Monday, October 26, 2015

Song of Heaven | Song of Earth Acts 29 Northeast Worship Conference: Why We Worship and How We Worship

Emmaus City Church Worcester MA Soma Acts 29 Christian Reformed Church Transcultural Kingdom Multi-Ethnic Network of Missional Communities

Song of Heaven | Song of Earth: Why We Worship and How We Worship

For a list of some of the old and new medleys for hymns and songs we had the privilege to sing together with Epiphany Camden's Worship and Creative Arts Pastor Trevor Chin on Saturday, June 27, 2015, check out this post:

Song of Heaven | Song of Earth Acts 29 Northeast Worship Conference: Opening and Closing Worship Sets Song Lyrics

This post features my reflections from the main sessions of Song of Heaven | Song of Earth conference.

Main Session 1: Why We Worship

Is what we're doing connected to the One who is the Truth? 
Does our worship start, continue, and end with Jesus?

God inhabits the praises of His people (Psalm 22:3, KJV), so with Emmanuel, we are a people of praise. Worship not only defines us in Him, but binds us to Him for eternity. God's glory is the weight of God's worth  His value, His worth, His being. He is worthy of His glory, and yet, He shares it with us (Colossians 1:27). Our God is great and greatly to be praised (1 Chronicles 16:25; Psalm 48:1, 96:4, 145:3). Will we allow His greatness to strengthen and refresh our souls in worship?

In Revelation 4-5, God turns the attention of suffering Christians  whom He had just challenged, corrected, and encouraged in Revelation 2-3  to look to Him and where and how He reigns. And the song of His throne room is "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come (Revelation 4:8). Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!" (Revelation 5:12). And this does encourage them greatly. Why should it also encourage us today?

Because "the Lord sits enthroned as King forever" (Psalm 29:10). No matter how great the world's evil, or how great our lack of goodness and grace, God's grace reigns through the sacrifice of Jesus. He not only died for us, He lives for us. He was, and is, and is to come. He is the only constant and the only One worthy of our life's devotion.

What Jesus has accomplished for us should never be taken for granted, and never will be. We will be singing of it beyond death and suffering into new life. The Lamb has accomplished this for us, so we sing.

Main Session 2: How We Worship

We need to connect the "how we worship" to the "why we worship." This is all for Jesus who gave all for us. Worship is sacrifice for the One who sacrificed Himself for us. Worship is obedience to the One who was obedient unto death for us. "I appeal to you therefore by the mercies of God to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship" (Romans 12:1).

(1) Our worship must be focused on God, not on our emotions.

Worship is not about meeting the expectations of our feelings, people's preferences, etc. As Jesus said, we are to worship in spirit and truth (John 4:23). We should be thoughtful about what we say or sing when we are coming before God together and ask, "How are we worshiping the Father, the Son, and the Spirit in His Spirit and Truth?"

(2) Our worship must tell the story of the Gospel.

The Gospel is not a commodity to meet our desires, but the gift of salvation that meets our deepest need. Music can open the heart and insert a truth or a lie. Do the lyrics and melodies we are using to preach the Gospel to those gathered showcase the whole counsel of God and His story of bringing the world to rights in and through Jesus alone?

(3) Our worship must follow the Spirit's leading to empower people to believe the Word of God and respond to who God has revealed Himself to be.

Our songs should reveal the Gospel and the repentant response to such gracious news. Reveal. Respond. Our songs should teach each other to learn how to have a biblical response to what we have just heard and sung. "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" (Colossians 3:16).

(4) Our worship must be together in the congregation, a family worshiping our Father in heaven.

We are part of His story together. And we will be able to encourage each other from the intimacy we have grown with Him. Those who have the privilege to serve in this way are not performers, but servant leaders. We want communion with God the Father together, through God the Son, fueled by God the Holy Spirit.

Ways to remember all of the above:

(1) Practice repentance and rejoicing.
(2) Assess the gospel-centrality of your services of worship regularly.
(3) Assess your song selections (i.e. Is there a balance of adoration, confession, and commission, as well as lamenting and praising in your songs?).
(4) Always be a learner (i.e. disciple) from others who worship Jesus well.
(5) Plunge into the deep well of the history of worship throughout the millennia.

Ways to care for, organize, oversee, and bring excellence to a worship in song team:

(1) Care for the people who continue to humbly come back to learn, serve, and share their gifts.

(2) Organize interconnected parts (i.e. voices, instruments, visuals, etc.) into beautiful action; how you organize will display care to your team by showcasing thoughtfulness and consideration for them.

(3) Oversee loving Jesus among your people; learn how to encourage them to look to Him, pray to Him, get involved with how He is shaping the people.

(4) Bring excellence in order to expect excellence; the more prepared you are, the better you will be (ex. rehearsals are for putting parts together, not for learning each part).

Encourage personally. Address mistakes generally. Start on time. End on time. Establish set of songs a week in advance so people can pray for and practice ahead of time.

– Sully

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