Worship [is all about singing] part 2

June 3, 2008

In part one, I explained in detail how worship was, ultimately, not about singing, but about a whole life – heart, mind, soul, and strength – given over to God. I explained how, in the most important sense, I was not a worship leader – that at least I was unable to actually lead anyone into the presence of God, for that is Christ’s job, and was accomplished by his work on the cross on our behalf. Lastly, our personal response to what Christ has done is simple: draw near.

However, If you are ‘in Christ’, you are in God’s presence, and part of God’s kingdom. And if that’s you, I’ve got an important, but possibly confusing message for you, if you’ll allow me a direct contradiction from my last teaching: Worship is all about Singing. Give me a few paragraphs to explain.

Last Sunday morning I led worship for the 11 AM service at church. Oddly enough, I was no where on stage. I had no microphone, never address the congregation verbally from stage, and played no instrument. I didn’t pick songs. I didn’t rehearse the band. I did absolutely nothing that would make you think that I was leading worship, but I was a worship leader, none-the-less.

Who of you is a ‘worship leader’? Not in the sense that Jesus is, by bringing us into the Holy of Holies, but in the sense in which we usually use the word? Which of you are called to lead others in corporately worshiping God?

Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

This is probably one of – if not the – clarifying voice in the Scriptures on the purpose, practice, and use of corporate singing as worship in our churches, so I want us to dig into it as deeply as possible.

“Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly…” Be honest – how often does THAT happen to any of you – any of us – on a regular basis? People regularly wish that they could ‘hear from God’, and though I believe that God still speaks today (not with the same authority as Scripture, but He can use means to direct us), I think the primary reason more of us don’t hear from God on a regular basis is that we aren’t already listening to what He’s told us clearly in His word. Honestly, why bother speaking to someone if they already show no sign of being ready to listen? Digging into the Word is absolutely essential, if we are to do what comes next.

“… teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs…” HERE is the clincher: when we sing as a body, the ‘teaching’ and ‘admonishing’ of ONE ANOTHER is to take place, and that ‘teaching and admonishing’ is only sometimes verbal. When you sing the truth about Christ, you’re not only singing TO God, but to your brother or sister in Christ beside you, in front of you, behind you – and the conviction with which you sing – the passion with which you worship will ‘teach’ – will ‘admonish’ — those in your midst.

Ephesians 5:19 clarifies this verse, saying that we are to be, “…addressing ONE ANOTHER in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs…singing and making melody TO THE LORD with all your heart.”

Take note: at the same time that Paul is calling us to address ONE ANOTHER – those around us – in singing, he also points out that in doing that, we are making melody to the Lord!

Last Sunday I led worship not from the stage, but from within the congregation. During one song in particular, I chose to stand up and sing with everything I had, even though when I did so – for a minute or so – I must have looked like a redwood tree growing out of the middle of a desert. But slowly, one by one, others began to rise to their feet – then with a note from the worship leader on stage, the whole room stood to their feet to sing the powerful closing chorus. Christ made it possible for me to stand in God’s presence, the worship leader on stage was directing the band to make music that moved my heart to thankfulness for what God had done, and as a result I was a worship leader in the midst of that congregation, “teaching and admonishing”, “addressing” those around me by my own worship given to God.

Your faith, and your corporate worship in particular, is NOT just between You and God. Don’t get me wrong: it NEEDS to be between You and God first, and if Jesus is not already your worship leader – if you are not standing in Him in God’s presence as God’s adopted child – this is by no means a call for worship to be between just you and the person beside you, with God left out of the picture. But know this: almost every time the Bible says the word “You” it’s plural – like our “Ya’ll”. God saves us to be part of a community, and some of the most important worship you will even take part in will be with the whole body of Christ.

That is just to say, how I respond to God IS WORSHIP – worship is WHATEVER I DO that tells the world how valuable God is to be. That is FAR MORE than just singing a song on Wednesday night or Sunday morning – in fact, it is possible, I suppose, to worship God and never sing. However, we are a people who, in order to fully experience truth, need to live it – and SINGING is the overflow of that living.

And the fact that we gather to worship in community, and part of that call is to address ‘one another’, means that in some sense each of us as Christians play the role of ‘worship leader’ to those with which we worship.

Biblical passages on our worship are almost always expressive: stand in awe…I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High…my lips will SHOUT for JOY (can I hear a SHOUT in here?), when I sing praises to You…clap your hands, all people! Shout to God with loud songs of joy!…Moses quickly bowed his head towards the earth and worshiped…let them praise His name with dancing, making melody to Him with tambourine and lyre! (or rather, drums and guitar!)…Sometimes you maybe can’t keep from shouting or dancing, but on some Sundays you may be moved to want to sit in contemplation, or even fall to your knees or on your face – those are all GREAT places to be before God, but always come to worship prepared and expectant of being moved, because God speaks through His Word and special things happen when His people come together and worship Him!

Let me ask you one last question: if Christ has already DONE what is necessary for you to experience God, what is holding you back? March into his throne room boldly – see if He does not meet you there by his Spirit!

I know I’ve said this before in past worship talks, but let me say it again: do whatever you MUST with your BODY, to get your HEART to respond emotionally, to what your MIND has heard intellectually so your SPIRIT can receive it FULLY. That is the first and greatest commandment, isn’t it – love the Lord your God with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength: THAT IS WORSHIP! And if you’ve been purchased by Christ, and granted access into the Father’s presence, I don’t know HOW you can keep from singing…

Let us SING!

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3 Responses to “Worship [is all about singing] part 2”

  1. human3rror said

    Great thoughts on worship, and thanks for dropping a note on my blog!

    I really like your thoughts about “you” and how worship is not only about us and God but also with our fellow brothers and sisters.

    It’s interesting, through my seminary education, one of the coolest things I’ve learned is that “praise,” biblically speaking, can never occur “alone.”… it always requires another warm body to “officially” make it praise since it’s about sharing what God has done in our lives.

    Very interesting thought, eh?

    Have a great week!

  2. […] For What it’s Worth: GREATEST HITS (so far) As it won’t be long before this blog moves over to SaintLewisMusic.com (not yet operational), I thought I’d do a quick overview of some of the more popular, and more important blogs I’ve posted here over the past couple of years. Dig around, comment, link, and just have an all-around great time. Unquestionably, my number one blog has consistently been the text of a sermon I preached last year at our Youth Group, Inside Out. It’s called A GOD WORTHY OF WORSHIP, and though you would think otherwise if you’d been to the “Indescribable” Tour with Louie Giglio, I had written it without having heard his teaching on the same subject, which is far better than mine and can be found here. Anything referencing Louie in my message was added later to the written version. More recently, I have added to this ’series’ of worship sermons; WORSHIP [IS NOT ABOUT SINGING] part 1, & WORSHIP [IS ALL ABOUT SINGING] part 2. […]

  3. Ryan said

    Fantastic post. I will be linking to this next week sometime. Excellent stuff. I appreciate how Biblically grounded you always are! Thanks for this.

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