There is much talk in Christian circles about the necessity of unity. We live in a world of division and we witness this in the spheres of politics, business, and especially college football. In all seriousness, while the world is divided over matters of small and great significance—it is the church of Jesus Christ that should be unified in the bond of peace through the gospel.
However, beyond our blood bought unity in Christ, we must press beyond the surface level connection point. In other words, when we look at our church as a whole, we must see unity in operation and functionality. Rather than having churches within one church, we should strive to be one (see Eph. 4). One of the greatest ways to see such unity in functionality is through the unity of worship.
We can learn much about a church by observing how a church approaches worship. Do the members show up on time for the service? Are they busy talking and raising Christian fellowship above the opening call to worship from the Scriptures as they circle up in deep conversations in the foyer of the church? What about the music ministry of the church, is it focused on performance that is largely disconnected from the text being preached on that Lord’s Day? And then, we must talk about the way a church approaches prayer. Are the prayers of the church orderly and intentionally designed to flow through a set meaningful liturgy? Finally, how does the church approach baptism and the Lord’s Supper? Are they book ends of a worship service without real connection and purpose?
Every aspect of the worship service matters to God, and it should matter to us as well. A chopped up and heavily segmented worship service fails to put on display the unity of the means of grace in a way that hinders the church’s worship. If a church puts more emphasis upon the music production, choir, or specific musicians than other aspects of the church’s worship—the church will be weakened and distracted from the true purpose of worship. The same thing can be true of expository preaching. While preaching is central to the worship service as the primary ordinary means of grace, if a church has robust exposition coupled with songs that that are largely disconnected from the preaching—it fails to communicate the gospel properly. Sure, the gospel is communicated, but not in the way that it would be communicated in a wholistic approach through a unified worship service.
When I talk with pastors and they refer to their associate pastor who disciples young people as their “youth guy” I immediately see a red flag. The same red flag is flapping in my mind when I hear pastors refer to their “music guy” who leads them in worship. If a church has a pastor who prepares sermons and guy who merely plans and organizes the church’s singing, the service is likely going to suffer from a worship chasm.
When a worship service is planned, and it should be planned, there should be intentional emphasis placed on the entire service from the opening call to worship to the closing benediction. The whole worship service matters. If the pastor plans his sermon in isolation from the leader who plans the church’s worship through song, the church will begin to sense discontinuity rather than unity. This is why I urge local churches to call a pastor to lead the church in song if possible. Rather than a music guy, a pastor who is given to shepherding souls and discipling the church will serve weekly in the work of pastoral ministry, planning the worship, and share in leadership on the Lord’s Day. This will promote unity among the leaders and will result in the unity of a worship service.
As a member of your local church, it would be good for you to see the importance of every single item on your order of worship this upcoming Lord’s Day. Be on time and ready for worship. Engage in the call to worship. Resist the temptation to daydream and drift off in thought throughout the various prayers and Scripture readings. Pay attention to the words you’re singing and resist the urge to be driven by emotional or sentimental worship music. Allow your God given emotions to be driven by the Word of God. Be attentive and engaged in the sermon as an active worshipper rather than a spectator. Teach your children to go to the restroom before the worship service begins and plan to stay through the entire service. The benediction matters to God too.
For more on this subject and discussion on how to plan a gospel shaped worship service, I encourage pastors (and members to send their pastors) to attend a G3 Worship Workshop. This is not for the “music guy” or even the associate pastor responsible for leading in song. This is for all pastors and would greatly benefit the whole church.
Stephen Charnock writes, “To pretend to homage to God, and intend only the advantage of self, is rather to mock Him than worship Him.” 1Stephen Charnock, Discourses upon the Existence and Attributes of God, 225-226.
|Stephen Charnock, Discourses upon the Existence and Attributes of God, 225-226.