Note: This is part 1 of a two-part blog post on the topic of worship. Click here for part two.
There is a great quote by Gordon Fee, pertaining to worship:
“Show me a church’s songs, and I’ll show you their theology.”
This is spot on. Our theology, what we believe, is directly reflected in our worship, as it should be. A quote from John Piper says it well:
“All theology, rightly grasped, leads the mind and the heart to doxology. The story of God is about the glory of God. All revelation of the ways of God leads to exultation over the wonders of God.” (emphasis mine)
On the mission field, as we are faced with the challenge of planting and assisting local churches, a valid and constant concern is the theological foundation on which the church and local believers will stand. Is it a Biblical church? Is it a healthy church? There are many ways to answer these questions and work to improve on them, and worship is one of them.
I am no expert on worship. I can’t play an instrument, nor sing a solo. But I absolutely love corporate worship together in the church. I have been blessed to learn from many different people who lead worship in the different churches and communities I have been a part of.
I think we can do well to improve our worship by paying attention to where our focus is. Is the focus on me, myself and I? Or is the worship Christ centered? Or should rather the worship be focused on God? On the Church?
I have at times found myself in church gatherings where the worship was centered on “me, myself and I”. Other times the songs were imbalanced, focused on the Holy Spirit more than anything else. Whether this happens by accident or not, the songs we sing indicate our theology. And I don’t want to be a part of a church where the theology and worship is all about ‘me’, or does not rightly approach God.
This is not to say that ‘me, myself, and I’ are not important an important part of faith, or that the Holy Spirit is not to be considered. If we’re not personally engaged in worshiping God, then we have a problem. It is necessary to sing songs of how God saved me, rescued me, and that He is my God. But this cannot be the only focus of our worship. If we neglect Biblical doctrine of the Holy Spirit, we also have a problem.
Recently I have been thinking that balanced, biblical worship requires three areas of focus (in no particular order):
God In Trinity
Worship is a very broad topic, I cannot cover all of the details to the question: ‘What is biblical worship?’, and I have neither enough writing space nor experience & knowledge to answer this question well. But I propose these three as an easy way to remember how we should organize and guide our worship, as a reminder to ourselves and also to those we work together with in the church.
We do need to have a personal relationship with the Lord. Otherwise, why should we be in church? Songs and other forms of worship that reflect the personal aspect of our faith are important. In the Psalms, there are several examples of ‘me’ songs. Psalm 18 is one of them.
I love you, O LORD, my strength.
The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised,
and I am saved from my enemies.
The cords of death encompassed me;
the torrents of destruction assailed me;
the cords of Sheol entangled me;
the snares of death confronted me. (Psalm 18:1-4 ESV)
There is a great deal of I and my and me in this psalm. David is worshiping God and part of this worship a retelling of what God had done for him. It is clear in this psalm and others like it (Psalm 116) that the focus is on personal faith and experience, and the salvation of the Lord and His strength and steadfast love. We need songs in our churches which help us to express our personal faith and what God has done for us in our life. But if we stop here we will be severely lacking and risk ending up with a ‘me centered faith’ which revolves around our experience and what we receive from the Lord. We need to add the ‘we’ element.
In this blog post we’ve introduced a simple phrase to guide us towards balanced, biblical worship: “Me, We, God in Trinity”, and covered one of the focal points – “Me”. In the next post we will go into the “We” and “God in Trinity” as focal points in worship. Click here for part two