Category Archives: Worship

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In many churches, there has been a subtle change over the past decade. When we started using PowerPoint for worship, the majority of churches would use a slide for a verse, another slide for the chorus, and so on. Today, however, the trend is to use a slide for 2 to 4 lines — more like a snippet — in order to display larger font, include artwork, or show video of the band.

While this generally looks better and in a few cases is helpful, we should not accept it without question. One downside of fewer lyrical lines being displayed on a slide is that it makes it more difficult to memorize the lyrics. Rhymes are split between slides, and congregants have a more difficult time determining what is the verse, pre-chorus, chorus, and bridge. Also, it is impossible to “look ahead” to scan what lyrics are coming up.

This may seem insignificant until you consider the consequences it has upon our worship. In my own case, I have noticed that I close my eyes and raise my arms less because I need to be more concentrated on figuring out what words are coming next. As with all new media, we need to examine how such media affects the way that we worship.

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A friend recently asked me to explain what a hymn is, and it is a great question. Here are a few observations. Feel free to comment and add any of your own.

1. A hymn is not determined by when it was written. The date is irrelevant. Many hymns are being written today — usually more modern in style and easier to sing.

2. Hymns often consist of a progression of lyrics, thus the need for multiple verses. (e.g., progressing from the incarnation to the consummation)

3. Hymns are generally more eloquent and theological, and for that reason, they appeal to the cognitive part of us. Hymns inspire by reminding believers of specific doctrinal truths.

4. Hymns are usually laden with complex truths, which makes them suitable to pair with praise choruses that are often simpler and more emotive. We need to worship in both spirit and truth.

5. Hymns often repeat words, especially during a refrain — a trait that they share in common with praise choruses.

6. Hymns are not inerrant. Some are well-written and worth singing, while others are not. Some wonderful hymns have been treasured by the church and passed down for centuries.

7. Hymns acquire deeper meaning over time as Christians sing them in church, at weddings, at funerals, decade after decade. As a Christian sings them over the years, the truth expressed in the lyrics becomes more precious.

8. Older hymns often have a difficult melody line to sing and can be out of the vocal range of many people. The notes and style are not sacred, however, so musicians should feel free to adjust the melody and arrangement for the sake of the congregation.

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Driving through various parts of Chicago, I was reminded of how scattered and isolated we have become as a nation. This is nothing new, of course, but I realized again how many social and economic barriers we have created amongst ourselves. One block is home to one ethnicity, while across the street is another. As a society, we are not united as much as we think, but broken.

Admittedly, it is easy to criticize the Christian church for not being more multicultural and diverse. While there are usually good intentions within our churches, in actuality, very little is done. This is because there is not a quick solution or an easy program that will erase the societal boundaries that surround us. We face a nearly insurmountable task.

However… we serve an amazing God. Our God is constantly desiring to tear down boundaries between people groups and unite them in love. He is continually destroying the walls of hostility. He unites people through His love.

While we don’t have easy answers, we serve a God who has all of the answers. If our God could part the Red Sea, then He can work miraculously in our communities. But we need to believe. Step one in being more multicultural is trusting in a miraculous God.

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Before God created music, He created the heavens and earth. Think about it for a moment. There are many styles of music, but we all share the oceans, the stars, the sun and moon. All over the world, we look at the same handiwork of God. Incredible!

Psalm 19:1-2 tells us that the skies display the glory of God. David says that the world around us declares, proclaims, speaks, and displays truth about God. In other words, God’s creation speaks to all cultures, to every part of the globe — regardless of language or dialect. Everyone can see God’s glory because He left no one out.

To inspire global worship in our churches, it is helpful to include images of creation in worship gatherings. Since most congregants spend a large part of their week indoors, Sunday is a great opportunity to remind them that the world is bigger than the sanctuary. In doing so, make sure that artwork and photography represents a wide scope of locations, not just scenes of North America.

God is committed to global worship, and we should try to reflect this in our worship gatherings.

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What is evangelism? Is it inviting people to church? Is it sharing the gospel? Is it about helping the suffering?

Christians have used different methods of evangelism. Willow Creek and Saddleback are prime examples of the “come and see” approach, where a large gathering is used to attract people who do not normally attend church. On the other hand, some younger churches are starting to focus on a “go and tell” approach, where evangelism is incarnational and all of life is seen as an opportunity for evangelism.

But I wonder, do we really need to pick between the two? It seems like a debate between two good approaches that are not contradictory to one another. Does an engaging worship service exclude the possibility of missional living? Not at all. In fact, each should motivate the other.

Throughout the history of the Church, there have been examples of non-Christians being amazed of Christian worship. They came, saw, and believed. Back in 988 AD, for example, some converts had testified to the power of experiencing Christian worship. They reported that, “We knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth for on earth, there is no such splendour or such beauty and we are at a loss how to describe it. We know only that God dwells there among men, and their service is fairer than the ceremonies of other nations.” (Moreau 102) What was true a thousand years ago is still true today. Countless people have come to Christ through the “come and see” approach.

At the same time, we fool ourselves if we believe that droves of non-believers will attend Christian events within our church walls. Compared to the growing population, fewer and fewer people are attending church. This is not due to a lack of programming, but a lack of interest in the culture at large. There is a growing animosity towards the church. So our churches must not only welcome seekers, but our churches must become the seekers — going into the world, seeking the lost, and offering hope outside of the church walls.

Rather than dividing sharp lines between us, therefore, we should see the value of both approaches. We should continue to invite non-Christians to experience genuine and true worship; it can forever change their life. But at the same time, we need to seek those who will never step inside of a church; we must reach them where they are at.

Thankfully, God doesn’t limit us to a single approach. With so many creative ways to reach others, we should do everything we can to share Christ’s love with as many people as possible.

First Ice Cream

I wonder how much time we spend wanting something else. When a child, we want to be adults. When we are adults, we want to find a job and a spouse. Then we want a child, maybe a few. When we have children, we want a house, then a bigger house. We also want a car, a television, a computer, and so on. Our cravings never seem to cease.

I was reminded of this today when my daughter ate her first ice cream cone. She never asked for ice cream because she never knew that it existed. But when it was offered to her, she entered baby heaven! She wasn’t consumed with all of the possible deserts or all that she did not have. Rather, she was so delighted with one simple ice cream cone. Her smile was bigger than I have seen any adult smile in months, if not years.

King David once wrote, “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.” (Ps. 23:1) If we could fully grasp that, most of our moaning and groaning would cease. We would not be consumed with what we do not have; instead, we would realize that we have all that we need in God. And when content, we are filled with deep and inexpressible joy, no longer enslaved by temporary things.

 

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The book of Leviticus can seem daunting, irrelevant, boring, and downright frightening. Honestly, I have avoided the book from time to time, as have many others. It is easy to overlook the book because the “rituals” no longer apply to us, and it can be difficult to discern what those rituals teach us.

After reading just the first few chapters, though, here are a few reasons that we can be thankful for its message:

* God has a plan for His people.
* God gives answers, so we don’t need to figure out problems on our own.
* God sets standards intended for people to follow.
* God knows we sin, but still wants to communicate with us.
* God provides a way for us to get rid of our guilt.
* God enjoys our offerings, as simple as they may be.
* God has decided to forgive us!

Those are just a few reasons. Read the first few chapters of Leviticus and see if you can add some more to add to the list.

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Recently I was asked, “What are your suggestions for a Christian to experience meaningful worship?” What a great question! It can be answered in a variety of ways, but here I will limit my response to the weekly worship gathering.

In this post, I would like to summarize a few observations that I have made over the last ten years. These are merely opinions, so feel free to disagree, but I have found that these factors have led me towards more meaningful worship.

* Time. My most meaningful worship experiences often occur after focusing on God for an extended period of time. Time itself is not magical, but we all need time to slow down. We need to ruminate in God’s presence, not merely rush on to the next thing on our agenda.

* Diversity. We all have my musical preferences, but cultural variety in a worship service deepens our vision of the Kingdom of God. Diversity helps us get beyond our self and our selfish preferences.

* Balance. There needs to be balance between theology and emotions, or truth and spirit. Without any content to our worship, we merely express our feelings. Without any emotion, we merely impress ourselves. Meaningful worship occurs when we have both.

* Freedom. As much as we need order in our worship services, we also need freedom. Worship is more meaningful when we go beyond singing to raise a hand, kneel, pray, listen, etc.

* Christian. This may seem obvious, but in practice, many worship songs lack content that is unique to Christianity. As a result, many worship songs could be just as easily sung in a temple, mosque, or synagogue. A worship service needs to be noticeably Christian.

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If you need a Christmas gift that’s a bargain and immediate, remember that individual MP3′s are available at DiscRevolt: http://www.discrevolt.com/albums/view/2334

It’s really easy to download the songs. You can even email the MP3′s to your friends online. It’s a perfect way to keep in touch this holiday season!

1 MP3 = Someone you barely know
5 MP3 = Someone you like, but don’t love
10 MP3 = Someone you love

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It is easy to become short-sighted in our worship of God. Some seek self-fulfillment in worship, which often includes songs about ourselves and our desires. Others see worship as having only one purpose and only one purpose, neglecting the fact that the act of worship can have a variety of purposes. Still others miss the fact that worship should be the most joyous part of life!

Psalm 108 begins with six wonderful verses that instruct us about worship, concluding with the truth that praise can deliver us! Since this post will only make sense after reading the passage, you will probably want to open a Bible or read the passage online. Much could be said and written about these verses, and I hope to preach on that passage someday, but here are a few concise comments:

Verse 1: In order for worship to be meaningful, a worshiper needs a healthy relationship with God; this relationship then spills over into singing and making music “with all my being.”
Verse 2: Worship should be the first priority of our day. We dedicate buildings and celebrate inauguration day, but few of us start our day with recognition of God.
Verse 3: Others need to hear our worship — not just our friends, but everyone. Worship is meant to be heard.
Verse 4: Lest we forget, we have more than enough reasons to worship, including God’s steadfast love and His eternal faithfulness.
Verse 5: Our desire should be to see God exalted above all else — not that He is lacking glory, but that we need to fully recognize who He is.
Verse 6: One result of worship is deliverance! According to God’s Word, we are not saved through self-help programs, but when we truly recognize how great and powerful God is.