Saturday, April 27, 2013
I have a growing burden about the order of worship services in most churches. First of all, let me make it very clear that I am not suggesting that what I propose in this blog is THE only or THE BEST method. It is simply something to pray about and consider as another approach to consider, if not every week in a church, at least from time to time.
Most churches do musical praise and worship at the front of a service, then have the sermon, sing a song, and we all go home. Notice I said “musical praise and worship.” Worship is ultimately all that we do when we are walking with Jesus and living for Him. Worship is a lifestyle. Worship is Romans 12:1-2 – a life totally yielded to God. In my book Pastoring with Passion I define worship as, “surrendering to the absolute claims of Jesus Christ upon our lives by living a life that is characterized by holiness, love, obedience, thanks and praise. When we are living under the lordship of Christ, everything we do is an act of biblical worship” (p. 209).
At the same time, God’s Word often mentions music as an important means by which we can express our thanks, praise, and love for God. This is why I specifically use the phrase “musical praise and worship.”
The book of Psalms speaks much about musical praise and worship, and it should be an important part of our worship gatherings. “Come before His presence with singing” (Ps. 100:2 KJV) … “I will praise God’s name in song” (Ps. 69:30) … “come before Him with … music and song” (Ps. 95:2). In the book of Acts the early church “met together in the temple courts … praising God … and the Lord added” (Acts 2:46-47).
Since musical praise and worship is an important part of our corporate gatherings, we should seek to be biblical and practical in our approach. I believe it is not only more biblical but also more practical to do a significant part of our musical worship after the Word is preached.
I find this pattern in the book of Nehemiah. Nehemiah is about rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem, as well as the people of God. Physical and spiritual walls needed to be rebuilt. After the physical wall was completed, lives needed to be rebuilt. The same is true today. In Nehemiah 8 the Word was read and explained to the people. This resulted in people confessing their sins and getting right with God in Nehemiah 9. Finally, Nehemiah 12 says they “celebrated joyfully … with songs of thanksgiving and with music of cymbals, harps and lyres” (v. 27). Could this be a pattern we should follow today?
I suggest we consider having musical praise at the front end of a service, and musical worship after the message. Musical praise is one significant way to “enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise” (Ps. 100:4). This is a great way to start a corporate service. After this praise time we are ready to hear an anointed message from God’s Word. Through the Word our hearts are challenged, stirred, convicted and encouraged. At this point we are in the best position to confess our sins, get right with God, get prayer from others, and worship at a heightened level. Prayer and worship can be a response to the Word. Therefore, if we allowed more time for musical worship and prayerful response after the Word is proclaimed, I believe people would encounter God and worship Him at a deeper level.
“I cannot sing before I have seen. All worship is a response to a revelation - it's only as we breathe in more of the wonders of God that we can breathe out a fuller response to Him."
Matt Redman, Facedown (pg. 98)