Wednesday, June 28, 2006

In the modern evangelical church, singing, praying, giving, and other congregational acts of worship are regarded at times as preamble to the sermon. Music, in particular, appears separate from elements of worship that seem to be more spiritual, such as praying and preaching. This worship dichotomy does not exist in Scripture, and our thinking is more biblical when we understand that musicians and preachers actually share in the ministry of the Word. Proclamation and interpretation of the Bible, and the edification and encouragement of the saints, with the ultimate goal of giving glory to God. These are also purposes of sacred music delineated in the Word of God and heralded by theologians and musicians throughout the history of the church.

Paul S. Jones, SINGING AND MAKING MUSIC: ISSUES IN CHURCH MUSIC TODAY. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2006, p. 3. ISBN

Professor Carl Stam is the Chair of the Institute for Christian Worship at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has a weekly "worship quote of the week" that he sends out. You can subscribe to this service or read through the vast archives of of centuries of wisdom on Christian worship here. He sent this this last week taken from Paul Jones' new book SINGING AND MAKING MUSIC: ISSUES IN CHURCH MUSIC TODAY, and it was so concise and true that I wanted to share it. As a musician in churches for quite some time, a casual member all my life, and now a worship leader, I definitely agree that this is the default state, or mode of the modern parishioner. I have found it true that of the wave of "new worship" that emerged in the late 70's and is now our praise and worship movement, this may not be the case. I do submit that in the average Baptist Church in America today, 8 out of 10 people don't act or talk of the singing, reading, offering time, welcome time (kiss of peace or raucous right hand) as being anywhere near the importance of the presentation of the word given from the pulpit in the last half hour of the service. I think that Pastors and Music ministers who have allowed pragmatism ("hey let's sing that one, the church sings it loud and they sound great on that one..." Or tradition anyone?) to determine the shape and scope of the service. Many great old songs are rarely used in the average church because people just don't want to learn new songs and half of the hymnal in most churches is unused. Many music ministers act as opening acts. Service preparation involves 5 minutes, a quick skim through the old hymnal, and plugging in 3 different songs into the bulletin template--making sure that the invitation hymn (we only have 40 or so in our Baptist Hymnal) wasn't used in the last few weeks. My point is that this view of a dichotomy in our worship is perpetuated by our leadership.

As a music minister I am sure some of my church members think that I should just shut up and sing sometimes when I'm introducing a song and using it as an application of the gospel (this happened to a close music minister friend of mine and he may be the best preacher his church ever hears--as a music minister), but the truth is that we bear false witness when we sing "take my life, lead me Lord" and don't mean it. We take the lord's name in a non-reverent, loose, or vain way when we sing "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, There's just something about that name" and our minds are on the pot roast in the oven.

We have been given, through the blood of our lamb and great high priest, the ability to boldly come before the throne of God with our praise and our prayers and we should never take that lightly. I know that God is gracious to us and we can only approach him through his provision of that high priest, but we, none the less, dishonor God with our lips when we worship half-heartedly. Which brings me around to the quote above...when we sing, we proclaim the word, together, in one voice, a priesthood, a holy nation, the bride. Let's act like it and think like it. True worship is deliberate.

Be deliberate worshipers.
Preach the gospel that you sing each service to your own heart.
Focus on the words in front of you and the truth you sing. Examine how those truths illuminate the very nature and being of our God and emanate from his Holy Bible. Most of the songs in our hymnal (some of the gospel songs excluded!!!) can be tied to 30 verses of biblical truth. Search for how they align themselves with scripture. When you do this, you'll care less about the style of the music, or the quality of the musicians, or the tempo of the song. You will care more about the God who sent his son to earth, to touch our lives in his humanity and seal our pardon in death, who hasn't left us comfortless, and will return to establish his everlasting Kingdom. Now isn't that what worship is all about. Isn't' that why we sing? If it's not, make it so today.


Jet Settin' said...

Yo, I think you have your cities mixed up. Your profile says you're from Louisville, but you profile picture is from St. Louis.

I suppose not everyone can be as world-location savvy as the Jet Settin'!

Word, dog.

j.wo said...

Ron! How excited am I that you have your own blog now... :) I just stopped by to let you know that I am exceedingly excited about this Saturday evening, and can't wait to hang out w/ you and your stunning wife; sip a little cappucino; and watch "So I Married An Axe Murderer."

See you then, all my love, and an ABUNDANCE of God's blessings on you.

stephen lee cavness said...


do you have your keys??

-stephen (running reports ad nauseum)

Mike Gross said...

I could not have said it better myself. I am neither a great musician or good vocalist, but my experience leading worship over the past several years in a smaller church often raised the same concerns in my mind.

I wish I had a nickel for every time I witnessed, with dismay, people talking, reading magazines, doodling, etc. during the "music portion" of the service. Granted, I wasn't the best, but they seemed to be missing the point altogether.

Great article by Dr. Stam. He stated it very well when he writes that many parishioners feel/act as if they're watching an event instead of participating.

Don't ya wish everyone would grasp these truths?

WorshipLeader said...

Yeah Mike, and like we were saying yesterday, the self-centeredness and pragmatism of most worship leaders and pastors doesn't help. People sit through it wishing that it was different music or a different style, or amazing grace every sunday, or in the garden, or guitars and drums, as though that would change the IMPORTANCE of the worship itself. The heart-felt and spirit-led PARTICIPATION IS THE NECESSARY aspect of worship while all the other issues should fall by the way-side as long as the content is always the gospel.

FYI, Professor Stam isn't a doctor. You'll probably have him for Worshiping Church so thought I'd let you know!!!

Thanks for posting and engaging the comment.

Mike Gross said...

Thanks Ron for the correction about Professor Stam... sure saved an awkward classroom moment. I found an excerpt from a John Owen sermon entitled "The Nature & Beauty of Gospel Worship" that adds nicely to the subject:

"Carnal men, that know nothing of the other, whose souls are not at all moulded or affected by any pure act of faith, are here stirred by their senses, and act by them in their worship. And this is the ground wherein all their pompous rites, invented by men in the worship of God, do grow;–even a design and engine to afford carnally-minded men somewhat to be conversant about in their worship, who have no principle to enable them to use this privilege to approaching unto God himself. It is true, they will say it is God alone whom they worship, and whom they intend to draw nigh unto; but I must needs say, that if they knew what it were to do so immediately by Christ, they would be satisfied therewith, and not seek such outward helps in their way as they do." - John Owen

WorshipLeader said...

Great comment Mike. It took me a few days to understand it. :) Now I know why I haven't started "the death of death in the death of Christ" by John owen. What a great word's interesting that this is an issue that has crossed the centuries! Christ is the focus and means of worship. It's an amazing mystery but one I will stand on! See you tonight

Angela said...

Hey, could someone come over and visit my blog. Why does Ron get all the comments. . . he's JUST Ron, for goodness' sake!!! Ron, Ron, Ron!!!! Let me pimp my blog, 'k ronnie boy!!??!! GOSH!!!!

Mike Gross said...

Hey Ron! just stopping by to say 'hey' and to encourage you to post some more. I know you're mega-busy with getting ready to move shortly, but I really enjoyed reading this post. See ya Sunday morning!

stephen lee cavness said...

you have the most cutting edge, up to the minute blog ever!!!

-stephen (likes to encourage)

stephen lee cavness said...

see... im running reports, assigning duties, being an all around leader, and posting on your blog...

what are *you* doing , ron?

-stephen (with two fingers)

Melany said...

Hello- Thanks for stopping by my blog. I am curious if you know a friend of mine who is also a student at SBTS in Louisville. His name is Mircea or Buni Ionescu. Actually, you probably do know Buni, that would be how you got onto my mailing list and found my blog, I am guessing. So I will take a chance that you are not a criminal, and say yes, I am currently a student at Beloit College. :) God bless!

stephen lee cavness said...


the rate of immediacy at which you post the blogs are prolofic, rivaling that of al mohler alone.

-r. stephen cavness

stephen lee cavness said...

and they are *prolific* as well...

stephen lee cavness said...

only a name dropper woudld keep trying to crash my blog.