It is important for our hearts to be right. Our hearts need to be given to God in entirety. All that we do should be for his honor and glory--and we rejoice in being called to proclaim his praises (1 Peter 2:9).
God has done marvelous things for us! The love he has shown us in Jesus Christ is beyond our ability to understand (Ephesians 3:19). The joy he gives us in salvation is beyond our ability to express (1 Peter 1:8). The peace he gives is also beyond our comprehension (Philippians 4:7). Words simply fail to describe adequately the experience of salvation we have in Jesus Christ.
How shall we respond to these magnificent blessings? With worship--with praise and thanksgiving, giving glory and honor to God. This is our privilege and our joy. Our relationship with God is characterized by love, joy, peace, praise and worship.
Church services are called worship services. Song leaders are called worship leaders. The goal, of course, is that we become more conscious that we are gathering to worship our Creator and Savior, and that we express that worship in the words we sing and in the emotions that songs can convey. In a way, the "culture" of our churches is changing.
Can a new worship format bring anyone closer to God? Simply changing terminology and behavior cannot force anyone to change their hearts. However, it can facilitate a change of heart. New worship songs have helped many church members come to greater awareness of why we gather each week: to worship, to praise God, to rejoice before the Lord.
Salvation is a wonderful gift--better than winning a million dollars in a sweepstakes. Should we treat it as a ho-hum, matter-of-fact experience? I think not. The knowledge of salvation should make us excited, expressive, enthusiastic, anxious to praise our Father and Savior. For many people, this is done with lively songs.
The way people sing praise to God has varied from culture to culture and century to century. Eighth-century chants were effective worship expressions in the eighth century. Today, they are not. Eighteenth-century hymns were worshipful in the 18th century. Some still are; others are not.
Each type of song began as contemporary music. As time went on, it became traditional and some other style became contemporary. Today, different styles are becoming contemporary, and 18th-century hymns do not invoke worshipful thoughts in large segments of the population.
Scripture gives us precedent for change. Scripture tells us about very expressive worship styles:
- "I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High" (Psalm 9:2).
- "Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!" (Psalm 32:11).
- "Shout with joy to God, all the earth!" (Psalm 66:1).
- "May the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful. Sing to God, sing praise to his name, extol him who rides on the clouds--his name is the Lord--and rejoice before him" (Psalm 68:3-4).
- "Shout for joy, O heavens; rejoice, O earth; burst into song, O mountains!" (Isaiah 49:13).
- "My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you--I, whom you have redeemed" (Psalm 71:23).
- "Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation" (Psalm 95:1).
- "Sing, O Daughter of Zion; shout aloud, O Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O Daughter of Jerusalem!" (Zephaniah 3:14).
- "Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise" (James 5:13).
Have you ever shouted for joy--in the presence of other believers--at the blessings God has given you? Have you ever exulted in God? Has your heart leaped for joy? Have you clapped hands in worship? There are scriptural precedents for these. We want our worship services to allow people to express praise and joy in the Lord.
Some members prefer traditional music. Others enjoy contemporary music. We want to provide a variety of musical styles that reflects the variety of people that we have in our fellowship. Of course, music preferences change over time, too. After you listen to a new style of music for a while, it can become more enjoyable.
We also need to consider people who do not attend our services, and yet we want them to. What styles of music will help them worship? What songs will best express to them the joy Christ is giving us? What will magnify the Lord to them? If we want our church to grow, if we want people to stay to hear the gospel message, then we need to consider their preferences, too. Some songs are more beginner-friendly than others.
We must reach out to the generations born after we were. Many people coming into the church today were born after the end of the Vietnam War. They were born after the last man walked on the moon. Those things that are recent history to us are ancient history to these new Christians.
As a church, we must reach out not only to baby boomers, but also baby busters, the MTV generation and generation X. Some young adults view the Beatles as classical music, for those songs were written well before these adults were born. So when we consider music for our worship services, it is helpful to be reminded of their perspective on music.
I also want to note that there is scriptural precedent for women having roles in worship. Miriam sang praises before the Israelites (Exodus 15:20-21) and led the women in worship in both singing and dancing. Deborah sang praises and spoke the word of the Lord (Judges 4:4-6, 14; 5:1-31). Huldah gave authoritative words to high-ranking men (2 Kings 22:14-20).
On Pentecost, both men and women prophesied (Acts 2:17). Philip's daughters prophesied (Acts 21:8-9), and in doing so, they spoke infallible messages from God. In Corinth, women were prophesying and praying out loud in the assembly (1 Corinthians 11:4-16). Paul told them how to dress (verses 4-5), but he did not tell them to stop praying and prophesying in the meetings.
Jesus Christ is Lord of all. To him be all honor, glory and praise!