Global Worship In The Local Church

My last church was not particularly diverse. That certainly defined the worship dynamic. I didn’t really need to take into account a lot of different cultural or ethnic perspectives (I just had to work harder to balance a wide range of ages in my congregation). So I always appreciate advice on how to make our worship services more accessible to a wider variety of cultures and ethnicities.

Graham Gladstone shares some ideas to keep in mind as we consider and plan multicultural worship:

When we gather together, we all hunger to engage with God in a culturally meaningful way, so we need to think about who is in our local church, what their cultural background is, and how we might effectively enable each of them to worship God. Simply put, how do we build up our part of the Church in a way that is culturally meaningful and God-honouring for each member?

Graham lists three things to consider in regard to multicultural worship. Well worth your time to read. Check it out here.

Why Church Is A Big Deal

At first glance, the “atheist churches” popping up seem pretty weird, but I think it speaks to people’s need to connect. But a real, God-honoring church should be different from a secular gathering in some significant ways.

Pamela Haddix explains why Sunday morning is more than just a pep talk and a sing-along:

If that’s all we are – good songs, interesting self-improvement talks, and wonderful, helpful relationships – then we’re failing miserably. The bride is failing her groom. And His name and His glory are at stake!

When atheists cross the threshold of our churches (ok, and the threshold of our homes!), we want them to walk away noticing that we’re different. And that the God we worship must be real. That there could be no other explanation for what they witnessed.

Check out the whole thing here.

Four Reasons To Go Ahead And Feel Those Emotions

A common complaint about modern worship is that it’s too emotional, but is that a valid argument?

Zac Hicks ponders the issue:

I’m talking about emotive, evocative language that speaks very specifically to a certain moment of feeling. Should we write and sing worship songs that dabble in this very subjective reality? Or should we, away from our fleeting feelings, sing only of the unchanging Truth which is the the bedrocked lighthouse amidst the ever ebbing and flowing tides of our emotional state?

Digging into the writings of Thomas Cranmer, Zac shares four reasons that emotion isn’t out of place in worship music. One excellent reason is the formative power of the words that we sing:

Remember the formation that happens even when you’re saying things you don’t really feel.
Just because some voiced feeling isn’t actually felt doesn’t make it unprofitable to say it. It just might be that it’s setting up some training wheels on you so that when the waves of joy or difficulty hit, you’re not whipped over on your side. It just might be that the repetitious voicing of joy might best prepare you to experience true moments of joy in the most deeply human and most fully Christian fashion. It just might be that “going through the motions” of sorrow will prepare you to repent in the best fashion in the moment when you actually blow it big. Emotional formation is a complex thing.

Check out the whole list here. Good stuff.

Encouraging Your Congregation To Worship

Shalon Palmer shares some great tips on encouraging your congregation to worship:

If you’re reading this, I’m assuming you’re worship leader, church leader, or something like that. And it’s very possible that you’ve been in a service, like I have, where it seems that worship is just dead.

If you’ve never been in a service like that, congratulations on reading this to simply better yourself. For the rest of us, we need some help.

Whether you’re leading worship in a boring religious service, or a “things get crazy” Holy Ghost throwdown, there are a lot of ways to effectively encourage those around you take that next step in their worship.

Sharon lists four ways to help your church engage in worship. Here’s a really good one:

Know your audience
I’ll continue that statement with: know your audience, see where they are, and build on that. This is an obvious example, but I’m typically not going to ask a large group of older people to jump up and down. And I dare you to ask a Southern Baptist church to lift their hands! (I’m kidding…kind of)

It’s so important to know your church before you try to lead them in worship.

Check out the full post here.

Why You Should Sing Your Heart Out

Whether you like to sing or not, a worship service isn’t the time to hold back. Nicholas Batzig encourages everyone to sing their hearts out in church:

Much of the scriptural teaching about the beauty of loud congregational singing has been lost by the injuries that have been sustained by both sides in the worship wars. In many performance-driven congregations worship teams overpower congregational singing and the singing that happens is akin to the drowned out admiration singing at a concert. In more traditionalistic churches, a perceived abuse of experience in the performance-driven churches has fueled a pushback that results in a dry and lifeless singing… In short, the Gospel enables and encourages us to take up theologically rich Psalms and hymns and to sing our hearts out to God. Here are five encouragements to enjoy this privilege and its benefits in the life of the body of Christ…

Nicholas lists five reasons to sing your heart out in worship. Read the whole thing here.

When Worship Songs Don’t Last

New songs are a vital part of our worship, but not every new song is worth bringing to your church. It’s important to be able to discern which songs have staying power and which ones don’t.

Jamie Brown discusses the shorter shelf life of modern worship songs:

In the ancient past, known as the “1990s”, when a “new” song really caught on, like “Open the Eyes of My Heart, Lord” or “Shout to the Lord”, that new song (for better or worse…) stuck around in a church’s repertoire for a substantial period of time, even until present-day. Nowadays, in the era of worship song abundance (again, not a bad thing, just a more complicated thing), when a new song catches on, it might disappear several months later when new crop of new songs come on the scene.

What’s the result? Two things are happening…

Jamie also lists seven ways to respond to the worship music industry’s seemingly short attention span. Click here to read the whole thing. Really valuable post for worship leaders.

An Ordinary Sunday

Trevin Wax extols the virtues and delights of an ordinary, average Sunday morning at church:

The choir and praise team are warming up and running through the songs they will lead in the upcoming service. The hallways are buzzing. Greeters seek out newcomers, teenagers gather near the front of the sanctuary, and the anticipation builds: the worship is about to begin.

This is a place of music, where hundreds of voices soar to the ceilings and the echo of praise hovers over the people. A man who can’t carry a tune lifts his kid up on the pew in front of him and sings along anyway. Some raise their hands. Some kneel. Some close their eyes. Some look to heaven. Various postures, all united in worship.

What are the normal, mundane aspects of your church services that bring joy to your heart?

Read the whole thing here. So good.

Three Keys To Engaging Your Congregation

Matt McChlery writes about how to get your congregation more involved in worship:

I love worship music. I love singing. I adore playing my guitar for Jesus. However, I do get disheartened when leading others in worship that they are just not joining in! Or indeed appear to not be joining in the worship experience the band and I have worked so hard at preparing. Recent blog posts have highlighted that this is not an uncommon problem. Indeed, watching many YouTube clips of church sung times of worship recorded ‘live’ everyone in the band is engaging. The musicians are on cloud nine. The vocalists are jumping up and down, hands raised. But the congregation are stood, looking on. Some with hands in pockets or arms folded. None opening their mouth to join in. So what can we do about it?

Matt shares three ways to encourage and increase your congregation’s engagement in worship. I loved this one:

Educate
It may be a lack of understanding that is getting in the way of your congregation fully engaging with God during times of worship (sung or not).

  • Ask your church leadership for a teaching / sermon series to be taught about the different styles of worship expressed throughout the Bible
  • Unpack the Hebrew words for different ways of expressing worship to God – see this helpful post
  • Recommend a few good books about the subject of worship that can be made available in your church bookshop or library and encourage your team and congregation to read it. This could even form a topic of study for your church small groups?

Check out his other suggestions here. Good stuff.

No Spectators

From Ken Verheecke, a reminder that corporate worship leaves zero room for spectators. We are all called to participate.

He writes:

Personal preference has no say in the matter. In fact… I used to say this all the time… and over the years, I have forgotten this… but in God’s presence, there is ZERO room for our, or any other agenda! In fact check that agenda at the door when you come to church!!!

It’s a short post, but it’s an important thing to keep in mind as we gather to worship.

Check out the whole thing.

Why Corporate Worship Beats Small Groups

Small groups are a vital part of church life, but there’s no comparison to corporate worship. Jason Helopoulos writes:

Someone recently commented to me that pastors are the only ones who really enjoy Sunday mornings as the high point in the week. I hope not! This individual insisted that other Christians look forward to their small groups more than corporate worship. She said it is more exciting for the congregant to be in a small group where they can ask questions, pray for others, discuss their own views, and get to know one another more intimately. I understand this sentiment and appreciate the desire to connect with others, but in all humility I would say to this well-intentioned individual, “You don’t understand the distinct privilege corporate worship is. We are communing with the saints before the holy throne of a majestic God.”

Jason addresses four complaints about corporate worship that lead some people to prefer small group meetings. Very interesting post. Read the whole thing here.