Pastor Jon on Worship and Music

Worship is a profoundly personal and intimate experience between the believer and the Almighty. It is private communion between me and God. You and God. Ted and God. Sally and God. It is individual, mysterious, and very subjective: What is worship for one may not be for someone else. And, vice versa.

But worship is also a public and community experience. People come together to worship. Fellowship and communion. God’s people, family, singing in one voice-focused on the Holy at the same time, in the same place.

Mutchler2014FThink about those two things. Really think about the challenge of that concept. This is a mysterious and amazing event. Something that has to be directed and facilitated by Spirit. At the same time, embraced by a spirit-filled church who are exercising the spirit-graces of Galatians 5:22 and spirit-gifts of 1 Corinthians 12-14 (especially the virtues of chapter 13 which deal, not with marriage, but with corporate worship!)

What follows in this message proceeds from these two important ideas: Church worship is both and at the same time personal and corporate. It is an activity of shared devotion with our God. Picture a symphony playing a Mozart symphony, as opposed to a room of middle school band students warming up their instruments before rehearsal.

That is why we always need to be careful – exceedingly careful – when we use phrases like “best worship” or “right worship” or “most mature worship” or “true worship” or “most spiritual worship.”

Best for whom? (Hint: remember we talk about and try to distinguish between “cultural” vs. “biblical”)

Rather, I think the language of grace and preferences is more constructive. Certainly more biblical (read Colossians 3).

“I prefer hymns” resonates better than, “Hymns are best….. modern music is shallow.”

“I like the upbeat, contemporary music,” shows gospel grace better than, “Old music is dull and boring.”ChurchRoadBandImage2015

“I am inspired to worship Christ through acoustic music” shows greater love and wisdom than, “I hate electric keyboards and guitars in church.”

“I am moved by rock gospel” is more unifying than “I can’t stand old, slow choruses”

So then, what is a good worship song? Can we agree that it is probably these 3 simple things:

1. It is singable.

2. It conveys an accurate and inspiring message of Bible truth

3. One or more people like it, and it lifts their spirits and turns them to God.

Not only is it incorrect, it is a mark of immaturity when we think our music “is the best Christian music.” Sure, it might by your favorite and very moving to you. But perhaps not for the fellow sitting behind you who may be just as devoted and spiritual as you and is still worshipping, although the church isn’t playing his favorite music.

Let’s think about some 2000 years of church history, and answer some questions. Consider…

What did the church do before electricity was harnessed and the first electric guitar plugged in (1931)?

The people of God worshiped!

What did they church do before Italian Christori invented the first piano around 1700?

The people of God worshiped!

What did the church do before the first pipe organ was installed in a cathedral in the 1300s?

The people of God worshiped!

What did the church do before Gregorian chants were published in the 11th century?

The people of God worshiped!

What did the early church do when they were so poor that nobody owned any instruments at all?

The people of God worshiped!

What did Jesus and his 12 friends do on the most trying eve of Jesus’ life on earth?

The people of God worshiped! (see Matthew 26:30)

The “mystery” of worship hit home the other day when the band felt, after a recent service, “that we didn’t do our best job….it went ‘flat’ – we are really off our game.” But from that same service, one of the most godly and spiritual persons in the church worshiped that morning, in tears, and expressed to a band member how much the music that day brought her into God’s presence.

Go figure!

Worship is part of my business and my calling. It is possible that I have been to a greater variety of worship settings than most: Here is a sample of worship experiences I’ve shared in and enjoyed:

· 50,000 men, rocking out at a Promise Keepers event in the kingdom: sometimes with full band, sometimes just male voices.

 · Small groups of 4-6, singing without any instruments

 · A contemporary Charismatic Roman Catholic Mass

· Reformed and Lutheran services of hymns and organ

· Vineyard “free” and extended worship

· Revival gospel and pentecostal meetings

· 800 college, seminary students, singing just hymns with piano and/or large organ

· Upbeat mixture of indigenous and western music, in a grass hut in Irian Jaya.

· A Benedictine monastery in Oregon with men chanting old Gregorian melodies.

· A lively group of 400 college coeds, led by 2-3 guitars.

And guess what: I can worship in all settings if some basic conditions are met. Hey! So can you!

As I write this I am surrounded by my personal CD collection. 90% of my CDs are either jazz or classical. Can we be frank: these are not styles of music that we normally find in a modern church, but these are my favorites. But just because I don’t hear them often in church doesn’t mean I don’t worship. And that leads me to my next point, and perhaps the most important one in this message.

How do we worship? First, it is a decision. Your decision. Your choice. You don’t stumble into it or hope it “just happens.” You must engage and focus and work it.

We need to recognize that we are hungry and empty and need and want to embrace and be embraced by the Eternal. I am determined to do it. I am deciding to worship. It is my only business at that moment.

But second, those around me need to worship as well. I get swept up when those near and around me are praising God from the heart, whether in chants, choruses, hymns or cutting edge electric music.

Now, grab this idea: my posture, my participation, my worship facilitates others’ ability and passion to worship.

Why do I share these things? Because I want my church family to know that FAC has a serious worship band. People who take your worship and their service to you very seriously. We have had several profound and robust conversations about worship and how to do it during our rehearsals. We embrace and accept our responsibility and privilege to completely follow Christ in what we believe He desires from us as a band.

But there is also you in the matter of worship. Our work depends upon your work. Again…

Our work depends upon your work!

We need you to come to church to worship. And there are some practical things you can do. I am asking you to try. By doing these I believe you will bring yourself closer to God. But, and I think more importantly, inspire others to enter into worship. Just like the band, your work is to inspire others to worship.

Remember, it’s not about you!

Here are some practical ideas:

1. Pray and then pray some more before you come to church. For yourself. Your family. The congregation. Those who will serve you that morning. Include time of personal confession (unless you are perfect).

2. Jettison negative speak, criticism, and trash talk at the door. Let’s make the sanctuary a sanctuary from sins of the tongue, okay? Let’s build and encourage one another when in the FAC building. Remember, FAC is a zero-tollerance zone on gossip.

3. Come to church on time and find your seat. I know it is hard with kids and I fully understand. But do the best you can.

4. Do your chatting and visiting before or after church. Once people are singing and the music has started, respect and honor them by singing or remaining quiet. (Review 1 Timothy 2 and 1 Cor 14.) There is time for chat, and also time for quiet and order. Also, please be cautious of your noise levels in the kitchen and hallway during worship).

5. Politely and graciously help people with #4. “Hey, I really love visiting with you, but I especially need this time of worship now…I’ll grab you after church so we can finish. Okay? Thanks!”

 6. Allow people to like the music they like. As you know, we try a variety of music at FAC. It is our desire that there is something in there that you find inspiring. If we play a song that doesn’t turn your crank, please be aware that it is there because someone else finds it meaningful. Please, don’t judge them by criticizing their worship.

7. Be open to new music! Think about it: isn’t it a good thing the church in the late 1700s didn’t reject hymns because they weren’t like the Gregorian chants they were familiar with?! Fortunately for us the old church was open to the new, cutting edge music of Charles Wesley, Isaac Watts, Martin Luther, and John Newton

8. Let the band know the songs you like. We do listen! We can’t promise to do everything, but we truly do love your input when done graciously. We feel we are your servants.

9. Don’t be a distraction to your brothers and sisters during the worship time. Try to stay at your place. Don’t carry on conversations. One exception: Larry H. Our church is very blessed to have Larry with us and when he makes sounds at the wrong time, it inspires me to thank God that he wants to be with us.

10. Don’t be fearful of physical expressions of worship. Clapping. Standing. Hands raised. On your knees. You are free to do these things. You are just as free not to.

11. Submit all your announcements to the announcement person ahead of time, and to the church to put in the bulletin. And take note: we are trying to cut back on announcement time to things that are very timely that effect most of the church. Also, provide announcements to the power point workers and we can put announcements on the screen before and after church

 12. Read your bible readings before Sunday. Your sermon experience will be transformed. The reading schedule is always at the church web site, FerndaleAllianceChurch.org.

Do you have suggestions on how we can worship better? Send them to me!

 

Pastor Jon (JonMutchler@gmail.com)