Search This Blog

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

How do we balance our worship so that it draws the unbeliever or the "new" or "baby" Christian and yet remains God-centered worship for the mature worshipper?

This was a great question asked by one of the readers of the this blog that I thought needed more than just a simple paragraph to answer, so I will attempt to give some ideas toward an answer.

I do address some of these issues in Worship HeartCries: Personal Preparation for Corporate Worship, [that was a shameless plug my book, excuse me....], but I will try to add some details that I am learning and still continue to learn.

I believe we need to be careful that we understand that the purpose of worship is not to “draw the unbeliever,” but the center and purpose is glorifying God.  Worship is not just the music, but is our obedient response to the nature and character of God, which can be carried out in a variety of actions. Our worship needs to be understandable to unbelievers, but to design worship to draw a non-believer changes the focus. [Even Sally Mogenthaller has revised her views on this.] In worship, God is the Audience of one; our aim is to please Him, to glorify Him, to surrender and respond to Him, – not to the whims and fads of the crowds. We must do this in a way that the generations can come together as the Body of Christ and focus on the Head, who is Christ. Some questions we can ask are the following:
-- Is the focus of this service clearly and singularly on God? 
--Are the activities in this service designed so that the various generations represented may respond? 
--Are the songs sung biblically sound and of a nature that the congregation can participate? 
--Are we regularly teaching and mentoring what biblical worship is as leaders?
I promise that these things just don’t happen on their own, they are intentional and must be led by the Holy Spirit.

The question remains, “How?” To address that I believe I need to address a larger issue to get to the heart of the problem. On the whole, it appears that our discipleship efforts with new believers is woefully inadequate; I know mine was, and especially when my wife and I began discipling youth there were very few good materials and I needed as much help as those with whom I was working. One of the areas completely neglected was biblical teaching on worship; that was one of the motivations why I wrote the book and teach these principles to my students at the seminary. We must be firmly grounded in what biblical worship is and begin to share that with the new believer from day one. With time and maturation the believer will begin to develop in this area; it is not a fast process and just having been taught the material is not enough, anymore than handing a book on swimming to a beginner will make him or her a swimmer just from the information. There is a gradual shift from me-centerness [baby] to other-centeredness [adulthood/parenthood].  We must practice worship ourselves and teach these new believers by example. 

Another issue I have observed, but only recently have really begun to address, deals with why some individuals get "stuck" and stop growing. They read their Bibles, pray, are sincere, are serving, but just can't seem to move past certain issues and to be honest their character really doesn't reflect  Christ's nature. Some have secret issues that have been defeating them for years, yet the harder they try, nothing seems to happen.  I have talked this over with several trusted mature believers, one of whom is my wife, who is a gifted counselor and deep in the Word and her relationship with Christ.   Sometimes we have unresolved issues in our past that we have failed to deal with that are hindering growth.

God has forgiven us by His grace and mercy, and we are new creatures in Christ. Though we are new creatures, we are not perfect creatures and still have our sin nature, and still wrestle with temptations, etc. We grow in Christ as we learn to trust and work through these issues.  These issues are like icebergs in which we can easily see some problems, but others remain below the surface and actually cause more problems because we are largely unaware of their existence.  How do we know if we have these hidden issues? Outbursts of anger, over responding to a given circumstance, and fears that seem to debilitate are but a few of the red flags that indicate we need to ask ourselves "why?" 

Perhaps the easiest way to demonstrate this is with a personal example. I have been in the music ministry for over 45 years. I even have a DMA with a vocal performance concentration. However for most of those years I dreaded having to sing in front of people.  When I began to work through my "icebergs," I began to  ask "why?" and began to go to answers much deeper than just "stage fright." This fear of failure had its roots in believing my worth as a person was dependent on my ability to perform well; when I did not perform with excellence, my self worth was devastated. It wasn't until I realized that my worth comes from what Christ has done in my life, not by what I could do, that I began the process of re-orienting my thinking and the fears began to subside.  Scripture reading and prayer were helpful, but I couldn't break the cycle of fear without getting to the cause. 

You might be asking the question, "Why is he spending so much time on this? I just wanted to know how we can get the congregation to worship?"  Great question. The point is that we all have "icebergs," issues beneath the surface that influence how and why we do what we do and our freedom to worship biblically is tied to our total spiritual health.  A book that has been of immense help to me and to hundreds of others, is Peter Scazzero's The Emotionally Healthy Leader.  I cannot state strongly enough how important it is that we learn to deal with our total spiritual health. Otherwise, we are like the person who has a car with super-bad gas mileage and doesn't correct all the fuel systems problems, but just changes the oil and rotates the tires and hopes for the best. The root problems remain and will remain until they are specifically addressed.

To summarize, we need to teach and model what biblical worship is, and we need to have a spiritual health checkup. [Such a check-up is in the Scazzero book]. We need to realize that there are no "quick fixes" and that just more information is not enough.  More books on worship have been published in the last 20 years than perhaps in all the previous years combined, but the issues seem to continue. I have hope that as we become aware and begin to really work on understanding biblical worship and working on total spiritual health that conflicts of preference will subside.   Join me in this total spiritual renewal and let's pray for God's moving among us in a mighty way.