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Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Did We Really Let That Fall Through the Cracks?

Worship leadership has a lot to do: planning and rehearsal the sets, working with the tech crew, working with the Pastor and others on the pastoral staff, not to mention, family, and one’s personal spiritual life. Criticisms abound and it seems like we just can’t add any more plates to keep spinning. Got that. Sometimes we really do need to stop and make sure we’re not just keeping the machine running, but that we are following biblical instructions. [Cue the picture of the Daddy madly assembling a Christmas toy 11:00 pm before Christmas morning and too busy to look at the instruction sheet.]

One thing that seems to fall through the cracks in the midst of our work can be found in Paul’s letter to the Colossians: 

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.” [Col. 3:16]

You will remember that Paul generally starts his letters with theological concerns and then transitions to practical applications in the latter part. Chapter 3 seems to begin this latter part with some specific instructions that are for all believers. Perhaps because it was directed to all believers, worship leaders might not have had the focus that the passage deserves.  Here is a quick summary:

The what: that God’s Word become central to all we are and do.
The where: in us, in our minds and hearts 
The how: as we teach [as we give instruction by word and deed] and admonish [giving warning and encouragement to remain in what the Word teaches]
The how of that: with all wisdom, that is, seeing and living from God’s viewpoint.
[how] as we sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs
[how] with gratitude in our hearts
[to whom] to God. 
When: implied all the time, whenever we sing.

I would encourage everyone to study Paul letter and especially chapter 3; however, this will not be an in depth study. Let this serve more as a broad review. Much has been written about the “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs,” so rather than try to divide songs into categories, it is better to think of this as a grouping that encompasses all songs used in worship. 

[In practice, these weren’t strict categories, since the use of “hymns” sometimes was a psalm, as when Jesus sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives after the Lord’s Supper. Psalms from the Great Hallel were sung at that time during Passover and some scholars believe that Jesus sung Psalm 118; one of the verses is “this is the day the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it,” which gives deeper meaning the supper since it preceded His death.]

The greater focus should be not the categories, but focusing all of what we sing in the teaching of God’s Word with wisdom.  Here are some ways that we can do that:

1. Review the text of the songs to be used in worship and write a brief summary of what is taught and how it is consistent with biblical truth. How can we do that? Keep reading.

2. Indicate what is being taught about God, what aspect of His nature and character is highlighted, examining if what is there is consistent with that teaching throughout Scripture. Indicate where the teaching fits in the overall teachings of Scripture: 
+Does it highlight God the Father, Jesus, and/or the Holy Spirit? 
+Is the focus on Scripture itself and the truth of Scripture as the Word of God? 
+Does it teach about the church as the Body of Christ, or what the Body of Christ is to do or how to live? 
+Is it directed to God or to the Body of Christ? 
+Is it more of a personal testimony? 
+Are the texts commands to praise directed to the congregation, or praise directed toward God? 
It is important that we can actually view the various categories by song. [Some songs may cover more than one category, then, the would fit in both. Dr. Constance Cherry’s The Music Architect, has an excellent chart in helping assessing the canon of song you are using in your church.]

3. Review what you have written down. Analyzing what categories are given the most emphasis helps us see not only what we are teaching, but what we are not. Obviously, we cannot cover every area in every service, but over time we should be covering the others as we strive to relate the songs to the Word being preached.  Praising God for who He is and what He has done is important and should be a part of every worship service. At the same time, we cannot neglect teaching the whole of the Word of Christ.  At the very least, we should be doing the review everyone month. Many pastors have an evaluation time with staff to see how things are going; having the review ready for these meetings will show not only what has been done, but that there is specific intention in the worship planning to be comprehensive. 

I pray that we all would become more aware and intentional about putting the Word of Christ in the hearts and minds of the congregation in all we sing!

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Please join me in prayer for the upcoming meeting of the SBC in New Orleans:

Father, we thank You and praise You for Who You are
and for the gracious gift of a relationship with You through Christ Jesus, Your Son.
We pray Jesus’ prayer that we would be “one as He and the Father” are one;
We pray that our agenda would be repentance, brokenness, and weeping for our sins;
We pray that we would not shred the body of Christ in the name of being right while seeking to build power and recognition for ourselves;
We pray that we do would not fight over being “reformed” or not but that we would cry out to be transformed by the renewing of our minds in You and Your Word;
We pray that we would be more concerned about Your glory than “my rights;”
We pray that our tongues would be filled with Your praise and sharing Who You are;
We pray that the world would see Your love so expressed to each other that it would draw them to Your Son;
We pray that You would grant us the boldness to continue to carry Your gospel to the whole world,
for Your glory and Your Honor
In Jesus’ Name

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