Today is the second post of several where I’ll address some of the issues I’ve noticed in leading worship over the past 20+ years. Ultimately, all of the issues I’ll address find their root in the heart, and are given wings with our pride.
Churches are a numerous and varied lot.
On just about every corner in town, especially in the south, there is a church. If you don’t care for any particular church, just wait a moment…another one will spring up at the local high school or YMCA or vacant downtown building.
Every church is unique.
There are Lutherans, Baptists, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and so on. And, then, there are the non-denominational types – or, should I say, hidden-denomination – that put much of their effort attracting a certain crowd or mindset. You see it mostly in the names – The Experience, ONE Church, The Fellowship at Cedar Creek, Ethos Church. Unlike a Baptist or Presbyterian Church, you have to enter the building and attend a service to see what they’re about and what they believe (or, maybe, go online).
As Believers, we are called to make disciples. Jesus gave us this command just as he ascended into into heaven:
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:18-20 ESV)
It’s the intent of every denominational church – and every non-denominational church – to make disciples of “all nations.” All of us want to reach people – the unchurched, the disenfranchised, the seekers – as well as disciple those who are life-long believers. It’s a task that should be at the forefront of every evangelical group seeking to obey Jesus.
The issue here is worship.
Hear me when I say this…I appreciate and respect all worship styles and leadership. I understand the dynamic involved. God has created us imago Dei – in His image – which means we, too, can be creative within the guiding rule of Scripture (The point here is not to debate Regulative and Normative principles of worship.) God can and will use a worship leader sitting on a bar stool as much as a music academic aligned with church choirs.
So, where’s the rub? It’s those who feel their way is the only way, the correct way.
It’s the senior adult who thinks gospel hymns from the 50’s are superior to a spiritual song written in 2014. We worship the same God.
It’s the Baptist who disparages the liturgy of the Episcopalian church. We worship the same God.
It’s the 20-something who thinks real worship is led by a barefoot guy with a guitar and holes in his jeans. We worship the same God.
It’s the high church parishioner who sneers at a simple, country-church service with a bivocational preacher. We worship the same God.
It’s the hand-raising church member shouting “Amen!” who is frustrated because no one else seems to get it. We worship the same God.
It’s the preacher who gets a tattoo so he can have some cred with the people he’s hanging with making a joke that this is no place for suits and ties. We worship the same God.
It’s the stoic, hands-in-their-pocket attender who is so easily angered when people clap and are expressive in worship. We worship the same God.
We are followers of Christ. We are part of the kingdom of God. God is over all and in all and through all.
There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:4-6 ESV)
Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers? (Malachi 2:10 ESV)
Whether you attend a Baptist church with your parents on Sunday morning at 11:00 am, or you go on Tuesday nights to the warehouse gatherings, or you attend an Ash Wednesday service at the local Episcopalian church, you should be able to see and experience and participate in the evidences of God. In other words, if you are a Believer, you should be able to sing and worship regardless of the place or worship leader or liturgy. As Paul said to the church in Corinth,
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. (1 Corinthians 12:4-6 ESV)
In other words, We worship the same God.