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9 Things That Christian Worship Should Be

Summarized from the Prologue to The Worship Sourcebook:*

1. Christian worship should be biblical.

  • worship includes prominent readings of Scripture
  • worship presents & depicts God's being, character, & actions consistent with how Scripture does
  • worship obeys explicit biblical commands about worship
  • worship heeds scriptural warnings about false/improper worship
  • worship focuses primary attention where the Bible does--on Jesus

2. Christian worship should be dialogic.

  • God speaks through the Spirit, and we respond in a variety of ways
  • worship is initiated by God
  • worship balances attentive listening and honest speech

Click to read more ...


Flippant Worship Attendance: Stats and Consequences

Justin Taylor, along with Gene Veith, cite an article by Robbie Low in Touchstone about the statistical relationship between attendance of church by a father/man-of-the-house and whether or not their children will be regular worshipers as adults.  The gist is that the likelihood that children will attend worship regularly as adults decreases dramatically when the father is not a committed attender.  For what it’s worth, the data was collected from Christians in Switzerland in 1994.

I’d encourage you all to read those posts and that article just to get your head around this beast of an issue, but I’d like to extrapolate to a broader point, not based on international research, but based on pastoral observations of the struggles of one local church here in Denver.

I cannot tell you how many families I engage with who are committed followers of Jesus whose worship attendance averages 2 out of the 4 weeks in a month.  A year and a half ago, I posted on why skipping church is like shooting yourself spiritually in the foot.  Here are the contributing factors, in my opinion:

  • Postmodernity, which is anti-institutional, anti-authority
  • The success of the emerging church movement in captivating a sizeable minority of evangelicals (and non-evangelical Christians)...for the many helpful things the emerging church has done, they have helped encourage the above postmodern values
  • Our hyper-busy culture: when young couples start having kids, or when many adult singles bury themselves in a work-hard-plus-party-hard lifestyle, they get sucked into the vortex of hyper-busyness;  there is always something to do, always something to get distracted by

Furthermore, I wonder how many worship leaders experience what I experience.  My most committed worship musicians and leaders tend to follow the same trend of 50% worship attendance.  This truly breaks my heart…for them and their children.

Some folks have told me that they end up “doing church” at home with their nuclear family or “worshiping God” as they behold His beauty skiing or camping in the Rocky Mountains (a particular problem out here).  Unfortunately, at home and in the mountains: (1) your God-ordained leadership (your pastors) are not there to lead you in worship; (2) you can’t rightly celebrate the sacraments (because they are a communal act of the whole local assembly); (3) you can’t receive the edification of the Holy Spirit that only comes in the sacred, communal act of the gathered local church (Eph. 5:18-19).  The longer I pastor, the more I am convinced that there is no replacement for the regular, weekly worship-gathering of God’s people.

What's the remedy?  Though some in my church would encourage me to do this, I don’t believe it is helpful to “preach against” this sin (yes, forsaking the assembly of the people is a sin, folks [Heb 10:25]), because that just creates worship-attendance Pharisees, big on legalism and small on the Gospel.  My only options, I feel, are to:

  • Continually preach the gospel as the perpetual starting place of all growth and maturity
  • Continue to pour my heart into designing and praying for worship services which captivate the heart
  • Find creative ways to winsomely communicate the benefits of worship-attendance

Do any of you folks out there find the same things going on in your churches?


iPad / iPhone Christmas Prelude at North Point

The sacred and the profane meet on a whole new level.  What do you think?  What does this say?



Hymn Book iPod Cover

...More ancient-modern goodness.  My mixer and friend Josh Davis sent me this link, and I had to share it. If you're interested in buying it, here you go.  Seeing this makes me chuckle, but on the more serious side, perhaps it is at once lamentable and redemptive. 

Lamentable: Labeling one's iPod as one's "hymnal" demands some cultural exegesis.  The church has lost something significant when it moved from hymn books to screens...from its congregational music being experienced in the context of corporate worship to being experienced in isolation in one's car or with some earbuds.  With these shifts, the church lost a little piece of being a shaper of art in culture, because music-reading no longer is part of church worship culture at large.  The church took one step back from being a place where one was able to more deeply engage in the art of music-making by reading music.  This iPod cover is, in a sense, an ironic herald of that reality.

Redemptive: Labeling one's iPod as one's "hymnal" helps bridge congregational worship into all of life, at least symbolically.  As Calvin said, "the world is the theater of God's glory."  All of life is worship, and one way of summarizing the process of sanctification is that, over time, God is turning our hearts, part by part, away from worshiping other things to worshiping Him.  Growing in Christ is growing in increasingly "whole-hearted" worship of God.  Because of that, I want my whole life to be one "hymn of praise" to God.  Therefore, I want my iPod to be filled with songs that lead me into worship of God, in one way or another (and, to be clear, I don't think that means that all my music be "worship" music or even "Christian" music).  I want every aspect of my life to be a hymn-book, leading me in praise of God, from the mundane to the overtly "sacred."

Anyway, I'll definitely be curious as to how well this thing sells.  I don't anticipate much!


Leading Worship with iPhone Virtual Instruments

Someone in my worship network email list sent me this link.  This is fascinating, not simply because it's "cool" but because of the cultural and philosophical analysis associated with it.  My own classical sensibilities fight stuff like this because it is "inauthentic."  Anything not acoustic, not naturally amplified, plugged-in, or digitally processed somehow compromises the creative artistry of music-making, so those sensibilities say.

However, if you notice, they're playing on fretboards, not simply pressing "on."  They're strumming and providing rhythm and dynamics.  The music sounds a bit forced and definitely artificial at some key points, but you can also look past this particular performance and see what it could become.  By now, most of us know that the iPad is providing these same things, only with a bigger screen size, which opens up new possibilities in virtual instrument playing. 

People have talked about how the iPad will revolutionize the publishing industry, school textbooks, and education.  It may very well revolutionize live music-making, too, for those open to it.  I keep wondering to myself, When is rock n roll worship going to be phased out by the next thing (as organ/choir-led worship has been, in many places phased out)?  And what will the next thing look like?  I'm sure people living in the early 1900s couldn't have imagined what modern worship looks like in churches today.  So, too, I've wondered in the past whether laptops and sampling will replace our current instruments. It looks like we might have a different contender. It's weird to think, but not out of the realm of possibility, that one day a worship band might be five people holding iPhones or iPads (or the latest versions thereof) in various positions, strumming, plucking, pressing, tapping, all sent wirelessly to a sound console.  

Much cultural exegesis needs to be done.  We need to "think ahead" of these things...but far too often we're "thinking behind," correcting things simply because we haven't thought through what's at stake if we go down these roads.

I'd love to hear some cultural exegesis from you folks on the positives and negatives of this potential new instrumental revolution.