Friday, August 14, 2009

Reflections on Worship God 09 - Part 1

Being at the conference last week was an experience of contrasts. A few months ago I was visiting a church where the singing time was basically from start to finish all songs that declared my love for God. This is not a bad thing in and of itself, but when this is the whole of the singing time it can feel a bit shallow. Why? Because my mind is not reflection on WHY I should love God. Who is this God and what has he done? If the answer to that question is not first addressed we have a problem.

Worship God 09 underscored why my experience at the other church seemed problematic to me.

Sovereign Grace ministries is so intentional about the content of the songs that they lead us with. They understand that if we are going to sing "in Spirit" we must first sing "in Truth". The majority of their songs do not focus on my response to God, but rather what God has done for me. This Sunday, if you attend church, try and observe what the majority of your singing consists of. Is it a declaration of what God has done, or is it mainly the congregation telling God how they feel about Him?

I would contend, and I think Bob Kauflin and the music ministry that he leads throughout all the Sovereign Grace churches would agree (because that is what I observed with crystal clarity while at the conference) when I say that our singing should primarily be weighted toward what God has done. If this is the case, with the glory of the Gospel as the centerpiece, we won't have to try and conjure up false emotions when we are called to response with joyful and glad hearts to Him.

If a majority of the songs that we sing are more weighted towards how I feel about God or my response to God, it may tend to produce false affections that have no enduring value. Think about it like this. When I tell my wife I love her, I have a backdrop of 11 years of experience of living life with her that colors my deep affection for her. Pondering all the ways that she has loved me, served me, and blessed me makes my statement, "I love you" have significant depth and meaning. Telling her, "I love you" about fifty times on our first date (while being extremely creepy) would be hallow, shallow, and rather meaningless. The depth of my love for her is informed by the content of our past shared experience and the ways she has loved me so well.

In the same way, in our worship gatherings, our time of singing should start with reflection on who he has revealed himself to be in the scriptures and in Jesus and also what he has done through all of redemptive history. With this backdrop of his greatness, compassion, mercy and love in view, we can fix our minds upon these glorious truths. How could we keep from responding with joy, thanks, and heartfelt gratitude?

Don't just sing about your emotions. We need to make God central in our times of singing and if this is the case then our emotions will most certainly follow. Worship God 09 helped me to solidify this truth in my mind.

Bob Kauflin sums this up well in his book, Worship Matters (p. 132):

“We gather as the church to proclaim the truth. We gather to declare—to ourselves, to each other, and to God—what we know to be eternal reality. There is one God, who is sovereign over the universe and every detail of our lives. We have rebelled against him. He sent his Son to die in our place for our sins. And through Jesus Christ we have forgiveness and peace with God.

There are many things we can proclaim during and after a time of corporate worship. God’s glory is unending, and his perfections are infinite. But the fuel of our praise will always be the gospel of Christ who has redeemed us and brought us to God.”


Rich said...

I like your summation. You and I seem to have a like mind. I (try to) blog about worship on my blog Sound Doxology. This is such an important topic

Matthew Westerholm said...

Z - you know I agree with this whole direction. Do you have room for a small quibble?

YOU SAID: if we are going to sing "in Spirit" we must first sing "in Truth".

This is problematic, since the Spirit is what leads us into truth (John 16:13). He is "the Spirit of Truth."

I agree with your writing, but think you mean "emotionally" when you write "in Spirit."


Vitamin Z said...

Yeah, I am thinking about it in terms of John 4.

Perhaps I should reword...

Anonymous said...


My church in Bristol WI is an SG affiliated church and I agree with everything you have written. We sing all of the songs that you guys sang at WG09 and it such a blessing! I never felt I worshipped with a "right" heart until I worshipped to songs that give glory to God, have solid doctrine and are full of the Gospel, i.e., that are from Scripture or at least have truths that are solidly based in Scripture

For example:

Always Forgiven

I don’t deserve to be Your servant

And how much less to be Your child

Anger and wrath, sure condemnation

Should be my portion, my just reward

Never have seen it, never will know it

Your lovingkindness enfolds my life


All You have shown me is

Grace, love and mercy

Now and forever I am Your child

Freely You pour out

Your lovingkindness

Father of grace

You welcome me in

All of the sin I have committed

Was placed upon Your righteous Son

And now You see me

Through His perfection

As if I’d never done any wrong

Always forgiven, always accepted

No fear of judgment

Before Your throne
Always Forgiven by JonRyan

© 2004 Sovereign Grace Worship (ASCAP)

Kenosha WI