corporate worship


One.  No, I’m not referring to the old U2 song.  Rather, I’m referring to what God calls local churches to be.

Ephesians 4:1-6 says, “I therefore, a prisoner of the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit – just as you are 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.

It’s encouraging to see Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, where Tullian Tchividjian is the pastor there, take a step in applying this in respect to when their local church gathers.  Read  his post below.

Today was a monumental, historic day at Coral Ridge.

For many years Coral Ridge had two very distinct worship services–one contemporary and one traditional. The result was the unintentional development of two different churches under one roof. It wasn’t healthy. So back at the end of Spring we started talking about what we could do to unify our one large church.

Given our desire to re-plant Coral Ridge around a holistic and comprehensive understanding of the gospel we concluded that we needed to make a change. After all, since the gospel is the good news that God reconciles us not only to himself but also to one another, the church should be breaking down walls, not erecting them. God intends the church to be demonstrating what community looks like when God’s reconciling power is at work.

Most churches would agree that any segregation arising from racial or economic bigotry runs contrary to the nature of the gospel and should not be tolerated. But there’s another kind of segregation, perhaps more subtle, that many churches today have unapologetically embraced.

Following the lead of the advertising world, many churches and worship services target specific age groups to the exclusion of others. They forget that, according to the Bible, the church is an all-age community, and instead they organize themselves around distinctives dividing the generations: Busters, Boomers, Millennials, Generations X, Y, and Z. Many churches offer a traditional service for the tribe who prefer older music and a contemporary service for the tribe who prefer newer music. The truth is, however, that if the only type of music you employ in a worship service is old, you inadvertently communicate that God was more active in the past than he is in the present. On the other hand, if the only type of music you employ in a worship service is new, you inadvertently communicate that God is more active in the present than he was in the past.

The only way to musically communicate God’s timeless activity in the life of the church is to blend the best of the past with the best of the present. In other words, we must remember in our worship that while “contemporary only” people operate with their heads fixed frontwards, never looking over their shoulder at the stock from which they have come, and “traditional only” people operate with their heads on backwards, romanticizing about the past and always wanting to go back, the Church, in contrast from both extremes, is called upon to be a people with swiveling heads: learning from the past, living in the present, and looking to the future. That’s the only way to avoid in worship what C.S. Lewis called “chronological snobbery.”

You see, when we separate people according to something as trivial as musical preferences, we evidence a fundamental failure to comprehend the heart of the gospel. We’re not only feeding toxic tribalism; we’re also saying the gospel can’t successfully bring these two different groups together. It’s a declaration of doubt about the unifying power of God’s gospel. Generational appeal in worship is an admission that the gospel is powerless to join together what man has separated.

Building the church on stylistic preferences or age appeal (whether old or young) is just as contrary to the reconciling effect of the gospel as building it on class, race, or gender distinctions. In a recent interview J. I. Packer said, “If worship services are so fixed that what’s being offered fits the expectations, the hopes, even the prejudices, of any one of these groups as opposed to the others, I don’t believe the worship style glorifies God.” One of the leading ways the church can testify to God’s unifying power before our segregated world is to establish and maintain congregations and worship services that transcend cultural barriers, including age and musical styles.

So, I am thrilled that as of this morning Coral Ridge broke down a thick wall that had been separating this church family for years. Because of our firm commitment to and love for the gospel, we worshiped together as one body around one table united to one Christ by one Spirit–and we felt God’s infinite approval!

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Our church for this past month has been singing the song “By Faith” by modern hymn-writers Keith and Kristyn Getty.  They are the Irish song writers that wrote the very familiar song “In Christ Alone.”  With thankfulness and gladness, I’m happy to write that they’ve joined the blog-writing world!  You can click here for their blog.  You can also enjoy the video as they sing the song “By Faith”.

I really enjoy some of the stuff put out by Indelible Grace.  They have a new cd that sounds pretty good.  They are hymns (some that are pretty obscure) set to new acoustic guitar music.  You can listen to samples and read the story behind each song here.

I apologize for the delay in posting Day 4 of the Worship God 08 conference, but here it is… I went a seminar that was very helpful called Creative Arranging which dealt with different ideas on how to arrange songs during a worship service.  It was led by Joe Stigora from Covenant Fellowship and they had the whole band up there to show examples of some of this done.

Next was the last main session and the time of worship was excellent again.  This time they had a choir on both sides of the stage singing along.  When they did the song Glorious and Mighty, it moved me to tears.  It sounded so majestic as you read the words to that song.

Bob spoke at the last session on living life with the psalmist.  Psalm 24 was his main text and he examined that to live life like the psalmist, we need to…

1) Acknowledge God’s sovereignty, v. 1-2

2) Pursue God’s holiness, v. 3-6

3) Celebrate God’s victory, v. 7-10

All in all, it is a conference that I wholeheartedly recommend.  I believe the next one will be in 2010 and will be bringing people with me next time.  It is valuable experience in gaining a biblical theology behind worship and a functional practicality of all aspects pertaining to a Sunday morning worship service.

In close, you can check out the song lists that were sung at the conference here.

Also, you can access the main session addresses here.

What a great day today!  After making a morning Starbucks run, I met up with some friends to attend the morning session.  Our worship gathering together was led by Joe Stigora, from a Sovereign Grace church in West Chester, PA.  It was great once again.  I haven’t written yet on any of the band set-ups yet, so I’ll mention the make up for this one.  Joe led on electric guitar; there were two violinists, one acoustice guitar, bass player, drummer, another electric, and get this…a guy mixing and on turn-tables.  There were also two other singers accompanying him.  It sounded really good all together.

Next, David Powlison spoke on enduring trials with the psalmist and how it refers to corporate worship.  David wanted to draw and examine how to make the connection between the psalm and our life experiences.  He drew our attention to the progression of the psalm.  He mentioned 4 goals he wanted us to keep to when reading the Psalms.

1) stay in tuene to the experiential modulations and progressions in the Psalms.

2) look for differences and variety in the Psalms and ask why are they there.

3) hear the invitation to identify with experience in life of the psalmist; there is usually a “raw” honest emotion expressed in light of redemptive aspects.

4) grabbing hold of this progression in the psalm should lead to a new song and a “spilling out” to share with someone else.

To illustrate these goals, he examined four parts in Psalm 28 and how it moved from the “minor key” (lament) to “major key” (praise).

Lastly, he gave advice to worship leaders based on his address. 1) remember the minor key in songs. 2) remember slow tempos as it allows time to think and process. 3) keep in mind a place for silence. 4) remember the darker tonal qualities of instruments to use for minor key songs. 5) pertaining to writing, tap into how human experience progresses like Psalm 28.

David Powlison is a gifted man and I was truly blessed by his addres and commentary on the Psalms.  After the morning session, I had a box lunch that they provided out in the outside tents with some friends.  Next, I went to the first seminar of the afternoon.  It was titled Planning for Sunday and it was led by Jim Donahue and Joe Stigora.  It was excellent and I picked up a lot of good practical helpful tips.  The next seminar I went to in a way that complemented the previous one was Spontanaity in Corporate Worship led by Craig Cabaniss and Pat Schzebel.  That was really helpful especially in how I can incorporate that more in the Sunday morning services that I lead.  Also, might I add, they have given us these big notebook binders with all types of conference info.  The nice thing is that it includes all the outlines for all the seminars.  So if you can’t attend one you at least have all the outline notes.

After resting up at the hotel and eating dinner at Chevy’s Mexican restaurant, I went on to the evening session.  It was a little different for this one as Bob Kauflin led the worship experientially in praising God with the psalmist.  He wanted us to be aware how the psalmists worship incorporated body, mind, life’s trials, and the eagerness for God’s glory to spread over the earth.  We sang through songs pertaining to each.  As a special gift, we heard from David Powlison again speaking on what do we do we the imprecatory Psalms (i.e. the ones that call judgment and wrath on his enemies, etc.)  David had some helpful advice.  First, he wanted us to make sure that we look at the Psalm as ourselves who are “inside” of the problem of evil, not “outside”.  We are guilty too.  He also mentioned 6 things to pay attention to in the context of the Psalm: 1) God has promised to destory evil, 2) ask, “Who are the people that the imprecation is called upon?” the wickedness and evil of the people are really a picture of who Satan is. 3) ask, “Who is praying?” the victim, or innocent that is pictured really depicts the face of Christ, the man of sorrows.  4) Psalmist usually realizes that tension exists because he is also part of the problem of evil 5) bigger than the trial faced is the fact that you are called to hate evil and love your enemies 6) this quality of hating evil and loving your enemies is the character trait found within Jesus, the one we are to be conformed to His image.

How does this affect the way we worship?  David answers, recognize evil and call for God’s justice and mercy to be shown to the wicked.  In a sense we’re asking Christ to come.  We want His kingdom to come and for all evil to be gone.  He says, “the wrath of God is not only something to be afraid of, but to also find hope in.”  One day evil will exist no more.  Amen… stay tuned for the final day tomorrow…

After waking up a bit tired from the previous day, I hit the road from my hotel for Day 2 of Worship God 08.  Grabbed some coffee (good thing, because that sneaky Mark Altrogge fooled everyone into thinking there’d be coffee served! Ha!), and then I headed to the church.  The morning session began with excellent corporate worship again and then came up Thabiti Anyabwile.  His address was on expressing emotion with the Psalmist.  His main text was Psalm 73 and his general outline was this:

I.  Man-centered emotions leads to despair, v. 1-16

      a. the psalmist struggles with a disconnect between what he knows about God and his situation.  He sees the wicked prosper and it leads to self-pity -> jealousy -> bitterness

      b. application for the worship leader: don’t deny the fact that people within a congregation may be going through this.  There is an emotional realism needed here.  Peoples range of emotions should be acknowledged.

II. God-centered emotions leads to a singular love of Christ and eternal joy, v. 17-28

      a. the psalmist focuses his gaze on God and he sees things differently; circumstance didn’t change, his perspective did.

      b. application to move people to God-centered emotions: 1) avoid false ways of moving people there and don’t manipulate emotions nor deny them, 2) address the full range of emotion, 3) teach people about suffering, 4) help people to see the character and truth of God to bring them to God-centered emotion, 5) bring truth to those that think with their feelings first, 6) address Christians and non-Christians, 6) pay close attention, as a leader, to your emotions

Afteward, they provided a box lunch, which was quite good.  Then, it was time for afternoon seminars.  I went to the Task of the Worship Leader taught by Bob Kauflin, and Family Worship by Don Whitney.  Both were excellent.  I believe these sessions will be up on the Sovereign Grace website later since they were recorded.

After getting some dinner and meeting up with a friend of mine from a Sovereign Grace church in NJ, I headed to the evening session.  Again, corporate worship was excellent and Bob Kauflin’s son was leading.  Next, came Mark Dever, who has been influential in shaping my thoughts on the local church as a pastor.  He spoke on Glorifying Christ with the Psalmist.  He jumped around a couple of Psalms and NT texts.  In short, Mark was reminding us that just as Jesus said in Luke 24:25-27, all Scripture is about Christ.  So when we encounter the Psalms, we need to ask ourselves whehter we are looking through those lens or not.  He clearly warns against eisegesis (trying to put meaning into the text that is not there).  What he means is that you first do your exegesis in determining what was the author saying.  Then look at what is it that this author is saying that fits within Christological importance.  It’s like looking at the letters of a word to first determing what that word says (meaning), and then looking at that word in light of the entire paragraph (Christological context).  That was the gist of what his address was on.  As always, it was encouraging and informative.

So far, God has used this time to truly deepen my love for Him and be blessed by worshipping alongside other brothers and sisters in Christ.  It’s awesome to hear thousands of voices praising His name!  The thought that keeps running through my head is that if hadn’t chosen me, I wouldn’t have chosen Him.  Praise God for His sovereign grace in that He did choose me and give me a heart that is captivated and enthralled with Jesus Christ!

Stay tuned for Day 3…

Today is Day 1 at Worship God 08 – Rediscovering the Psalms.  It’s been refreshing and…with a few surprises.  Arrived in Gaithersburg at Covenant Life Church around 3:30.  I’m by myself so I’m pretty much wandering around the beautiful campus at Covenant Life taking notes on ideas for our church.  I’m a book junkie so when I saw their bookstore, naturally I gravitated to it.  As I perused the books, I could hear the worship team soundchecking and rehearsing.

After taking mental notes of which books I wanted to purchased, I went to sit down.  I met a couple from Iowa and talked to them for awhile.  Then the lights went down and they began with a creative video with people of different nationalities reading passages from the Psalms with the words flying in on screen.  After that ended with a nice sustaining note on the synth, the worship team began to play.  Worshipping together was excellent.  Even though they were playing songs from their new cd Psalms, it was very easy to catch on.  Come on now, we’re all worship leaders, we should be able to, right?

After that was finished, Bob Kauflin, the worship leader and organizer of the conference, talked over some announcements and some giveaways the wanted to do.  Well, here’s the surprise… He said he had some gifts to give out.  He asked all those from New England to please stand up.  He told them they’re not getting anything.  Ouch.  Then he said all those from Delaware, please stand.  So I stand, and I see a few others.  Then he said we want to give a gift to a particular person from Delaware.  And what do you know, my name is up there on the large screen!  I’m thinking to myself, “no way!”.  Plus, he even pronounced my last name correctly.  That never happens.  Well, he asks me to come up and so now I’m standing up on stage.  He says to me that I was the first registrant to sign up, so they want to refund my registration fee!  Whoa.  I’m floored and he presents me a check and gives me a hug.  I thank him and then go to sit down at my seat.  I couldn’t believe it and thank God and those at Sovereign Grace for thier generosity!

After a few more announcements and giveaways, Craig Cabaniss came up to speak on Psalm 33.  He talked about how the Psalms help us shape our perception of who God is and our response to this perception of God.  Here is a general outline of his address:

Psalm 33 – genre: hymn of praise

I. A call to worship by the psalmist, v. 1-3

      a. exuberant praise that is shouted out and with instruments; expressive reverant praise

II. Called to praise because God is…, v. 4-19

      a. Creator v.6-9

      b. Sovereign v. 10-15

      c. Savior v. 16-19

III. Our response because of God who is Creator, Sovereign, and Savior, v. 20-22

 

Stay tuned for Day 2… and oh yes, might I add, I am now known around the conference as “The First Guy Who Registered.”  Get up on stage, and instantly you’re celebrity. yikes…