“And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. Colossians 3:15-17″
From my limited experience, it seems that the big draw of many churches is the music. That’s what has historically drew me into churches when I was younger, and that is what most of my peers were there for then, and are here for now. It is the quintessential selling point for many congregations. This is especially prominent for youth groups, where loud drums, electric guitars, catchy riffs and inconsequential lyrics combined with dim lights emblematic of the modern evangelical experience. Even apart from that though, is the reality that most churches have some form of weekly or monthly worship nights which have names like “Deeper” “Ignite” “Amped”. This is exceedingly common, and happens everywhere, all the time.
At the same time, all churches are liturgical. Even churches that have eschewed traditional higher liturgy have created by default their own liturgy, which can be simplified as the call to worship by the worship leader, a few fast songs, congregational greeting, some slow songs, announcements, sermon, then some form of benediction and dismissal. The order may vary slightly, but it is essentially the same. The point though is not to talk about the liturgy, but rather the prominent divide between the worship and the preaching that the liturgy affords. To this end, most church services have two distinct components, what is considered “praise and worship time” and then “the sermon time.” At times they intersect and they may rhyme and roll against each other, but it is understood that they are separate entities, wholly unlike the other, each with their own function and purposes.
That’s not how I look at it however. I think far from being distinct entities they are essentially the same thing with the same end. Worship is not simply music and lyrics. The essence of it, I would suggest, is the glorification of God. That is the purpose, goal, and ultimate end of worship- to give God glory and to function as a means of knowing him better. This is so that we may give him more honor and glory, purposing that his words might dwell deeper inside of us. That is different.
When we worship, we are saying things about the Lord. We are teaching, rebuking, professing, declaring, correcting and confessing based on the revelation of God in Christ as revealed in his word. That is the function that our praise and worship lyrics have. Paul says that we ought to teach each other the words of Christ using hymns and spiritual songs- the intent being that this is how the words of Christ will dwell richly in us. That is how we will know more about God, and how we will know more about the words of Christ and how he works through his words. That is a sermon.That is preaching.So when we listen and sing lyrics, we need to ask ourselves “what are we teaching others? What sorts of things are we expounding upon? Are we accurately reflecting God’s character? Are we accurately teaching the words of Christ? Are we teaching the scriptures?” We also ought to ask ourselves if we are preaching deep, thoughtful sermons through our music, or if we are singing light, breezy, unclear, muddled, mindless, vague sermons?
I wanna sit at your feet
Drink from the cup in your hand.
Lay back against you and breathe, feel your heart beat
That is profoundly different than
Blest is the man, forever blest,
Whose guilt is pardoned by his God;
Whose sins with sorrow are confessed,
And covered with his Savior’s blood.
Which of those sermons do you prefer? Because the latter is a far cry from the modern notions of worship, [the former] the bulk of which is incessantly vapid and whose function within an ecclesial setting is to get people riled up on an emotional high; which they then mistake for a spiritual experience, which they can then feed off of the rest of the week, nourishing on and being sustained by the vapors of their own emotional delirium until the next Sunday. I’ll be writing shortly how the sermon is worship in a later entry, but for now I wish to make the point that our worship is preaching. It is a sermon. We teach about Christ in it, and the theological deepness or shallowness of a song reflects the importance we give God’s word- which more often than not is an indication of the deepness or shallowness that we give preaching, which is its own kind of worship.
Do you think the songs sung for praise and worship in the opening liturgy of your church adequately convey the word of Christ? Are they conducive to having his word dwell richly in us? Do the worship sermons teach and admonish us? I would love to know your thoughts.