypt’s style. Could we make a comparison to what is taking place with the contemporary music industry today? This brand of music has crept into all types of church services, large, small, city, small town.

Ron Owens in his book, Return to Worship, talks of “the rise of the chorus finds the death of the hymn”. Lowell Davey, President of Bible Broadcasting Network, “has concerns that a pastor or worship leader may close the hymnbook, eliminate the traditional instruments, and steal our greatest tool for teaching the Truth to the next generation and beyond. It is like serving the appetizer and forgetting the main course if we neglect the hymns.“

Michel Horton, a professor of apologetics and historical theology states, “Current contemporary/blended worship bespeaks consumerism, marketing and “a modern therapeutic orientation in its preaching, liturgy and music.” Horton adds “such worship echoes the example in the book of Nehemiah in which the Torah was read from the platform and listeners wept in confession of sins as a people and as individuals.” Horton continues “that the dangers of modern worship, with its long stretches of praise music, is not that one will be smitten by an angry God or lose salvation, but that one might not know God properly. Typically, (modern) praise choruses don’t focus on what God has done for us in Christ.” My response to all of that, I praise you, I serve you. I, I, I, is the music has shifted from focusing on Christ’s work in the history of redemption. Worship is not about the I s, but is about glorifying Christ (or should be).

Professor Robert Webber, a non denomination Christian and professor at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary and author of many books on this subject states “that too much praise music” is about my personal experience with God and not reflective of what worship ought to be, which is God’s mission to the world, to save and restore the whole creative order. It’s an epistemological shift from the objective work of God to my subjective experience.

Rick Warren, who is not one of my favorite pastors, in his book The Purpose Driven Life, states “One thing worship cost us is our self-centeredness. You can not exalt God and yourself at the same time. You don’t worship to be seen by others or please yourself. You deliberately shift the focus off yourself onto what is greater than you.”

It is my belief that music created by Christians, amounts to a ministry and should glorify God by proclaiming God’s Word precisely. Contemporary Christian music “has committed a spiritual adultery in joining itself with the wayward world.

What is it about the contemporary Christian music in our churches today? Is it the biblical and theological accuracy of the words or is it the beat and rhythm of the music that excites our senses and emotions? The bible calls us to examine ourselves daily to find our faults.

I want to close on a quandary the great Lutheran composer Johann Sebastian Bach had. He was highly criticized during his later years over his preference of musical styles in the church. Towards the end of Bach’s life, the influence of Pietism was felt throughout Germany. Pietism, founded by Phillip Jacob Spener (1635-1705), sought to combine the external means of grace with emotion. This attitude, which syncretized God’s Word and human feelings, placed the surety of salvation inside man. The Gospel of Christ became secondary to how people felt about the Gospel.

Church music was also affected by this pervasive attitude, but when contemporary Pietistic styles were introduced into the Divine Service, Bach resisted. Instead of embracing his cultural ideas, Bach rejected the contemporary view of Pietism. Because of this, Bach in his later years wrote music that was not contemporary so that it would not emphasize subjective feelings and lead people into the heresy of his time. He realized that music was not biblically commanded or forbidden to be used in worship services, but he also knew that, by writing emotional music for church, he would promote an emotional and Pietistic theology.

Again old things become new, the Church today faces a similar challenge. Some people say that contemporary music helps the church grow as long as the words are fine. They say that people are already comfortable with this kind of music. However, just like in Bach’s day, contemporary church music promotes a contemporary theology instead of the teachings passed down by the Apostles. If the music used in church is no different from the same kind of music heard on the radio, people will not see the Church is against the world. The manner of worship music played in a church reflects how Jesus is perceived. Contemporary churches see Jesus as a cheerleader and a motivator; but Jesus is the eternal Son of God in human flesh. His works are eternal, ours are not. His crucifixion is our victory. It is wrong to look to our heart for holiness (Jer. 17:9, Mt. 15:18) because we are made holy by the free grace through Christ.
Just as Bach suffered criticism from his Pietistic neighbors, we who hate seeing the Church resemble the world will also suffer criticism. Nevertheless, in this earthly life, we who are Christ’s will be hated by the world just as the world hated Him.

I gladly bear this cross.

Go to this web site to see an in depth study of scripture and the contemporary music movement.

Long winded again.


Gene Pool said...

Great blog and reply by Eklektos. There’s not much ol’ Gene Pool can add. However, a dear friend who loves the Lord reads Pastor Brian’s blogs and replies, but posting is not his thing. He sent me the following message as an email. I think it worthy of posting to the comments. Hope you do too.

Gene Pool

These two pieces fit together to show me just how divisive the issue of music in worship can be...and have become. Two services based upon style have always seemed to me to be divisive by nature. We [in our little Baptist church] have about half-and-half in one service; but I know two older (80-ish) ladies who will not sing if the words are projected onto a screen...even hymns! If they are not in the book and the page number announced by the leader, they don't sing. That is really pitiful...but typical of old folks.

I have no answer...I feel personally called to support contemporary music for those who prefer it...and I sense (in my experience) that that those who prefer hymns want to be more rigid and say "my way or the highway". Saying that "new" music is wrong simply because it is new is no better than saying hymns are better because they are old.

Content has to be the issue...what does the song say? Some seem to fear the "beat" as if it is demonic...but, did God not create all music? I hear hymn-people say they don't like the repetition of some choruses...but they do not mind singing all the verses of "How Great Thou Art" and repeating the chorus every time...singing the same thing 4, 5, and 6 times. What's the difference?

All of what I have said addresses the process...and is not at all about God and our worship of Him. Frankly, I am still struggling with the issue of scriptural proof that we gather for worship. Worship should be the very air we breathe every moment of our lives...and not something we do at 11AM on Sunday. The scripture says we meet to hear the Word and to mutually edify one another. If we worship God at the same time, that is fine...but I am not sure it is any more scriptural than tithing or the "God's House" myth.

Eklektos said...

Page 2

In my previous post on the topic of music, I assumed I had completed my comments on this subject and was eagerly awaiting the next topic Brother Brian would make known. In the days after this post, it seemed the Holy Spirit wanted me to dig deeper to clarify my thoughts. Then, last night I read the comments from a friend of Gene Pool and it became clear that the subject of contemporary of music was not the issue. On a deeper level, the conflict is between our culture that promotes contemporary Christian music and the biblical and historical standards of worship that are acceptable to God in the assembly of the local church. This begs the question, “Is the church a culturally driven institution or a scripturally ordered identity?” The church must answer this question because the answer is vital to the survival of Christ’s Church in the cultural storms we are facing. If we throw out God –authorized standards for worship, we do so with a lack of respect for God’s authority; like wise, if we let in a cultural ideology that undermines the purity of God’s authority in worship. The intent might be to love or attract the unsaved into our fellowship via a cultural remodel, but when they arrive what will they learn? Will God’s grace take care of all of our cultural errors regardless of what the bible says? Does God’s grace mean there is no judgment for violation of His instructions on how He wants us to worship Him? If they learn this from us, it will be a message from man, not God.

Is the Church cultural or scriptural? We should go all the way back to the beginning of the formation of the Church. 1 John2:24, “Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard in the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and the Father.” John not only says that we can go back to the beginning, the forming of the Church, but if we are to abide in the Son and Father, we must go all the way back. As Peter prepared the members of the “dispersion” for the suffering they would endure, he tells them, “For to this you were called because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps” (1Peter 2:21). Are we doomed to follow the culture in which we find ourselves? Must we obey Jesus within the context of history and culture? If so, we can never fully realize Peter’s encouragement in our lives.

We can go back to the teachings of the Bible for our leadership. We can divorce ourselves from the control of the culture in which we live, with regard to the fundamentals of worship, in order to obey Christ. Our goal should be to strive to become like Him, this is what the church is to encourage, not submitting to a culture of music and entertainment in order to be relevant. We are to change the world not the world change us.

The church is described as “the body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:27; Ephesians 1:22,23; 4:12; Colosians1:24). For that reason, the church “belongs” to Christ just as our bodies belong to our heads. This requires that the body, the church, take its complete direction from the head, Christ! The church is pictured as the bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:22-33). In this relationship, we stress the qualities of oneness and faithfulness. The unfaithfulness of the church will bring about a divorce from the husband, Christ. Christ will remove the candlestick from the church if apostasy (spiritual adultery) results (see the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3). We probably will not know the exact point when that takes place, but no church should run the risk of coming to that point. As the bride, we must remain faithful and true to the bridegroom, Christ. Faithfulness requires more that a lack of adultery. Dr. J.D. Bales wrote, “Faithfulness to Christ does not only mean faithfulness in doctrine, although it involves it. . . the call is not only to be the bride faithful, but the bride in love.” Are we in love enough with Christ to resist the easy path of culturalism for the sake of growth? Perhaps we should be reminded that all growth is not measured in numbers. Sometimes God brings about our greatest growth when we are pruned (see John 15:1-2; Hebrews 12:5-11). If Noah had measured success purely in numbers, then he would have quit his ark-building career long before the first drop of rain fell.

Decisions have to be made on the part of a congregation about the way worship and culture will be reconciled. Over time, some activities will undergo change, but the basics must never change. Men muddy the water with modernistic language leading to destruction while God gives us clear direction for life and worship.

The cry for change in our churches is not the fault of the message or the nature of the church; it is the work of a powerful evil enemy that wants Christ’s message and His body to change. Satan is reaching deep into the body of the local church and wrapping his immoral fingers round its very heart. We must resist this cultural attack and be aware of the damage that has been done, and return to the foundation of our beliefs, God’s inerrant Word.

In regards to Gene Pool’s friend I agree with you on the two services based on style is divisive and that is exactly what the enemy wants us to do. There is an old saying, “divide and conquer,” where this is happening Satan is winning.

My support for contemporary music only goes as far as it meets the biblical qualifications discussed above and the following guiding principles:
1. Songs used as part of church ministry must be doctrinally sound (Col. 3:14-17).
2. The conflation of songs used must be doctrinally balanced (Acts 20:27-28).
3. The performance style used must be disassociated with its worldly and CCM counterparts (II Cor. 6:14-7:1).
4. Music ministers must evidence a Spirit-filled life that is in tune with God and properly related to others. (Ephesians 5:18-21).
5. Music must be chosen that in both style and content it communicate effectively to listener. (I Cor. 14).
6. Church music must maintain a proper focus on God and the edification of other believers (Psalms 29:2, Col. 3:14-17, Ephesians 5:18-21, Hebrews 13:15).
7. Music should be of the highest quality each church can produce. (Psalm 33:3, I Chronicles 25:1-8, Numbers 19:2; 28:3, 9, 11; 29:11, 17).

I also would not say that new music is wrong simply because it is new and there are, in all probability, thousands of songs that are not acceptable because they are old.

As to content, it is the entire issue; any song old or new must meet the biblical standard set forth above to be considered worthy of being used in worship. Again, sir you are correct God did provide some people the talent to create music but not all use that talent to produce fruitful worship music, it can be used for demonic purposes. Using your analogy, God created hemp to make clothing and ropes, but man corrupted it and now abuses it as a drug (marijuana), Mr. Nobel invented dynamite to make war but now it is a useful tool in construction. Most things in life can be used for the glory of God or can be used as a tool of the devil; it depends on who is using the item.

I am not sure what you mean by the process but I would humbly disagree with you on “and is not all about God and our worship of Him.” This is precisely what it is all about, what we use in the worship of our Savior, Jesus Christ, how culture has begun to divide the saints with contemporary music and entertainment.

When confronted with the temptation to receive kingdoms for bowing and worshiping the devil, Jesus refused. He referenced scripture and said, “Away with you Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve’” (Matthew 6:10)

I have one more post to prepare on this topic and it will tie up the loose ends of contemporary music, culture and worship.


Eklektos said...

Page 3 (I apologize in advance for this being so lengthy, I hope you find it beneficial.)

In my last post, we examined how contemporary music and the culture have penetrated our worship services. This infiltration into our corporate services has caused a divide in the minds and assembly of the saints of many of today’s churches. It is not God’s will that the body of believers be divided over this issue or any other issue man and Satan can create. (Acts 4:32) “All the believers were of one heart and mind, and no one felt that what he owned was his own; everyone was sharing.” We can have a difference of opinion, which can be healthy if handled well. However, spiritual unity is essential-loyalty, commitment, and love for God and his Word. Without spiritual unity, the church cannot survive.
Worshipping God is an activity that every believer claims to engage in on a regular basis. Church attendance, particularly in relation to the “Sunday Morning Worship Service,” is a widespread practice even among believers who could be described as less than faithful. Of course, we would all agree that worshipping God goes beyond mere church attendance. However, a question can be asked, what percentage of the Sunday morning worshippers really understand what is supposed to be taking place? My experience tells me that not as many as one would think.
The public worship of the church many times has been a point of discussion and unfortunately caused division. Some of the divisive points have to do with the conduct and structure of worship by the members as they assemble. In recent years, two descriptive words come to mind that represents the opposing views, “Contemporary” and “Traditional.” Without a clear definition or meaning of these words, it leaves leaders and members wondering where they stand. Are we traditional or contemporary?
Therefore, the challenge is to prayerfully consider the public worship of the church. Recognizing what worship is supposed to be, to whom it belongs and how it may be properly conducted is necessary to fully present ourselves to God.
While it is understood that our lives are to be lived in a manner that honors God, we must consider public worship in a more defined manner. In Genesis chapter four we learn that worship offered to God can be accepted or judged unacceptable. We read in (Hebrews 11:4) “Able offered a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain.” It was through the act of worship that Able is recognized as righteous or right behaving. Cain’s offering was unacceptable and this unacceptable worship combined with his subsequent behavior caused him to be recognized as unrighteous or not right in his behavior.
In order to experience worship correctly requires that we know what it is. Coming up with a definition is not difficult. It is applying a meaning that generates the obstacle in and among us. The common word for worship in Hebrew is shachah, which means “to bow down, to do homage.” In the New Testament the Greek word proskuneo, this literally means, “to kiss forward.” Another Greek word is latreuo, “which has the meaning of service or ministry.” We should note that all worship is service, but not all service fits the definition of worship. Below are three good working definitions of worship.
A. Paul Basden in The Worship Maze, “These definitions (speaking of some he has sampled) reveal something of the majesty and marvel of Christian worship. No single sentence can begin to exhaust its meaning. It is too deep and mysterious, too broad and varied, too complex and significant to be reduced to a single statement. No article, book, dictionary or encyclopedia has been or ever will be regarded as the final word on the subject. Yet we have the opportunity of meeting the eternal and infinite God in the wonderful act of corporate worship, even if we cannot understand all that transpires in such a holy moment. What a privilege!” (1999, p 19)
B. Warren Wiersbe in Real Worship, “Worship is the believers' response of all that they are-mind, emotions, will, and body-to what God is and says and does. This response has its mystical side in subjective experience and its practical side in objective obedience to God's revealed will. Worship is a loving response that's balanced by the fear of the Lord, and it is a deepening response as the believer comes to know God better.”(2000, p 26)
C. John MacArthur in The Ultimate Priority, “Here is a simple definition of worship: worship is honor and adoration directed to God. We need to start with no more detailed definition than that. As we study the concept of worship from the Word of God, that definition will fill up with richness.” (1983, p 14)
Again, we need to recognize that it is not so much the defining of terms that fall into conflict, as it is the application of that definition. We cannot determine a practice to be right or wrong if there is no defined belief from which to work.
Worship is tied to four active matters.
1. INFORMATION: We do not worship what we do not know. Worship results from understanding of what we are trying to worship. The Samaritan woman recognized the difference between the Jews and the Samaritans regarding worship. Her question related to the proper geographic location for worship. Jesus made clear that her question arose from ignorance. (John 4:20-24). “Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God [is] a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship [him] in spirit and in truth.”
2. MOTIVATION: Once we are aware of whom we are to worship and how that worship is to be practiced. We need motivation to do what is to be done.
The activities in our lives fall into two categories; the things we are compelled to do and things we do by choice. There are activities that are forced on us that may be as important as preservation of our lives, or as simple as satisfying the plans of some outside force. Sometimes we do things just to satisfy other people. Other activities are done as a matter of choice or personal desire. Sometimes it is because we just want to do something. It is possible for the two to be mixed.
Worship is a choice. The devil challenged Jesus to “fall down and worship” him (Matthew 4:9). Jesus chose not to do so. When a choice presents itself, we look for reasons to do or not to do. That is called reason, motivation. When there is no choice to be made the only motivation is that of force. When I was young my Mother forced me to make my bed, clean my room, there was no other choice for me to make. She had the power to force me do as she saw fit. Worship is far from force. There must be enough motivation that we will choose worship over other things that we might desire to do.
The very nature of God calls us to worship Him. Jesus claimed that God seeks our worship. He desires it. The caring and benevolent actions of God, especially in the loving sacrifice of His Son, should evoke an outpouring of thankful worship. God deserves our worship.
3. APPLICATION: I have found that most things are harder than they appear. Truth ought to be easy to apply but the fact of the matter is that we may well know what to do, and even have a strong motive to do it, yet we do not.
The application of worship takes it from thinking to actually doing. For the Jew who lived under the Law of Moses, it actually meant going to the herd, picking the lamb and physically sacrificing that chosen animal. It is also about the practice of the activities of worship. To sing as worship, a person has to verbalize the intentions of the heart. This is true of any activity that is intended to worship God. It takes heart but it also takes an action that fits the understood nature.
4. DEDICATION: Worship is a continuing practice. It arises from conscious recognition of what God does. Consider the dedication of Daniel. He let nothing deter him from the practice of continually praying to God. Any thing that has value takes dedication to that goal. The general living of the Christian life takes a dedication of laying aside anything that might hinder or deter ones chosen course.
In times gone by society set aside Sunday for worship and guarded it from interfering activities. Today Sunday has just become another day, for sports, household chores, shopping, movies, mowing the yard it seems anything but going to church. The progression of change in our culture has challenged our dedication to our commitment of public worship. We must understand that proper dedication is an indispensable ingredient.

Whew! I thought I could get all of the worship section into this last posting, but it seems it will take one more post. I hope you are getting as much out of this as I am.

I will post the balance tomorrow.


Eklektos said...

Page 4 (I guarantee this will be the last post.)

The last post ended with the four active matters of worship. I think we should look to where these struggles are and what elements should or should not be a part of our public worship of God. You would think that what should be acceptable in the practice of worship would be an easy matter. It should be, but the human factor in the application of worship disrupts what should be accepted. Preference, prejudice, tradition and enjoyment often vie for the application of choice.

Recognizing the modern conflicts finds the old conflicts still alive. How we correctly worship God has been a challenge since the days of Cain and Abel. Each offered sacrifices of worship to God, the sacrifice of Abel was accepted and Cain’s was not. There are other examples through out the Bible but I believe there are two basic categories. One side suggests that worship is generally undefined and open to the ebb and flow changes of culture and personal preferences, called “contemporary.” The other side is the belief that only what can be clearly identified by direct command or example can be allowed in our public worship, called “traditional.”

We should not attempt to malign the sincerity of either group. Never the less, both cannot be right. We must remember that what is acceptable to God dictates the correctness of our worship of Him. Neither right acts with wrong motives, nor wrong acts with right motives, constitute pure worship. It is authorized actions, offered from pure motives, that make up the worship our God deserves.

I think we all would agree there is no question about whether we should worship; even people who rarely or never assemble with others recognize that it should be done. The worship, Sunday, distractions mentioned earlier, sports, movies etc. have reduced the importance of worship and taken a toll on regular attendance. As numbers decline, faithful and dedicated worshipers question what is to be done in order to get people to return.

Now we need to put a face on the conflict that is generally between the contemporary and traditional; these opposing views need to be carefully balanced.

There needs to be some understanding of the two meanings, Rush Limbaugh says that words have meaning. If we are going to define the two opposing views, it important to grasp what is meant by contemporary and traditional. It can be challenging; trying to identify what is meant by contemporary or traditional worship is like trying to identify an elephant through a magnifying glass. The best way is to recognize the general philosophy and application of each concept.

The practice of “traditional worship” is the easiest to define. Traditional is generally more structured or limited in practice; the meaning and order of tradition is something that has become an accepted practice by the continual use over time. Traditional worship finds its center in a solid faithfulness to Biblical authority. Once a practice or behavior is recognized, then it becomes a permanent practice.

The word contemporary carries the meaning, “existing or occurring at or dating from the same period of time as something or somebody else.” As an adjective, it applies to anything of the here and now; The “Leisure Suit” hanging in my closet is not contemporary. “Innovative” is another word that could be applied to something generated within a certain period and cultural setting. Music written in the present era would be considered contemporary.

These innovative styles or contemporary stretch the limits of traditional thinking so much that there is often conflict between the two. The conflict is one of apparent attitude. The traditional style likes itself and considers any disruption of its accepted form to be unacceptable. The innovative style seeks a break from established patterns. This change and braking from tradition becomes a driving force. Classic or traditional practices are presented as being without having the kind of intellectual challenge that the innovative style brings.

Here is the heart of the matter. If worship has a definition there are limits to what can rightly be called worship. Simply because a practice is desired and done in connection to an assembly of Christians does not make it worship. Because a thing can be done by an assembled group does not make it worship. Remember Genesis 4:3-5, Cain did bring an offering, but the offering was not acceptable worship. Vying the new or innovative style against the more traditional style is unproductive. Each must be weighed on its own scriptural merits. It needs to be remembered that worship is not about the preference or benefit of the worshipper. It is about honoring God. “God will not be involved in something that does not honor Him.” (Lou Decker, How to Start a God-Centered Contemporary Worship Service) “What ultimately makes a church great is its emphasis on worshiping God.” (John MacAuthor, The Masters Plan of the Church).

We should not imply that worship is limited to simple, traditional efforts; it also edifies and benefits the worshiper. There are educational, instructional, and life building aspects to worship. The fellowship of other worshippers encourages and challenges us to live better lives (Hebrews 10:24-25). There is also an evangelistic thrust of worship. Although the public worship of the church is designed for the participation of Christians, it is not a closed-door event. There are visitors and strangers that have been a part of our worship since the earliest days (Acts 2:47). Paul emphasized the importance of the impression our assemblies make on strangers (1 Corinthians 14:23-24). It would appear that these two aspects of worship are not to be ignored, but they are not the primary consideration as the worshippers examine the detail of worship. It is not a matter of whether an assembly is determined to be of the contemporary or traditional, but that worship correctly brings glory to God and results in the edification of Christians and non-Christians alike.

The church, and our relationship to God, does not thrive amid rebellion and unrestrained change.

There is no evidence that Paul ever felt compelled to standardize worship according to some divine blueprint. So what are the differences? Traditional comes from two directions; long held practices that have stood the test of time and scriptural insight is the most common source for order and content. Tradition uses words like “In spirit and truth,” and “decently and in order” as a pattern to be used. Traditional worship has been passed from one generation to another and is considered “cross-generational.” Most participants usually know the songs used, which brings a comfort and security to the worship service. Traditional preaching has a high use of scripture content and reference. Technology used is often subdued and not given much reference. One of the strongest criticisms of traditional worship claims that it has become ineffective and lifeless.

Contemporary worship comes from a different premise; a more flexible source and direction of the content of the innovative style supplies any form that it wishes. It determines that there is no clearly defined control on the activities of worship gives a much greater latitude to improvise and change the direction, pattern and content. A few of the aspects of contemporary worship found in some places, these are generalized and not consistent in all places. A more casual atmosphere that would be found at a secular meeting or concert; high tech sound and lighting equipment is used to control the atmosphere. Special singers, singing groups, and songs play a large role in the service and the sermons typically avoid doctrine and strong positional stances choosing instead to amplify the quality of the human spirit. No formal invitation for the acceptance of Jesus as personal savior or repentance is extended during the service. The reasoning behind promoting a “new kind of worship” is stated in terms such as “we are not speaking the right language,” “today’s culture, a digital culture, no longer relies on the printed word.”

In conclusion there must be some reasonable, and above all, God-pleasing resolution to the questions surrounding the nature and activity of worship. Is the traditional style of worship all there is? Must we bend to the demands of culture to be relevant? Can we have a real life involving worship, and still be scripturally aligned in the doing? The answers are, “No,” “No,” and most definitely “Yes.”

Culture changes, the gospel does not. To suggest that this generation is so different as to require a total reframing of the worship service seems a bit radical to me. When we have to abandon the principles and directives of scripture to be relevant to a culture, we have become that culture and offer to it nothing that it does not already have.

It seems I have hijacked this part of Brother Brian’s blog concerning music in our worship services but I have experience and seen the divisions caused within the church by this issue. My prayer is that these thoughts will help someone whose church, or perhaps they, personally, are wrestling with this problem.

In case you are wondering, Ecklektos is not such a deep thinker that I could present the thoughts in the last two posts without a massive amount of help. Virtually all of the precepts presented came from a book called “Redeeming the Times Addressing Issues of the Church in the Present Age,” my wife found it at a used bookstore about a week before Brian wrote the current blog topic. The book is a collection of different authors who are preachers with the Church of Christ, while the book addresses their doctrine; I edited what was considered necessary to address the church universal, along with reducing the amount of verbiage to be consistent with blog space. The only place I could find the book was on Amazon, they had four used books for the price of $4.95 each.


Anonymous said...

Glory to God in the Highest.
May my song be a joyful noise to You, oh Lord.
the verse basis of some of the hymns and also of some of the 'new' music is awesome.

are we just saying so many words or are we saying
Worthy of Worship, Worthy of Love,
Amazing Grace that I don't deserve,
I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses to listen to the Lord speak to my heart in the beauty of His creation?

Are they words? Is that all they are? Are they speaking to you to get your MIND on HIM and off yourself? That is - in my humble opinion - what the music is supposed to be doing as it leads to the pastor bringing BIBLE BASED sermons (and I know you would do no less than that, Brian) to us hard-headed, stiff-necked, pain in the neck flock. (I feel for preachers who have to deal with hard heads like me, btw)