We are to discern the Lord’s body in one another. When the Lord’s Supper is being served, we should sit up straight, and look around the congregation, eyes open, up and down our row. It is true that we are to examine ourselves, but we are to do so in relation to one another. We must not curl up in a little ball, close our eyes, and try to establish a private, spiritual moment with Jesus.
—Douglas Wilson, A Primer on Worship and Reformation, 57
What, then, are we to say about our own place within this design? We begin by recalling the frequent declaration of the Psalmists that creation, in a myriad of ways, is endlessly praising its Creator. In all its colour, movement, subtlety, richness, diversity and splendour, it brings glory to God: ‘The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.’ (Ps. 19:1) Our calling, I would suggest, is to articulate and extend that praise in ever fresh ways, to be ‘priests of creation’. In humankind, creation finds a voice; to use George Herbert’s word, each of us is invited to be a ‘secretary’ of praise. Through the human creature, the inarticulate (though never silent) creation becomes articulate.
—Jeremy Begbie, Voicing Creation’s Praise, 177
The hymns of Israel stand in service of the central theological claim of the Old Testament, that the Lord of Israel alone is God and requires the full devotion of all creation. The expression of praise was the glorification and enjoyment of God, the true measure of piety and the proper purpose of every creature. So for Israel the first and last word of faith was “Hallelujah!”
—Patrick D. Miller, Jr., “‘Enthroned on the Praise of Israel’: The Praise of God in OT Theology,” Interpretation 39 (’85):19
One of the more humbling times in worship leading is finding out that all of the thematic thoughts I had while planning the service didn’t really get communicated to the people I’m serving in our gathering. My careful song placement or artfully placed thematic items didn’t even get noticed.
What I have grown to realize is that plain explanations and clear leadership are a much greater blessing to the congregation than veiled themes. When it comes to worship gatherings, we shouldn’t think that our artistic or thematic nuances will have the same impact as will clear explanation of why we’re doing what we’re doing.
—Daniel Renstrom, “Stop Saying the Same Old Thing”
Worship is a site of God’s action, not just God’s presence.
—James K.A. Smith, You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit, 71
I’ve been amazed since becoming an elder in a local church just how dependent many Christians are on a certain style of music, or certain level of excellence in music. How many times have you heard someone say, for example, “I just can’t worship in that church.”? Or “I just don’t feel like I’m connecting with God there.”
Of course there can be a lot going on there, but I think that many times if you press in on statements like that, what you find behind it all is not very far removed from “I don’t like the music there.” People don’t put it that starkly, mainly because if you do it sounds silly. But I think that’s a lot of what people mean when they say, “I can’t worship there.”
I am really afraid that we’ve managed to create a generation of anemic Christians who are spiritually dependent on excellent music. Their sense of spiritual well-being is based on feeling“close to God,” their feeling close to God is based on their “ability to worship,” and being able to worship depends on big crowds singing great music.
I’m being facetious with the title of this article and the call for a moratorium on music, of course. The Bible tells us to sing. God gave us music precisely because it affects our hearts and emotion, and that is a good thing. But every good thing can be and will be misused by sinful humans. My sense is that “excellent music” has become something of an idol.
The bottom line, I suppose, is that it would do every Christian well to do some honest heart-searching about what makes them feel “close to God.” Can you feel close to God just by reading or saying the words, “In Christ Jesus you who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”? Would you be able to function in a church that’s great in every way except the music? If not, you probably need to give some thought to whether your spiritual life is dependent on something it should not be dependent on.
—Greg Gilbert, “Against Music” https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/against-music
In worship we remember God’s story in the past and anticipate God’s story in the future.
—Robert E. Webber, Ancient-Future Worship: Proclaiming and Enacting God’s Narrative, 23