We’ve been talking all summer about what “worship is…,” to borrow an idea from Charles Schulz. This is week eight.
Worship is diverse.
In an affluent church like NEPC where we are blessed with such broad musical talent, we are well aware of the diversity of worship styles that exist. At the same time, we can easily miss the fact that there are far more varieties of musical style utilized in worship settings today than those few that we employ here. As we’ve explored what worship is over the past few weeks, hopefully we have seen that most of what scripture tells us about worship does not fit in a stylistic box.
In fact, biblical worship does not prioritize or compare stylistic preferences, which are quite diverse and cultural in nature. Every nation, tribe, and tongue will be represented before the throne of God in heaven (Revelation 7:9). We must not make the mistake of believing that any particular “style” of musical worship is superior to any other. Yes, the way that we worship must be biblically informed, but there is nothing in scripture that defines musical style as a theological imperative, at least not in the sense of contemporary, traditional, blended, modern, etc like we understand it today.
Psalm 96:8 says “Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come into his courts!”
What a great reminder from scripture concerning the object of our worship. Every week, we declare together the worth of God through our worship, but it’s far too easy to fall into the trap of ascribing glory to our personal preferences. We often get caught up in the minutia of what we liked and didn’t like in worship. In a Facebook world, where every statement, picture, and video is something we consider for our like or dislike, when every social media post invites our personal opinion about the world, worship can become just that – something we can click “Like” for or not. We may quickly find ourselves in dangerous territory when we think “we sang that song; I don’t like that song” or “we sang my favorite song, so worship was great today.”
It’s not wrong to have preferences about songs or styles, but we should take caution with this type of consumeristic thinking about our worship services. It can very quickly lead us to measure the success of our services against our preferences rather than against the ministry of Holy Spirit we are charged with facilitating. If we gage the temperature of our worship based on our likes and dislikes, then we are sorely missing the point. God is not worshiped, but man. We must ascribe glory to the LORD and to Him alone.
When we look at worship in scripture, we see examples of it across the ages, from the book of Genesis all the way to Revelation. Both past and future worship. Worship is a journey of discovering the depth and riches of a personal God who calls us continually out of our sin, who seeks daily to renew us in His truth. If our primary concern is whether or not we liked the choices of music or the sermon topic, we move awfully close to making idols of what is temporal.
I’ll leave you with a magnificent picture of worship in heaven found in Revelation 7. I would challenge us all to realize that nothing about this picture has anything to do with personal preferences as we see the humble creatures fall down and worship the glorious Creator. Oh, that we would cry out with a loud voice, that we would fall down and worship God, giving Him all blessing and honor and glory and power forever!
9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
Jeremy Buzzard, Director of Music Ministries
Check out the songs we’ll be singing in Contemporary Worship (11:15am) this week: