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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Stop the Worship?

You worship what you do not know…
(John 4:22 – ESV)

As a pastor you always need to be talking to the song leaders about the balance. We should review the songs in the rotation and look together at new songs that they want to bring in. In this way you can use these times as teachable moments. Indeed we should have feelings and responses because of God's grace, but we need more "Thou art" and less "I will" in the songs, God entranced and not man entranced.

Now sometimes songs can slip by you or they can slip by a congregation without anyone really focusing on what is actually being taught. Congregational singing is more than stirring up feelings, it is teaching each other in song, and it is important, albeit for reasons that are sometimes lost on “worship leaders”.

It should be more about “doctrinal led devotion” than simply proclaiming our increasing love for a God we aren’t increasing in our knowledge of. It isn’t how much more I feel Him means how much more I love Him, but how much more I know Him, and then this would produce the proper devotion. We more often than not get the order reversed, and think we are growing deeper in our love for Him when we are actually growing colder even as our feelings burn hot.

Considering this, I have literally “stopped the worship” more than once. Actually I just stopped the music and singing and focused our worship on some truth I was absolutely sure we needed to hear more clearly as we sang it.

It was during the song “unfailing love” that I stopped the music and went over to the screen and pointed out the lyrics and something I wanted to make sure people noticed. The lyrics were “Praise you God of earth and sky how beautiful is your unfailing love, unfailing love”… “And you never change Lord you remain the holy one and my unfailing love, unfailing love”.

From these lyrics I showed that they teach correctly that His unfailing love is grounded in His holiness, “you never change you remain the holy one”, and so therefore He remains unfailing in His love. His love is grounded in His holiness not in our faithfulness and His holiness is that from which His love springs, not vice versa.

I’m not sure whether or not the author intended it this way, but it was good to point out considering the sermon of the day, or any day, nonetheless.

Also I used the stoppage purposefully to stop people from just “going with the flow”. The atmosphere was starting to get moving, and not necessarily in a bad way, but I wanted to make sure people don’t always equate this “everybody’s into it” thing with “now we are really worshipping”. I pointed out that we shouldn’t bristle at someone, something, or some event stopping our “flow”.

I asked if anyone was thinking like, “I was just getting into it man”, and how their focus would be wrong. Well, no sir, you were just feeling it, but God was already here to be worshipped and you must renew your mind to the fact that feelings are a byproduct of worship, not the conduit of them. Feelings aren’t the way into His presence, as if we simply stir up our emotions by repeating some vague chorus over and over, and “poof!” God is there. No. Was I wrong to stop the singing, no, not at all, it was a good demonstration of the fact that if this hindered your worship than you were worshipping at the altar of your own feelings.

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30 Comments:

At 10:12 PM, Blogger Dan said...

Now I'm first!
Just to clarify. It's not wrong to have feelings during worship but your feelings should be of how great He is and not how I feel about Him at the time? I guess I'm still trying to figure some of this out but I do believe I am pointed in the right direction. Got any cookie cutters?!

 
At 10:50 PM, Anonymous stevehall said...

I agree worship time can &, to a degree, should be a teaching time also. I’ve learned much from God’s Spirit during worship- directly through His inner presence & indirectly through other believers, such as yourself. I figure that’s why you love the old hymns so much- they’re great teaching tools, generally hold to solid doctrine, & approach God reverently. These traits are missing in much of the modern stuff as it oftentimes strays off into self-centered theology & focus.

But then again, many times I’m perfectly happy singing songs that nail perfect doctrine, like “Power in the Blood” when God breaks me down with the beautiful simplicity of a modern song like “Here I am to Worship.” Right there He reminds me that it’s not my “right” doctrine, in & of itself, that saves me- it’s God-gifted faith that drives me bow down & truly worship the Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. We can’t really "see" God to worship Him when there’s an big “I” standing in the way. For me at least, songs like this cut the legs out from under that big “I” (the old man). The old man comes back upon me in many forms- pride is the most common (probably why I don’t have a blog- I sense that I would become too “proud” of my own corner of the blogosphere). Sometimes God’s Spirit shows me a disturbing corner of my heart that actually becomes proud at times of my “right” doctrine, as if “I” had anything to do with it.

Oddly enough, it’s more often the new stuff (though certainly not all of it, agreeably, much of it is simply garbage) that brings to me to the place you’ve been discussing for the past week. For whatever reason, they seem to bring me to the place where my mind & heart are not dwelling on my stature, abilities, or needs, or even what God can do or has done for me, but the place where self is broken & the new man can simply worship the wonder, splendor, & majesty of God.

I welcome your weekly insight on the lyrics.

 
At 10:54 PM, Blogger Gojira said...

JD,

You know, you should either start buying stock in Cannon Ink Cartridges, or stop writing such excellent posts! Ya killin' my billfold!

Seriously, excellent post brother.

 
At 11:34 PM, Blogger Even So... said...

Dan, not so much cookie cutters, but an increaing awareness of what you are singing, an increasisng knowledge of God through His Word, and an increasing humble obedience will yield an increasing level of discernment of error and enjoyment of truth in these matters...IOW, keep working on it because He's worth it...

 
At 11:36 PM, Blogger Even So... said...

Steve, as you know, I have no real problem with new songs if they point to the old paths...which is why I was excited to point out the truth with that new song in the post...

 
At 11:37 PM, Blogger Even So... said...

I definitely want to do devotional songs, but in the proper balance, and that takes work, and it is worth it, as we said...

 
At 11:39 PM, Blogger Even So... said...

Goj, thanks, and that is one of the reasons why we are turning these posts into book form, so that you can have them all together in printed form...

 
At 6:18 AM, Blogger Annette said...

Good post. :)

 
At 6:54 AM, Anonymous stevehall said...

JD,

I don’t believe you gonna throw the baby out with the bath water or you would have already done it. The way you did it Sunday shows your interest is in cutting off the dead limbs instead of simply dropping the whole tree.

But you’re absolutely right, we been needing to do this for some time now. Many times, I’ve stood there & wondered “Why, in the middle of God’s worship time, are we singing a song that centers on me taking back what the devil stole from me?” Right there, in that line, the score is- “me”s-2, “devil.”-1, “God”-0.

But, I’m as much at fault as anyone for not saying anything.


Dan,

I certainly don’t believe that we should attempt to divorce emotion from worship, for emotions will commonly pour out of true worship. That’s exactly JD’s point; emotions don’t cause the worship to be real, true worship often causes the emotions to be real. Feelings are not to be crushed, for after entering in to worship God’s glory, they are the natural effect of the experience. For years I pushed away emotions at worship time, mostly because of a false notion of what is "manly" (pride- again).

In John 11, Jesus Himself was “deeply moved” as He wept.


This post is a real touchstone into so many issues for me; thanks JD.

 
At 8:54 AM, Blogger Ray said...

JD -- One of the things I did was put together a 'theology of Worship' document that explained the thought behind our singing and preaching. I worked on it with our Worship Leader, and other elder. We posted it to our Church web site so that visitors will know what worship is about. It also helped me pull my thoughts together regarding worship.

Because of the make-up of our congregation, many of our people did not come from a churched background, and have been conditioned by the CCM music industry to sing songs that had a good beat, and MAYBE mentioned Christ periodically.

We are attempting to bring to folks the beauty and import of worshiping with doctrinally correct songs, not simply something that I can 'feel good' about.

 
At 8:59 AM, Blogger donsands said...

I have heard people in the Church say things like: "The music was a little too slow today. I like the fast songs."

The sheep will simply go with what feels good, and fell good because they are going to Church, and doing a few things that are Biblical in their lives.

But the Truth is not that big of a deal. Especially the deep truths. Theology, doctrine, and studying the WHOLE Bible is becoming something that is unnecessary. So singing songs will be even less doctrinal and at best siply a nice melody with the Lord's name in the chorus.
I need to share your thoughts with my pastor. A pastor needs another pastor's wisdom sometimes.

 
At 9:30 AM, Blogger Even So... said...

Ray that definitely sounds like the right thing to do, may it bear much fruit…after a while your regular attendees will get used to the way it is, but the document will be helpful for those who come in and it seems different (i.e. godly and God focused) to them…again, well done…

 
At 9:30 AM, Blogger Even So... said...

Don, email me, I'll be out most of today, but I'm here for 'ya, brother...

Concentrating on reforming your church’s musical focus will make such a difference in your congregation’s lives, because doing this will get them to do this in other areas of their lives beyond Sunday. It is a different way of looking at things, a “see” change, if you will…

 
At 10:30 AM, Anonymous Chris said...

Dan, Steve and JD--Thanks for being mindful (on the lookout)for anything and everything that affects our relationship with the LORD!

Having come from an "instrumental music is a sin" background, I thoroughly enjoyed the CCM when I understood I was not going to hell for worshiping with instruments. However, after a while something just didn't seem right. I started reading this book entitled, "Why I left the Contemporary Christian Music Movement" and discovered there were a lot of "I's" in the songs....and I think that's why I was "feeling" empty.

So, thanks for helping us to have balance in all areas of our walk guys!

 
At 11:39 AM, Anonymous Paul said...

This topic is obviously a very important one in the area of worship but also in understanding more about God. As my freind and mentor JD often says and is quoted often, "When you woke up this morning, were you God? No? Then you need to repent". I think there is another twist on that, that is important as well. When you woke up this morning, were you God? No? Then you need to RELENT.
As Steve said, "that big I" (self/old man/old nature) must relent to God. It is never about us, it is always about God.
I realize I say this not having this all under control (because I'm not God) but because I am "active" and not "acting"!
See JD, I hear you...

 
At 11:47 AM, Anonymous Chris said...

Paul - I hope JD won't mind if I use his blog to say----
Happy Anniversary to you and Melissa!

 
At 12:16 PM, Blogger Marcian said...

This was great. Yes, I hear a lot about how people "feel the presence of God" with a great musical crescendo. And I often wondered, I feel that same emotion when listening to secular music with a similar crescendo, does that mean God is here, too? It's important to keep that narrow focus on who God is, and how He directs us to worship Him. The Truth is integral to worship. Because He is the TRUTH. And Truth requires not shutting down our minds and running on emotional autopilot.

I have found this requires sobriety in worship, rather than being swept away by the music. Only when I soberly meditate on the sacrifice made for my sins, and my tendency to wander, and His unfailing arm that reaches out and guides me back, then do I have a desire to shout praises to His name.

 
At 12:56 PM, Anonymous Paul said...

I hope he won't mind as well, Chris. Thank you, that was very kind of you. And it is getting better and better every year, as Melissa and myself come to a better understanding of who God is and how we can better worship Him out lives get better and better. It's like JD says, "If you glorify Him, your life will change" Amen.

 
At 1:00 PM, Blogger Craver Vii said...

Thanks for the good word.

 
At 1:07 PM, Anonymous Margie said...

marcian said And Truth requires not shutting down our minds and running on emotional autopilot.
I have found this requires sobriety in worship...


Amen. I have "been there" and once I realized this Truth the reality was very enlightening. Too often we don't consider ourselves to be easily persuaded or fooled. Surely the Word speaks of others and not of me. Just because we are sincere doesn't mean we are pleasing God. Just because it "feels good" doesn't mean it's of God. My mind is being renewed daily especially in the area of Worship. Praise be to God!

 
At 1:14 PM, Anonymous Chris said...

Craver--Did you get done "mentally chewing" on it? :) Have any thoughts you'd like to share?

 
At 1:42 PM, Blogger Craver Vii said...

I am so nonconfrontational. Maybe to a fault. Personally, I would wait until after the song, if I wanted to make a point. But I do not say that to be critical. It looks like JD is handling this (and other things) quite nicely. The sheep under his care are blessed.

 
At 2:44 PM, Blogger Marcian said...

margie said Too often we don't consider ourselves to be easily persuaded or fooled. Surely the Word speaks of others and not of me.

Ohh man, you have no idea how much I need to hear that right now.

I'm reading Pilgrim's Progress right now and pointing at his various foibles and thinking "hey, that's me..."

 
At 4:27 PM, Blogger Even So... said...

Hey everybody, looks like you has some good stuff goin' on here...

Craver, yeah, sometimes, or actually most of the time I guess, I wait until after the songs and between songs to teach about it...but someitmnes I do it right in the middle to capture attention, and as we said, disrupt the "flow"...

Marcian, Margie is my wife, and it is just so funny becaseu i was going to remark the same way about the same line you said...one flesh, indeed...

Thanks to all for participating, it really is an incredibly important area...

 
At 5:15 PM, Anonymous stevehall said...

JD- yeah, this meta gave me a really good feeling inside...

 
At 5:20 PM, Anonymous stevehall said...

I can "see" changes coming...

 
At 7:52 PM, Anonymous Chris said...

craver -

I think you'd find our flock to be on the unconventional side. Two of our sheep got married a couple weeks back and requested the gospel be preached before they exchanged their vows. I was blown away....I have never, ever, seen that happen....it was SO AWESOME!!

Anyways, I'm never shocked by how the Spirit leads the Pastors...it's never in a disorderly way....just not necessarily in a conventional way.

 
At 9:44 AM, Blogger Jon Nunley said...

I think that is wonderful that you stop the singing to clarify the words in a song... to teach. To remind your congregation to THINK instead of give lip service when they sing words. However, I would not say this is stopping the worship. To me you are encouraging them to be more purposeful in their worship... to me that encouragement IS worship.

Lisa, Jon's wife from Deo Volente

 
At 11:47 AM, Blogger Rebekah said...

Amen! What a blessing it is for your people to have a pastor who understands that worship is so much more than just the emotion of the moment and the next best new song. May God richly bless your efforts to teach your congregation how to worship well. For our Lord is so very worthy of excellent praise. Thank you for what you've shared here.

 
At 2:48 PM, Blogger Even So... said...

Rebekah, thanks and amen...

Lisa, I agree 100%, thus the quesion mark in the title...BTW, honored for you to come over...

 

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