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Worship

Worship

     At the end of 2021, I became a “has been” pastor – no longer pastoring a church, which I had done for almost 50 years, but fitted to sit on the pew.  With that thought in mind, I am sure that younger readers will say, “you’re old, out of touch, and do not know what the younger generation wants!”  To that I would say, “maybe so, but since when did the time of worship during a church service bend to what you want?“

     Worship is not about pleasing the younger generation, or for that matter, the older generation – it is about humbling ourselves before the Creator of the Universe and giving unreserved gratitude and thanksgiving to Him who has saved us, not being entertained or “getting what we want.”  To enhance “worship” is to make it pleasurable to “man” not to “God”!

     Excitement is not worship!

          Loud music is not worship!

               Slinging ribbons or women dancing with flowing garments is not worship!

                    Jumping, shouting, running, falling down, etc., is not worship.

If you fall down in humility and self-sacrificing, then you may have entered into worship of God.

     Since “retiring” from active pastorship, I have had a struggle with finding a church where “sincere” worship takes place.  On one hand you have, what I call “old line worship”, meaning:  Sing three songs out of the book, add a couple courses (whether they fit or not), take the offering, then preaching, “altar service” with no music or canned music, and go home.  I call that empty worship.  Then you have the hyper contemporary worship: “Worship Bands & Singers” who practice an hour before worship to get it right, smog machines, a darkened sanctuary with flashing lights, and spots on the “actors (worship team)”.  That is also empty worship.  (BTW, in my highly accurate opinion – God is light, loves light, is light and destroys darkness.  The enemy of you and God is the god of darkness – so why darkened the church?  For me, it makes me want to take a nap.) You can say that is my opinion, but I have found over the years, if you come to worship to be stimulated, excited, or entertained, you are “pleasing the flesh” and not satisfying the Father through the Holy Spirit.  It is OK to get excited, but that is not the reason for worship – worship is crucifying the flesh and lifting up a humble and contrite spirit in praise and adoration to the God who saved us and keeps us.  It can be done quietly or with exuberance.  God HATES anything that pertains to the flesh.  The “sweet smelling savor” that rose from the temple was a sacrifice, an exercise of humility and self-denial.

     I am doing all I can to not have a critical spirit about all of this, because that is not pleasing to God as well.  Being brought up in a full-gospel church where excitement did happen, the preaching of the Cross was central to all aspects of worship (including the worship of giving), and God responded to that sincere worship and there were ample examples that God responded by providing miracles, healings, reconciliation, and more.  Why?  When TRUE worship takes place, God responds with His provisions to the worshipper.  Ask yourself the question, “After a time of church worship band and team led entertainment, what is the response from God?”  You may say, I feel better; I’m excited because I’ve touched God in worship!”  Really!  When the lady with the issue of blood touched Jesus, she wasn’t dancing around, flitting around, shaking a tambourine with streamers, screaming and hollering – she humbly (low to the ground) reached through the crowd of excitement seekers, and “touched” the hem of Jesus garment.  Jesus did not respond to the “worship band and worship team around Him”, he responded to the humility of a woman who needed Him, and He stopped and asked, “Who touched me?”  God always responds to sincere worship, not with excitement, but with a touch that changes your life.  I would have to say that overall, lives are not changed after what is called worship today.  Lives go on as they were before, indulging in daily willful sins – no real change that last past a couple of days.

     Worship leaders have the responsibility to enable the congregation to sing their praises, not to showcase the great platform voices by pitching songs in our power ranges. A worship leader’s calling is to help the people sing with all their being, even at the sacrifice of some thing’s musicians would prefer. Worship is not about impressing the congregation with extraordinary vocal skills; rather, as worship leaders, the task is to enable others to worship.  The term “leader” means leading other into . . .

     I found an article that listed 9 reasons people do not sing and worship in church.  They are worth considering:

     Worship leaders around the world are sadly changing their church’s worship into a spectator event, and people aren’t singing anymore.

     Prior to the Reformation, worship was largely done for the people. The music was performed by professional musicians and sung in an unfamiliar language (Latin). The Reformation gave worship back to the people, including congregational singing which employed simple, attainable tunes with solid, scriptural lyrics in the language of the people. Worship once again became participatory.

     The evolution of  the printed hymnal brought with it an explosion of congregational singing and the church’s love for singing increased.

     With the advent of new video technologies, churches began to project the lyrics of their songs on a screen, and the number of songs at a church’s disposal increased exponentially.

     At first, this advance in technology led to more powerful congregational singing, but  soon, a shift in worship leadership began to move the congregation back to pre-Reformation pew potatoes (spectators).  What has occurred could be summed up as the re-professionalization of church music and the loss of a key goal of worship leading – enabling the people to sing their praises to God.  Simply put, we are breeding a culture of spectators in our churches, changing what should be a participative worship environment to a concert event.  Worship is moving to its pre-Reformation mess

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NINE REASONS CONGREGATIONS AREN’T SINGING ANYMORE:

1]  THEY DON’T KNOW THE SONGS.

With the release of new songs weekly and the increased birthing of locally written songs, worship leaders are   

providing a steady diet of the latest, greatest worship songs. Indeed, we should be singing new songs, but too high a rate of new song inclusion in worship can kill our participation rate and turn the congregation into spectators. I see this all the time. I advocate doing no more than one new song in a worship service, and then repeating the song on and off for several weeks until it becomes known by the congregation. People worship best with songs they know, so we need to teach and reinforce the new expressions of worship.​

2]  WE ARE SINGING SONGS NOT SUITABLE FOR CONGREGATIONAL SINGING.

There are lots of great, new worship songs today, but in the vast pool of new songs, many are not suitable for congregational singing by virtue of their rhythms (too difficult for the average singer) or too wide of a range (consider the average singer—not the vocal superstar on stage).  There is no “flow” in the songs.

3]  WE ARE SINGING IN KEYS TOO HIGH FOR THE AVERAGE SINGER.

The people we are leading in worship generally have a limited range and do not have a high range. When we pitch songs in keys that are too high, the congregation will stop singing, tire out, and eventually quit, becoming spectators. Remember that your responsibility is to enable the congregation to sing their praises, not to showcase your great platform voices by pitching songs in our power ranges. The basic range of the average singer is an octave and a fourth from A to D.

4]    THE CONGREGATION CAN’T HEAR PEOPLE AROUND THEM SINGING.

If our music is too loud for people to hear each other singing, it is too loud.  Conversely, if the music is too quiet, generally, the congregation will fail to sing out with power. Find the right balance—strong, but not over-bearing.

5]   WE HAVE CREATED WORSHIP SERVICES WHICH ARE SPECTATOR EVENTS, BUILDING A PERFORMANCE

      ENVIRONMENT.

I am a strong advocate of setting a great environment for worship including lighting, visuals, inclusion of the arts, and much more. However, when our environments take things to a level that calls undue attention to those on stage or distracts from our worship of God, we have gone too far. Excellence – yes. Highly professional performance – no.

6]   THE CONGREGATION FEELS THEY ARE NOT EXPECTED TO SING.

As worship leaders, we often get so involved in our professional production of worship that we fail to be authentic, invite the congregation into the journey of worship, and then do all we can to facilitate that experience in singing familiar songs, new songs introduced properly, and all sung in the proper congregational range.

7]   WE FAIL TO HAVE A COMMON BODY OF HYMNODY (THE SINGING OF HYMNS).

With the availability of so many new songs, we often become haphazard in our worship planning, pulling songs from so many sources without reinforcing the songs and helping the congregation to take them on as a regular expression of their worship. In the old days, the hymnal was that repository.  Today, we need to create song lists to use in planning our times of worship.

8]   WORSHIP LEADERS AD LIB TOO MUCH.

Keep the melody clear and strong. The congregation is made up of sheep with limited ranges and limited musical ability. When we stray from the melody to ad lib, the sheep try to follow us and end up frustrated and quit singing. Some ad lib is nice and can enhance worship, but don’t let it led your sheep astray.

9]    WORSHIP LEADERS ARE NOT CONNECTING WITH THE CONGREGATION

We often get caught up in our world of amazing music production and lose sight of our purpose of helping the congregation to voice their worship. Let them know you expect them to sing. Quote the Bible to promote their expressions of worship. Stay alert to how well the congregation is tracking with you and alter course as needed.

Once or If worship leaders regain the vision of enabling the congregation to be participants in the journey of corporate worship, we can return worship to the people once again.

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