Evaluating Corporate Worship

Music is one way in which we offer our worship to God.  We express praise to Him that is often accompanied by music.  So, who decides what is and is not an acceptable “accompaniment” of our worship?  Does anything fly as long as we enjoy the experience and feel close to God?  Or does God’s word have anything to say about the way He should be worshiped?  Is there any larger purpose for the music than to lift our hearts toward God?  Let’s consider a few thoughts.

My premise is that the music ministry of the church actually falls under the larger umbrella of teaching.  Since music includes lyrics that should inform the congregation about God and involves a corporate response to Him, it should be saturated with God’s word in order to evoke a response that is accurate and reverent.  God seeks those who worship Him in spirit and truth (John 4:21), therefore appropriate worship can only be offered by those who worship according to God’s revelation of Himself.  Music is an extension of the teaching/preaching ministry because it uses the medium of song to instruct the people of God about the One they worship.  Since music has such a pivotal role in the corporate worship of the church, it is essential that every song be evaluated as to how it communicates God’s truth to His people and how it compels His people to respond to Him in reverence and awe (Heb. 12:28).  His word suggests that He is a “consuming fire” and should not be trifled with.  God has high standards for His children and for how they worship Him.

In spirit and truth means, by the Scriptures and by the Holy Spirit.  Our worship of God should be according to the truth revealed about Him in the Scriptures and by the leading of His Holy Spirit that seeks to magnify Christ and give the Father glory.  It’s not about us, our feelings, or even our experience.  It’s about us being mentally-engaged and emotionally-drawn to the person of God.  Worship is both mental and emotional, it is primarily objective, and only secondarily subjective.  Our emotions must be based on the truth that we hear and sing.  In short, our experience must be shaped by what we know of God as we seek to obey Him.  Worship is our response to God’s truth about Himself.  We praise Him.  We sing to Him.  We listen to His word.  We obey His word.  We repent of our sin.  We put our trust in Christ.  We follow the Spirit’s leading as He transforms us.  We worship God according to His word, and the music ministry of the church is intended to deepen our knowledge of God so that the Spirit may use it to compel us to respond in a worthy manner.

The music ministry of the church informs our theological world-view (our view of God, mankind, and the world).  Therefore, it should not be taken flippantly or enjoyed unwittingly.  Let us consider Colossians 3:16:

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

Some helpful questions proposed by music minister Leonard Payton:

1) Did the music ministry today cause the word of Christ to dwell in us richly?

2) Did we teach and admonish one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs?

3) Did we sing with gratitude in our hearts to God for Christ’s finished work on the cross?

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[1] Leonard Payton, “How Shall We Sing to God?” in John Armstrong, ed., The Coming Evangelical Crisis (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1996), 203.

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Filed under Theological Reflection, Tribbett

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