Note: This is part 2 of a two-part blog post on the topic of worship. For the first part, click here (part 1)
“Show me a church’s songs, and I’ll show you their theology.” – Gordon Fee
In part 1 of this blog post (Part 1) we 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 this post we will go into the “We” and “God in Trinity” as focal points in worship.
If we only sing songs that focus on me – our personal faith, experience, and relationship with God – 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.
God has not saved us so that we could merely be forgiven of our sins and go to heaven. Salvation is an entrance into the Kingdom of God, of which we become citizens. God is Father and we through Christ become His children. This is the Church, the family of God. And the Church must worship together.
Oh come, let us sing to the Lord;
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
Notice here, this psalm starts with an invitation to corporate (us) worship. As Christians, we need to sing and make a joyful noise (and often, for those of us still in the early stages of language learning, noise is all we can do when we try to sing words we haven’t learned yet). Just as Psalm 18 (discussed in part 1) was a retelling of what God had done for David, many of the psalms are corporate in nature and retell the work that God has done for His people (Psalm 8, 9). The focus is on the community of believers, their faith together, and what God has done for them.
Psalm 100 is another example of the corporate nature of worship. Verse 3 is a verse for community, we, us: “…It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.”. The first verse, however, takes the idea of corporate worship to a higher level: Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!” (emphasis mine). The ‘we’ becomes something much greater than our immediate church community. And this is indeed what we seek. This is why we are called to missions, each and every member of the church: “Missions exists because worship doesn’t.” – John Piper
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into His presence with singing!
Know that the Lord, He is God!
It is He who made us, and we are His;
we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture.
Enter His gates with thanksgiving,
and His courts with praise!
Give thanks to Him; bless His name!
For the Lord is good;
His steadfast love endures forever,
and His faithfulness to all generations.
God In Trinity
Finally we need to make sure our focus in worship is to glorify God. This is our purpose in all of life, and one of the pillars of our faith: “Soli Deo Gloria – Glory to God Alone”. In both personal worship and corporate worship the object of our worship is God Himself, in Trinity. We cannot worship just the Holy Spirit, or just Jesus, we need to worship God as one in three, and three in one.
It is God the Father who in love sent Jesus the Son to save, and it is the Holy Spirit who applies our salvation and enables us to worship. The Triune God is the object of our worship, and our songs and lyrics need to reflect His works, His Word, and His attributes. We need to sing our theology, sing of the Triune nature of God, and the Triune nature of His working in our lives. The theology represented in our songs needs to be complete.
Many of the Psalms and other scriptures are rich in theological statements. In Psalm 100, verse 3 and 5 are both statements of who God is, and His attributes. He made us. He is Good. His Steadfast love endures forever. In Revelation, the worship given to God is full of theological statements and of the work of salvation.
“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”
“Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”
“Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.”
“Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
In my own setting (Hanoi, Vietnam) I often see incomplete, imbalanced worship, in that one or more of the three – “Me, We, God in Trinity” is either lacking or is taking the spotlight. I see this not only in the act of worship but also in the songs that the church is using and producing. It often seems that there is a disconnect between the theology and the worship. This bothers me, but it also it a strong reminder of the importance of connecting our teaching to our worship. The work of the missionary, pastor, and Christian needs to include worship and result in worship.
We need to think about how we worship, and help the church in continuing to develop in balanced, Biblical worship. I hope that “Me, We, God in Trinity” will be an aid in focusing our worship to be balanced and Biblical.
Soli Deo Gloria, To God Alone be the Glory!
Call for comments! I used a few examples from the psalms. There are many great songs and hymns, new and old, which fit into one, or several, or all of the categories of “Me, We, God in Trinity”. In the comments, List the songs which you and your church community are blessed with in your worship and the category they fall into. This is not limited to English only, other languages too!
For part one of this blog post, click here (Part 1)