Worship 2

This course is designed to evaluate the student’s current worship service and try to determine what works and what may work better if changed.

In this second class, we will concentrate on the tension between contemporary worship and traditional worship.  As before, there are no right or wrong answers, so please try to answer as accurately as possible concerning your worship service.

In the last class I had you give your definition for worship.  In this one, I will give my definition of worship.  The words worship and worthy have a lot in common.  The words sound alike because worship comes in part from the word worthy.  We worship God because he is worthy of our praise.  To worship someone or something is to recognize the worthiness of that person or thing.  Things that are worthy of our attention, we worship.  We sometimes worship our finances because we believe them to be important.  We worship the TV because of the wonderful programming that is on it.  However, God is the only thing or person that is worthy of our attention, praise, honor, and adoration.  He is the only one we should worship.

How we worship does not come into the definition at all.  We worship through singing to God.  We worship by giving our offerings to the Lord.  We worship by meditating on His Word and by living it out in our daily lives.  Once we get past this however, we run into problems because what some consider worship, others do not.

Music is often the first thing people think of when worship is mentioned and it is because of this that much of our discussion will revolve around this.  Keep in mind, however, that worship is more than just singing.  Singing is held on the top of people’s lists because it is often the only part that they play in worship- everything else is acted out for them.  Because of this, music is where the battle between contemporary and traditional worship most often takes place.  Choruses are considered repetitive and too inward focused and hymns are out of touch with modern culture.  Soloists and bands and acceptable one place and in another they are looked down upon because they take the focus from God and place it on themselves.  This is where the clash begins.


Traditional vs. Contemporary Worship

Before we go any deeper into topic, you should be aware of my background so that you may look for any biases I may have.  I come from a very traditional church where hymns are the only thing sung 95% of the time.  I also know a lot of the history of the older hymns and they mean a lot to me, knowing how they came to be and what they meant to the composers.  I have served as a youth minister for a short time and have gone to many youth retreats and conferences.  I have likewise attended Christian rock concerts and even held a small one as an outreach at the church for which I was working.    I enjoy all of these types of music but recognize that not everyone does.

In the Old Testament priests are given specific instructions on how to worship.  The Psalms call for joyful singing to God and list numerous instruments that are used in worship and in fact calls upon others to use them in praise.  The book of Psalms itself is a collection of songs- although some of them we would never consider singing in our churches today.

Read Psalm 150.  List the instruments used to praise God.

The New Testament makes reference to the disciples singing hymns.  They also fellowshipped together and ate with one another.  We’ll look more at early church worship in third class.

Although worship is much more than music that is where the battle ground is at, so many of my comments will be concerning music specifically.  Traditional churches have been criticized as being dead in their worship.  Contemporary churches have been criticized with throwing away hundreds of years of church history and replacing it with a fad- many songs that won’t be remembered in twenty years.  Also, these songs tend to focus more on the singer and less on God.


In a church that is made up of older people, older hymns are probably appropriate.  In a very young church, songs that are in a style they are familiar with is more appropriate.  However, most churches are mixed pretty well, so the line can’t be drawn easily.

In a mixed church, which do you think is best?  Do you agree with either of the arguments that hymns are out of date and choruses are only fads and focus too much on the singer and not on God?

Do you feel that your current worship style suits most of the church members?

Do you believe that it causes church members to worship God in Spirit and in Truth?

What is done that may not be suitable for some based on the makeup of your congregation? (i.e. louder music when much of the congregation is older, hymns with words that mean nothing to a younger generation)

I have one rule for worship – it is to focus on God. Apart from that, I am open to many different ideas.  Some Christians are strongly against Christian rock because they believe that rock music is evil.  However, I am unaware of any biblical passage that states a certain type of music is evil.  In fact, the lyre and the cymbals used in Old Testament worship are largely equivalent to the guitar and drums used in many churches today.

Hands in worship are another issue today.  Many churches raise hands or clap during singing.  There are some references to raising hands as an act of worship.  It is interesting to note however, that when the body is used in worship, lying prostrate is a far more common occurrence in the Bible than the use of hands are.  However, even in churches that are comfortable using their hands and reference biblical passages to support this – they do not lie prostrate.

Do you feel that the church restricts you from using your hands in worship or makes you feel out of place if you do not lift your hands?

The use of hands, I believe is a cultural act.  While it was used in Israel, dancing was also a part of worship at that time.  Some people, myself included, simply do not feel lead by the Holy Spirit to raise their hands.  In other churches, it would be very out of place not to raise their hands.  As an African-American classmate noted, in his church, it is hard to keep their hands down because they want to move.  I believe that raising of hands should not be expected of anyone, nor anyone be kept from raising their hands if they feel led.  As David danced before the Lord, most churches do not.  Many of us would be offended if it was suggested that we were not as godly as other people who danced during their worship.  It should be the same with the use of hands, that it is up to the worshiper to decide.

Does your church follow a set schedule every week with everything taking pretty much the same amount of time every week?  Or are your services open to the movement of the Holy Spirit and can go longer if the people are moved in such a way?

There needs to be some order to a church service but there also needs to be flexibility.  A number of churches fall to one side or the other.  Some churches know that they are behind schedule if the second hymn starts at 10:18 instead of 10:16.  Other churches may go for an extra hour if the Spirit of God moves and the people are feeling the power of God.  If schedule closes the door to the Holy Spirit moving within the church, there is little reason to expect a reaction from the congregation.  If the pastor preaches a convicting message and people are moved and then quickly dismisses them because it is 11 o’clock a great injustice has been done.  Likewise, Paul warns about disorder in worship in 1 Corinthians.  God is not a God of disorder and should not be worshipped in such a fashion.

Hinging on this idea is that of speaking in tongues, miracles and other things that may occur in charismatic churches.  I personally do not believe that tongues are for today, however if they still do exist most churches do not follow what Paul says about the speaking of tongues in worship.  For more on this issue, I’ve written an entire article that I will not rehash here.  You can read it on the website at tongues.

Are performers used as part of the worship service?

Do you consider performers to be entertainment, something used to focus on God, or partly both?

Some view performers as entertainment while others see them as another instrument that may be used to draw one’s focus onto God.  There’s nothing in the Bible that says we cannot be entertained during worship.  I respectfully submit that this is a byproduct of performances however and should not be the reason for them.

Whether dramatists or bands, every aspect of worship should be focused on God.  A drama can be funny, but it should still have a biblical point.  Song lyrics should cause the listeners to think about God.  Likewise, the performer should not be the one being praised.  A blanket statement cannot be made concerning this but it must be looked at on an individual basis.  Some performers, even within the church, do what they do because they want the attention of people.  Some performers become showy and draw focus away from God.  In such instances, they should not be a part of the worship service.

As I stated above, I have held a Christian concert as a youth outreach.  This, however, should not be confused with worship.  While the band was Christian and sang Christian songs, this was not designated as a time of worship.  The goal of the event was to witness to non-Christians and expose them to the gospel.  It was not a time for Christians to gather to worship God, even though this may have occurred with some people at some time during the night.

There are many churches that are missing this point and have confused Christian pop culture music with worship.  Some churches wish to use music to reach the lost.  What they end up doing is not worshipping but singing Christian pop culture songs that do not cause the Christian to grow and often do not reach the unsaved because they are still too “churchy” or are inferior to the secular alternative.

I do recognize that there are some very good Christian bands and some churches can put on a great production that rivals secular shows.  However, most churches do not have this ability and simply cannot compare to what the world has to offer the unsaved.  In any case, caution must be used as often this is simply not worship for the believer and should not be masked as such.

With all of these things in mind, is there any part of your worship service that isn’t worship?  If you had to cut everything that wasn’t bringing glory directly to God, what would have to be cut?

This lesson was more instruction than questions and I hope that I gave a few ideas for you to think about.  A worship service is meant to bring glory to God.  There are no guidelines as to how this is to be done.  The only thing that should affect our decision is whether the congregation can worship with a particular style.

The final class will look at worship in the early church and will wrap things up with how to apply everything that I’ve been talking about and you’ve been thinking about.

See Worship 2 answers

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