Category Archives: Worship

The Rocks Cry Out


What is the sound of grace?  Did you know that grace even had a sound?  It’s sound is described as sweet in the famous John Newton hymn titled “Amazing Grace.”

 

Worship also has a sound.  It can be as loud as a chorus of shouts or as soft as a whisper.  It can even include “silence” for personal reflection and meditation.  But have you ever sat in a congregation of believers during a time of silent mediation and found yourself praying and listening to the sounds of silence?  Yes, even a worshiper’s silence is audible.

Everything in God’s creation has a sound that is used to bring glory to His name.  From the crickets rubbing their legs together in perfect time, to the tree frogs answering one another’s call, to the rustling of leaves letting us know what the wind is up to, to the rhythmic grind of the ocean waves lulling us to sleep, and to the thumping of our very hearts; we see and hear the sounds of God’s creation all around us and it is just mind boggling how a Creator could have come up with such an array of sounds, let alone colors, shapes, textures, tastes and smells.

Is there anything that God has banished to absolute silence in this world?  How about the rocks?  To my knowledge, these have yet to produce a sound in and of themselves, but Jesus reminds us that the possibility actually exists.  In the gospel of Luke chapter 19, Jesus is quoted as saying:

I tell you if they (us worshipers) keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”  – Luke 19:40

And so we are tasked with making a joyous noise to keep those rocks from crying out for yet another day or for another generation to come.

In biblical times, God’s people made joyous noise to their creator using harps, lyres, cymbals and drums – together with their voices; and the rocks remained silent for one more second.

Throughout time we have used acapella praise, praise accompanied by the organ, instrumental praise with brass, woodwind and bells, and lately we have offered praise to the guitar, piano and drum; each one of us participating in this glorious symphony of worship; and the rocks remain silent for one more minute.

We have chanted, we have spoken, we have sung our hearts out, we have wept, we have laughed, and we have groaned all as part of the sounds of worship; and the rocks remain silent for one more hour.

There is a unified rustling sound as we all rise for the Gospel reading and there is a cacophonous sound at the close of our worship time together as we all place our hymnbooks back in their racks, and the rocks remain silent for one more day.

From the bombastic singing of an Easter celebration service to the quietest moments on Good Friday to the anticipatory sounds of Advent and to the babbled languages of Pentecost as worship is held across the globe in every tribe, nation and tongue – God is continuing to be praised; and the rocks remain silent for one more week.

There is a sound as we receive the Lord’s Supper; a crunch inside our heads as we take and eat and a gulp; and the rocks remain silent for one more year.

The din and clatter of change jingling, bills being ruffled and plates being passed during the offering; and the rocks remain silent for one more decade.

Babies crying, doors opening and closing, ceiling fans whirling, heating and air conditioning buzzing – these too are the sounds of worship; and the rocks remain silent for one more century.

Time marches on, seconds turn into minutes, minutes to days, days to weeks, weeks to years, years to decades and decades into centuries.  Worshipers hand down their distinctive sounds from one generation to the next and tomorrow’s generation brings with them a new sound of worship; and the rocks remain silent for one more millennium.

And yet, buried among these quiet rocks are a promise.  A promise for all worshipers.  An invitation to worship as we participate in creation’s symphony and yet another day without hearing even one rock cry out.

But I wonder what these rocks would say.

One might tell how a little shepherd boy named David used a small stone to slay a giant to show that we can do anything when God is with us and for us.

Another might tell how the prophet Elijah used stones to build an altar to God.  This altar was used to offer a sacrifice to God to prove that He is the one, true God.

Yet another rock might tell how Solomon had used stones to build a beautiful temple for people to worship God.

Still another rock might remind us that Jesus once told a story about a wise man who built his house upon a rock.  When the storms came, the house on the rock stood firm.

Yes, these stones might have a lot of stories to tell, but we won’t let them.  Just as the followers of Jesus lined the streets to praise their King on that first Palm Sunday, you and I are here to praise our King.  And as long as we praise him, there will be no need for these stones to cry out.

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Spiritual Milk


Spiritual Milk

Nutritionists tell us that we need to obtain our vitamins through food as opposed to pills and that our daily intake should contain at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. This is good advice, but I watch in amazement as a newborn child only needs one item for their complete nutritional needs as provided by their nursing mother. While on this milk they vibrantly grow stronger each day. Their skin is beautiful, their eyes are like engaging jewels and their bodies grow stronger right in front of your eyes.

But what about their spiritual needs? What about our spiritual needs? Just like mothers milk, there is only one thing we need and that’s a right relationship with Jesus in our life. Everything falls into place once this happens. We get baptized, the Holy Spirit inhabits our lives, we partake of the Lord’s Supper regularly, we pray daily, we make offerings to our Lord, we gather to worship and praise, we read God’s word and through all of this our faith builds over time. When you attend church, you should leave feeling spiritually fed – regardless of your background and age. Start to ask some very serious questions if this isn’t happening because the problem can be either you or your church.

Picking the right church is a bit tricky. Here’s my litmus test:

1. All Christian churches regardless of denomination will profess to teach God’s word in truth and purity so this in effect is not a good enough discriminator. You need to know the bible yourself to make an informed assessment of this.
2. Look for churches that read God’s word regularly, in every single worship service, and also verify that all portions are being used throughout the year – every book, every verse and every word is important.
3. Look for churches that administer the Sacraments according to God’s word. Yes, you need to know that much as well.
4. Look for churches that pray together in every service.
5. Look for preaching that is based on God’s word and that uses some scripture throughout.
6. Look for churches that confess their sins together, that are reminded of the forgiveness of sins and receive the absolution of their sins on a regular basis.
7. Look for churches that start their worship in the name of the Triune God.
8. Look for fans of the coffee hour, jello, the Green Bay Packers and Star Wars (just kidding, you know who you are.)
The common theme here is God and His word, not man or his feeble traditions.

Make it your New Year’s resolution to find a church if you don’t have one already.

No More


No More

There will come a day when…
No more sermons are preached
No more people yet to be reached.

There will be no more lessons taught;
No more souls begot.

There will be no more pursuit of career or education;
No more accumulation, accusation or accreditation.

There will be no more churches to build or nations to evangelize;
No more numbers yet to realize.

These are part of our earthly place – no doubt;
But it is worship that one day we will not do without.

 

 

Pastor vs Worship Leader


Pastor vs Worship Leader 

In my circles, the term “worship leader” is still a relatively new thing, and actually not even used in the majority of our churches unless you are referring to the Pastor. But there are a growing number of churches in our Synod that are starting to use some blended styles of music which is very exciting, and as a result, a league of young musicians are finding themselves in leadership roles. Here’s my take on the role of the worship leader compared to the Pastor in our Synodical setting. 

Pastor Worship Leader
Is trained and educated in theology Is trained in music
Is responsible for the flock Is a member of the flockResponsible for the band (musically)
Prepares and preaches the sermons Listens intently to the sermon
Chooses the hymns Sings the hymns with gusto
Approves the contemporary song choices and sings the contemporary music with gusto Chooses the contemporary music
Prays for his worship leader Prays for their Pastor
Is the worship leader’s friend Is the Pastor’s friend
Respects and trusts the worship leader Respects and trusts the Pastor
Brings people into membership by teaching God’s word (Holy Spirit brings them to faith) Auditions members for the band
Practices his sermon for hours on end Practices their music for hours on end
Reads the bible and musty old theology books Reads the bible, devotional books, song lyrics and instrumental instructional books
Uses Logos or BibleWorks software Uses Pro Tools, Sibelius, Noteflight, GarageBand, ForScore, and other musically related software
Can actually use these terms in a sentence: sacristy, narthex, unction, adiaophron, flagon, pericope and exegesis Can actually use these terms in a sentence: trill, modulate, gliss, timbre, resonance, palm-muting and capo
Teaches bible class Attends bible class
Knows Isaac Watt’s music pretty well Knows Chris Tomlin’s music pretty well
Knows his scripture Knows their scripture
Teaches God’s word to the flock Teaches young musicians the tools of the trade, tips, tricks and secrets
Administers the sacraments Is a grateful recipient of the sacraments
Writes papers Writes lyrics
Is physically, emotionally and mentally exhausted after worship on Sunday Ditto
Would like to meet Jesus, Paul the Apostle, and/or Martin Luther Would like to meet Jesus, King David and/or their favorite contemporary artist
Is the worship leader’s Facebook friend Is the Pastor’s Facebook friend
Know’s the original languages (Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic) Know’s all the key signatures
Packer’s fan (because most of our Pastors come from WI) Local sports fan to wherever the church is located

 

Worship Styles


Worship Styles

The following table compares the various styles of worship, as seen by one who has never been to a true contemporary worship service (so my details are all second hand), who has been to thousands of traditional services, and maybe a couple hundred or so blended services.  Your definitions and experiences will definitely be different.

Contemporary Blended Traditional
Opening Informal Greeting, Announcements, Testimonials Pastoral Greeting, Scripture-based Call to Worship Formal Invocation; Routine
Confession/Absolution May or may not be used; might be included as a song Spoken; might vary week-to-week Spoken; routine, per the Hymnal
Liturgy Non-liturgical, no weekly routine, might contain drama, skits, art, dance, etc. Some routine, Musical – Praise Band Accompaniment, Creeds Formal, Routine, Creeds, Musical – Organ Accompaniment, per the Hymnal
Scripture Readings Based on the day’s theme; often uses Lay readers OT, Psalm, NT; might include Lay readers, Lectionary driven OT, Psalm, NT; Pastor only, Lectionary driven
Music All contemporary, Praise Sets; praise band ensemble Some hymns, some contemporary songs, hymns to new arrangements, organ & praise band, MIDI Hymns; organ, Chanted Psalm of the Day, the music serves the Word, Preludes & Postludes – usually classical pieces, SATB Choirs, hand bell choirs
Sermon Topical & Relevant; uses videos and graphic imagery Expository; might include PowerPoint charts Expository Preaching
Prayers Prayers by and for the people, Timely and Relevant Lord’s Prayer, Timely and Applicable Prayers written by the Pastor Formal, prewritten prayers per the Hymnal, Lord’s Prayer, Pastoral Prayers, Responsive Prayers
Closing Time for greeting each other Benediction, Sending Song, Announcements Benediction, Closing Hymn,Ushered Out
Atmosphere Lively, Informal, Participatory, Expressive, Emotional, Coffee & Couches, Seeker Sensitive, Trendy, Minimal Ceremony, Mega-Churches Respectful, Upbeat, Modern, Relevant, Visitor Friendly Routine, Orderly, Orthodox, Respectful, Liturgical, Reverent,Dignified, Cerebral, Safe, Structured
Key Passages (Physically Expressive Psalm Passages): 95:6-7, 149:3, 47:1, 63:4, 149:3, 134:2, 22:23, 16:9  also Ex 12:27, Job 1:20,  Ex 34:8, Php 2:10, 1 Cor 6:20, Eph 5:19, Rev 15:2, Neh 8:6, Rev 5:11-14, 1 Tim 2:8 Col 3:16, “Psalm 90’s”, OT Instrumental Worship: Nehemiah, Chronicles, etc. 1 Cor 14:40, Heb 12:28, Heb 13:7

Personally,  I do favor blended worship (actually leaning more towards traditional than contemporary).   It just seems to me that going overboard in either extreme direction can be troublesome.   That’s just a personal opinion that works for me and for my worship but yours may vary because our gracious God has lovingly made us all different.    I do pray that worship can be offered in spirit and truth across the board, across languages, across cultures, across lands, across time, using differing forms of technology and wherever two or more are gathered in His name.   May God be glorified in all styles and may His kingdom grow regardless of style.   What’s important to me is that biblical truths are adhered to, prayers are offered, Sacraments are faithfully administered, offerings are gathered, sins are being confessed, praise is being offered, God is given all the glory and His inerrant word is heard.   I do pray for those worshipping on the far right; faithfully watching doctrine and singing hymns; it just seems to me that we are struggling a bit.   Perhaps the tides will turn some time soon.   What once was old, often times becomes new again.

Worship Priorities


Worship Priorities

I was thinking about our worship recently, and was wondering what priority the bible puts on certain worship-related practices as a guide for what we should be doing.  Here’s what I found, listed in the order of biblical occurrences (NIV):

                                    Number of Occurrences

 

Love, Loving                            540

Offering                                    492

Praising                                    312

Prayer, Petition                        134

Teaching                                   119

Singing                                      107

Bowing                                     101

Reading                                    69

Shouting                                   59

Comforting Each Other             44

Repenting                                 39

Lamenting                                 32

Baptize/ism                               29

Exalting                                    28

Rejoicing                                  24

Fasting                                     24

Confessing                               22

Dancing                                    20

Lord’s Supper                          12

Kneeling                                   7

Clapping                                   6

Lifted Hands/Arms                   2

Speaking in Tongues                 2

Admonishing each other            2

 

Take it for what it’s worth; in my book Communion wins out over liturgical dancing!

What types of instruments we should be using:

 

Voices                                      186

Trumpet                                   64

Strings (Harp, Lyre, etc.)          46

Horns                                       36

Flute                                         14

Tambourine                              5

 

Pretty interesting results I would say.  Perhaps this would be a good start for a bible class topic!